A Naturopathic Approach to Canine Arthritis

by Dr. Jeannie Thomason

Arthritis (from Greek arthro-, joint + -itis, inflammation) is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis is not a single disease. Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.

As our companion animals age, arthritis is often a common ailment for many of them. Gradually you may notice that your dog may hesitate to jump in the car or will climb stairs more slowly (or your cat no longer jumps up on the counters or furniture with as much ease). You may notice your pets seem stiff upon rising. These are all signs of painful joints. Up to 30% of companion animals suffer from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a chronic, slowly progressing condition that is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage surrounding a joint. As this deterioration progresses, the bony structures begin to rub against one another causing pain and discomfort.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a collective term for many diseases. Infection or immune-mediated diseases can be localized or affect the entire body simultaneously. Resolving the infection and addressing the particular disease with proper carnivore nutrition and naturopathic remedies often times will alleviate rheumatoid arthritis all together

Hip Dysplasia is a disease that leads to joint deterioration and arthritis. Over the last few years it has become more common in medium to small breed dogs. These and other degenerative joint disorders involving cartilage and joint deterioration can be cared for quite successfully with a comprehensive wellness program developed for the pet.

The conventional/allopathic treatment for arthritis is usually to give prescribed NSAIDS (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, EtoGesic and others to our arthritic pets. NSAIDs are damaging to the liver and gastrointestinal and can have other side effects as well. While NSAIDs do provide pain relief by masking the pain - they do nothing to address the cause of the pain nor do they help repair damaged tissue and prevent further deterioration.

Arthritis and joint pain can often be controlled and/or prevented for years with a naturopathic approach – Your dog’s immune system can be kept in peak condition by providing raw and unprocessed food, avoidance of vaccinations, toxins, plenty of exercise, sunshine and clean water. Make sure your dog is not exposed to toxins such as household cleaning chemicals, pesticides, weed killers, vaccinations or chemicals found in flea collars and topical drops.

Let's take a holistic, naturopathic look and approach at this dis-ease.

Poor nutrition and toxin overload as well as aging can cause arthritis symptoms that have the ability to reduce the mobility and joint health of dogs, just as it does in humans.

Understanding the various causes of arthritis and possible remedies for relief will assist in enhancing your best friend's quality of life.

With age, it is often the daily wear and-tear of joints that begins to destroy the cartilage, often causing osteoarthritis and eventually degenerative arthritis.

What happens is that the aging process reduces cell stability and membrane strength, leading to free-radical production and injury susceptibility. Much of the pain associated with arthritis is due to swelling in the joint.

Poor or inadequate nutrition as well as illness, toxin over-load, injuries and damage to body cells will cause the release of compounds that cause inflammation, muscle spasms and pain. Some forms of arthritis in our dogs are caused by a weakened immune system due to poor nutrition or over-vaccination as a puppy.

A raw species appropriate diet along with the use of particular nutritional supplementation and the use of therapeutic grade essential oils* can greatly aid in enhancing the quality of life for a dog afflicted with arthritis.

Processed and or cooked foods are greatly lacking in the amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and trace minerals needed to grow and maintain healthy joints. Cooking also destroys any true, live nutrients by heating the ingredients at such high temperatures. Oh sure, they list almost every vitamin or mineral under the sun on the label but remember, any nutrition present in the raw form that may have been started with have been destroyed so what you see listed on the label have all been added and are from manmade synthetic sources.

Raw meat, bones and organs are chock full of LIVE, nutrition - vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc., etc.


Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis, heart disease and even cancer. In addition, essential fatty acids aid in gastrointestinal health and the reduction of allergies. The best source of omega -3 fatty acids for our dogs is to feed pasture/grass fed or wild animals. If this is not possible then the next best thing would be wild salmon oil.

Raw meats and/or organs that supply a natural source of vitamins A, C and E support immune function to defend against harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins, which otherwise could induce rheumatoid type arthritis. Mineral status is a key factor for determining a dog's response to stress, injury, exercise and illness. The vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants to reduce tissue damage caused by free-radicals other harmful compounds. Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis collagen and connective tissue repair. Vitamin E blocks destructive enzymes that degrade cartilage.

I am always being asked what the best multi-vitamin supplement for our dogs is. The answer is always so surprising for some reason – Organs! All organs are super nutrient dense foods for our carnivore companions.

Think about this - predatory animals instinctively eat the organ meats from their kill first, before moving to the muscle meats. What do they know instinctively? They know THAT'S where the highest nutrient density meat is located, and is best for them! We're talking about the liver, kidneys, brain, pancreas, heart, spleen, etc.

Listed below are a few nutritional profiles of some organ meats that can easily be fed to our dogs.

Beef kidney contains an incredible nutritional profile (USDA %):

B-12 458 %
B-5 40%
Zinc 13%
B-1 33%
B-2 167%
Iron 26%
Vitamin A 28%
Vitamin C 16%

Beef Pancreas profile:

B-12 264%
All other B-complex in significant amounts
Vitamin C 26%
Iron 14%
Selenium 40%
Phosphorous 37%
Zinc 19%

Beef Liver Profile:

Vitamin A 431% (retinyl palmitate, beta carotene is not Vitamin A)
B-12 800%
•Iron 25%
Vitamin D 30%
Copper 486%
Selenium 35%

Liver is also a very rich source of the following nutrients: Zinc, Manganese, Phosphorous, Folate, B-1, B-2, B-6, B-3, B-5 and Protein.

Speaking of Folate - I find it very disheartening that veterinarians and conventional animal nutritionists tend to recommend pregnant bitches be given a multi-vitamin containing synthetic, coal tar-derived vitamins, with special emphasis on folate or folic acid when just one serving of raw liver packs a very high amount of folate (RDA 43%) and extraordinarily high amounts of other essential nutrients, in a whole food form. Organic/grass fed beef liver is one of nature's most powerful multivitamins.

Collagen is the elastic protein that holds skin together. And as our pets age, the amount and quality of collagen in the body starts to diminish

Collagen is found in abundance in the joints and connective tissue of the body. In fact, collagen makes up 70 to 90% of our muscles, tendons, ligaments and other joint supporting tissues. As happens in the skin, when collagen breaks down in the body, the joints become less stable, the muscles and connective tissue loosen and become more brittle, and disorders such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, tendonitis and overuse injuries begin to occur. (Please see the article on Collagen and Vaccines) Raw, whole chicken parts – especially the breast and necks are very high in collagen.

Chicken-collagen treatment is believed to work by encouraging the body to become more tolerant of collagen, of which cartilage is mainly comprised. Cartilage is the tissue that connects bones and enables them to move against each other.

According to a study published in "Arthritis Research and Therapy" in 2009. A total of 454 patients with rheumatoid arthritis completed the study. They took either 1mg per day of CCII or 10mg per week of methotrexate, an anti-rheumatic drug, for 24 weeks and completed the follow-up. Both groups experienced significant reductions in pain, morning stiffness, swollen joint count, tender joint count and other indicators.

MSM or Methylsulfonylmethane is natural sulfur. It is the raw material used by the body to build healthy new cells pretty much everywhere but the highest concentrations are in the joints, skin, hair and nails. MSM makes the cells more permeable, (things can pass through) meaning nutrients in (good stuff) and the toxins (very bad) out. It is a essential nutrient that is responsible for the ability to repair or replace damaged tissue quickly.

As our pets bodies age (and our own for that matter), the body’s sulfur supply depletes because the manufacture process slows down and the result is seen in in joints stiffening up, inflammation, slow wound healing, brittle hair and nails, poor circulation, joint pain and skin problems. Older pets require more MSM however, it has become increasingly more difficult to feed them enough MSM. Farming methods have changed the use of synthetic and chemical fertilizers on the grasses used to feed the animals we then feed to our pets have caused a depletion of most of the rich essential minerals that are needed for all round good health. If you have been feeding a cooked diet or worse yet a processed pet food, these vital nutrients and minerals have been destroyed or at the very least, weakened in potency. MSM and sulfur can be found naturally in raw free range/pasture raised eggs, meat and poultry however, it may not be enough to help repair or replace damaged tissue already in existence. Additional supplementation may be necessary.

Glucosamine is a key component of cartilage, stimulates joint function and repair, renews synovial fluid and relieves the pain of osteoarthritis. Glucosamine stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans (GAG's) which are important proteins found in cartilage and proteoglycans, the water-holding molecules that make up the cartilage. Glucosamine is an amino sugar produced from the shells of shellfish. The green-lipped mussel is a shellfish from Australia and New Zealand. This mussel flesh is a good supplement as a source of chondroitin and other glycosaminoglycans. The glycosaminoglycans maintain and rebuild connective tissue such as cartilage, tendons and ligaments as well as reduce inflammation, which results in reduced joint pain and stiffness, less inflammation, and quicker recovery from exercise and injury.

Chondroitin Sulfate
Bovine trachea and gullet are a natural source for chondroitin sulfate. Bovine tracheal cartilage has also shown success in helping to isolate cancers, tumors and other diseases by preventing their growth and spread

Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils

Many therapeutic grade essential oils have wonderful anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties that also aid in healing and balancing.

A few of the many Essential Oils helpful for arthritis and/or joint pain are:

Chamomile German (Matricaria recutita)--anti-inflammatory
Chamomile Roman (Anthemis nobilis)--analgesic
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules)--analgesic, anti-inflammatory
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)--anti-inflammatory, circulatory stimulants, analgesic
Juniper (Juniperus communis)--eliminates toxins
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)--analgesic
Marjoram (Origanum majorana)--analgesic
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)-analgesic
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)-circulatory stimulants, analgesic

These oils are best applied topically and massaged into the painful joint area or along the spine in a rain drop treatment.

*Please Note: I personally only use and only recommend the use of Young Living Essential oils due to their being certified Grade A, therapeutic/medical grade oils being so pure and safe they can be ingested!

Large-breed dogs and over-weight dogs usually have a higher-incidence of joint problems than other dogs do. However, just as with us humans, there are considerable differences between individuals for arthritis susceptibility and the rate of arthritis progression.

Senior or older dogs (especially house bound or latch key dogs) that do not get regular exercise, plenty of fresh air and sunshine are more prone to arthritis. We hate to see our dogs suffer in pain and they appear to be so uncomfortable that the thought of forcing them to play or go for a walk seems cruel to some of us. However, research has shown that exercise is an essential tool in managing arthritis and its pain!

Regular, consistent, moderate exercise offers a whole host of benefits to our companions with arthritis. Mainly, exercise reduces joint pain and stiffness by building strong muscle around the joints, and increasing flexibility and endurance. It reduces inflammation from arthritis and related conditions and reduces the risk of other chronic conditions. It also helps promote overall health and fitness by actually giving your dog more energy, helping him/her sleep better, controlling their weight and even helps to decrease lethargy and depression.

Arthritis does not have to be the depressing diagnosis we dread as our companions age and we surely can do so much naturally and holistically to eliminate it and its effects on our dogs.

To order Young Living Essential oils, you must be a member. While membership is free for retail orders, for a one-time fee of as little as $40.00 you can sign up as a Wholesale customer/distributor and take advantage of discount pricing. You will never be under obligation to promote or sell the oils unless you want to! For more information and to enroll please click HERE


Copyright 2013 This article is the sole property of Dr.Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole(Wholistic) Dog. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.


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