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Just like humans, many dogs suffer from arthritis pain and inflammation as they age. Joints and bones naturally degenerate over time. Fortunately, arthritis can often be managed with the help of acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, supplements and nutrition.
Acupuncture & Arthritis
Study after study have shown that acupuncture and Chinese herbs are effective to relieve the pain and inflammation of arthritis in both humans and dogs. Canine acupuncture is also an effective treatment for hip and elbow dysplasia, ligament and tendon injuries, and many other ailments. Acupuncture helps to increase circulation to the muscles and joint capsules, providing more oxygen and slowing cell degeneration. It also relieves painful muscle spasms and releases endorphins to make your dog feel better.
Most humans and dogs feel relaxed and pain free after an acupuncture session. Don't expect an instant one-treatment miracle, though. Acupuncture has a cumulative effect. Over time, the treatments build on one another, giving better results with each successive treatment.
Natural and alternative therapies are generally safe, effective and can be used in conjunction with western medicine. If your dog suffers from arthritis, these are a few natural remedies that are helpful:
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate with MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) will help protect and lubricate joints. Research has shown that MSM has an strong anti-inflammatory effect. Glucosamine has been studied for over 20 years in humans, and has been proven effective to relieve arthritic joint pain. Please note that it may take four to six weeks before your dog feels the results from these supplements.
An Omega 3 essential fatty acid supplement from fish oil or flaxseed oil also works as an anti-inflammatory. These help to lubricate the joints and help with inflammation. Omega 3 oils will also improve the health and appearance of your dog's coat. Omega 3 oils have been proven to help reduce excess weight in people and dogs.
Nutritional supplements containing enzymes and antioxidants have been shown to reduce inflammation, promote healthy joints, increase circulation and support immune function. One product of this type in Wobenzym(r), a nutritional product for humans. I've received good reports from people using this supplement with arthritic dogs.
Do the Math: Supplement Dosages for Dogs
When you purchase nutritional supplements for your dog, you may only be able to find human versions of the products. That's okay, but be careful about using recommended dosages. Dosage information for most supplements is based on the needs of an average person of about 125 pounds in weight. To calculate your dog's needs, consult with your pet health practitioner, or do the math yourself:
Divide your dog's weight by 125. For example: 40/125 = .32
Multiply the recommended dosage by this number: For example: 3 tablets, twice per day. 3 X .32 = .96.
So, rounding the final number a bit, the dosage of this supplement for a 40 pound dog would be 1 tablet, twice per day.
Diet plays an essential role in decreasing the symptoms of arthritis. Studies have indicated that wheat can exacerbate pain and cause inflammation in both humans and animals. Cooking for your dog is the best option. However if you cannot make the time to cook, then make sure you are feeding your dog the best food you can find. Choose a safe brand that is organic, and contains free-range meat. Unfortunately most grocery stores do not carry the best pet food brands. It is the smaller independently owned pet supply shops and on-line shops that carry the better quality brands.
Your dog's food should also be wheat, corn and soy free. These filler ingredients may exacerbate arthritis and often are involved in weight gain. Wheat, soy and corn products have also been linked to allergies and skin problems in animals. Make sure the treats you feed your dog are also free of wheat, corn and soy, especially if your dog is overweight, as this puts more pressure on already weakened joints. One of my favorite dog treats is Cinna-bones made by Solid Gold. These cookies are not only free of wheat, soy or corn but they also contain cinnamon which is very effective in relieving pain in arthritis made worse with cold damp weather.
These natural approaches to treating canine arthritis are generally safe and effective, but you should check with your pet health care provider before using a new supplement.
About the Author: Jeanie Mossa Kraft, is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist living in the Washington DC Area. She is a former faculty member of the Canadian College of Oriental Medicine (Toronto, Canada) and has published three books on traditional Chinese herbal medicine and theory, as well as authoritative articles on Oriental Medicine. She has been treating dogs (and humans) with acupuncture since 1995.