Holistic management of arthritis, joint pain in pets

Alabama Living Magazine
Symptoms of arthritis in animals include a reluctance to run or play and stiffness or lameness.

In January’s article, I discussed medications that can help treat arthritis in pets; this month, I’ll talk about holistic management.

Supplements for joint pain have been around for decades. It is hard to find a veterinary office that does not carry a few joint supplements. They are here to stay. It will be difficult to address all the available “non-drug” supplements and their scientific merits in this short space. But I will try to address the broad categories. I firmly believe that the medicines are the most potent pain control tools available to us and if used with care and judiciousness, they are quite safe. But maybe adding supplements will reduce the need for medicines.

Herbs: We tend to reach out for herbs as soon as the initial “wound-up” pain gets under control. At least in the initial phases of arthritis, we will maintain control with the regular use of herbs and occasional use of medications on an as-needed basis. There are numerous herbs that can be fine-tuned to your pet’s individual problem and can address chronic muscle tightness (talk about minerals), chronic inflammation, and hyperresponsiveness of the brain to pain signals. 

Herbs have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and are generally considered to be safe. The general wisdom is that combination herbs may be more useful. My favorite combinations include Solomon’s seal, prickly ash, boswellia, and oh, the list goes on!

Acupuncture: This is a hugely powerful modality! There have been hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific articles published on the benefits of acupuncture. Although it is very effective for almost all back pain, we tend not to reach out for acupuncture at first because of the slight inconvenience of having to return to the clinic for treatments at regular intervals. But when all else fails, like major back problems or hind leg paralysis in dachshunds, acupuncture becomes our primary go-to modality. 

We recommend once a week for 4 weeks, followed by once a month for 5 months, and then as needed. 

Chiropractic/veterinary orthopedic manipulation, massage: Depending on the situation, “re-aligning” the back can be of great help. On top of that, almost anyone can do some massage on their pets at home to supplement the benefits of manual adjustment.

Prolotherapy: Prolotherapy, also called regenerative joint therapy, promotes long-term, often permanent pain relief by stimulating the body’s ability to repair itself by injecting a solution into the affected ligaments, tendons, or joint capsules. This solution acts not as a nutrient but acts by stimulating the body’s natural ability to repair these tissues, encouraging the growth of new ligament or tendon fibers.

Nutrition and supplements: Along with adjusting the diet, there are numerous nutritional supplements that help with arthritis and inflammation and can be safely used with other treatments. The most well-known nutritional supplements are glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. Calcium and magnesium work great for muscle spasms. Even though many scientists do not believe that these are useful inhibitors of pain, quite a few clients feel that they work very well. The proof is in the pudding, right?

Homeopathy, biopuncture: Sometimes we use a combination of homeopathic remedies for chronic arthritis. In some cases, it has been very effective, and the need for pharmaceutical drugs has been kept to a minimum! 

As always, work with your local veterinarian to find the best course of treatment for your pet.

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He works at his home as a holistic veterinarian and is a member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative. Send pet-related questions to drg.vet@gmail.com.

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