Having a dog diagnosed with osteoarthritis is no reason for despair or euthanasia. Far from it! Dogs with arthritis can live happy, high-quality lives, especially if they’re provided with acupuncture treatments or stem cell regeneration therapy. What’s more, getting the arthritis diagnosis is an excellent opportunity to learn about creative ways to cope with this common condition, which affects large numbers of canines as well as humans. An estimated 50 million adults in the United States reported being told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as we advance in age, we become more prone to the discomfort of inflammation and stiffening joints. Hey, look on the bright side: Overcoming the crippling pain of arthritis is easier now than ever. And by taking simple, daily measures to reduce inflammation and keep your dog’s joints flexible, you’ll be prepared to take care of your own, if and when the need arises!
And remember, seniors aren’t the only ones with joint issues. The limbs of amputee dogs or tripawds must do the work of four. Even before these dogs hit middle age, their overtaxed joints could use an assist to ensure that they remain in optimal, comfortable working condition. Dogs who have undergone surgery to repair ACL injury experience cartilage loss in that injured joint, so they appreciate a boost, too.
Veterinarians routinely prescribe Rimadyl and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to promote mobility in dogs with joint issues. But these drugs, made of synthetic chemicals, carry worrisome side effects like liver and kidney damage. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to compromise my dog’s vital organs in an attempt to help her walk! Happily, there are numerous over-the-counter dietary supplements available to help dogs (and people) cope with creaky joints — and they’re made with nontoxic natural ingredients as opposed to chemicals, so they don’t carry harmful side effects.
Many are canine versions of formulas developed to help arthritic humans. You’ve probably heard of fish oil as an excellent source of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory Omega-3s. Many people (myself included) incorporate fish-oil supplements into their own diets, whether in liquid or capsule form — and the scientific evidence of fish oil’s many health benefits is compelling. Now, those benefits are readily available to pets by adding a loving spoonful of Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet to Spot’s food bowl once daily. The ingredients are anchovy and sardine oils, and the bottle includes a handy dosage guide by weight.
Two other well-known weapons in the anti-arthritis arsenal are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (chondroitin, for short). Glucosamine is a monosaccharide that is naturally present in the shells of shellfish, animal bones, and bone marrow. Chondroitin is a major component of cartilage; loss of chondroitin from the cartilage is a major cause of osteoarthritis. Glucoasmine and chondroitin are both key ingredients in many joint supplements for dogs (and humans) that come in liquid or capsule form (two you’ve probably heard of are K-9 Liquid Health and Cosequin). Here are a few more products you’ll want to check out — give more than one a try, and see which works best for your dog.
FlexPet is the K9 version of the human supplement Flexcin, which enables human seniors to maintain mobility to the point that one happy customer in her 80s swears she can go waterskiing! Containing glucosamine, MSM (methylsulfonyl methane), and CM8 (cetyl myristoleate), FlexPet takes the form of a palatable, pork-flavored pill dogs can’t refuse.
DogPawR Joint & Hip Complex is a powder you sprinkle over your dog’s food. It’s a proprietary blend of glucosamine plus green-lipped mussels, turmeric (more about that later), California Poppy, and several other natural ingredients.
Now comes a new product, Wag Lifetime Joint Care, that promises to address “every aspect of canine structural vitality — joints, bones, tendons, and ligaments.” Its maker, Pet Research, claims that its innovative ingredient, NEM (natural eggshell membrane), is up to five times more effective than glucosamine and chondroitin and produces results in as few as five days.
Meanwhile, there are a few surprisingly ordinary items you can add to your dog’s food bowl that will help prevent inflammation — and not only are these items inexpensive, they probably already exist in your pantry!
The first is cinnamon. Most dogs love the taste of it sprinkled over their food. But why stop there? Mix a half-teaspoon of cinnamon with a tablespoon of honey for a daily nutraceutical treat. This is the recipe used by researchers at Copenhagen University, where arthritis patients were able to walk without pain after just a week of taking cinnamon with honey every day. Honey is one of the easiest supplements to administer to pets, because they eagerly lap it up!
Another spice-rack staple you’ll want to share with Spot is turmeric. Its active ingredient is an anti-inflammatory polyphenol called curcumin. Turmeric blends beautifully with cinnamon; no surprise there, as both are key ingredients of curry powder. I have yet to meet the dog who refuses a food bowl liberally sprinkled with this bright-yellow spice! For a more concentrated effect, you can also give your senior dog a curcumin supplement (I do, plus I take a curcumin capsule every day myself).
My dogs are never so happy as when they’re given frozen, raw beef marrow bones to chew. Not only are these great for their dental health, the marrow naturally contains glucosamine. If you’re dining on chicken or shrimp, set aside the shrimp tails and soft, white, cartilage bone-tips in a doggie bag (never give cooked bones to dogs) and bring them home to Spot as a tasty nutraceutical treat. If you’re cooking or baking with eggs, rinse out the shells and give them to the dog for a dose of that joint-friendly natural eggshell membrane (see above).
And if you’re opening up a can of sardines for yourself, take a cue from integrative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil and pour the Omega-3-rich oil from the can over Spot’s food bowl as a tasty treat (then let your cat be your recycling partner; she will lick that can clean!).
Just as important as what you add to your arthritic dog’s meals is what you take out. For maximum mobility in her senior years, you want your dog on an anti-inflammatory diet, which ideally means no dairy. So, don’t treat Spot to morsels of cheese or dollops of yogurt, or you’ll be undermining the therapeutic effects of all the stuff listed above. If you need a cloaking device for doggie medication, try peanut butter or liverwurst.
Dogster readers, how do you cope with your dog’s stiff joints? Please share tips in the comments.