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Arthritis in the Dog

Updated on August 30, 2017

A common scourge for man's best friend - Natural Medicine to the Rescue

Is your canine friend affected with arthritis? When this diagnosis is made, it can be a time for 'gloom and doom' but it is better to be positive. Don't give up hope! More often than not, dogs are helped via Natural Medicine (Holistic Medicine - Alternative Medicine).

The word 'arthritis' means 'inflammation of the joint'. It is more commonly understood to indicate its chronic form, in which there are bony changes around the affected joint or joints.

It can be a very painful condition, causing lameness, difficulty in rising from rest, stiffness and reduced range of movement of the affected joint or joints. It can affect any joint and any number of joints.

It can come on in older age but can also arise from injury or repetitive strain trauma (RSI). It can come on as a result of congenital or developmental joint abnormalities.

So many of our dogs are affected by this distressing and disabling disease that we are clearly doing something wrong in our dog management, contributing to the frequent incidence.

Some possible natural treatments and management advice will de discussed in this lens.

The image above left shows an arthritic elbow in a dog. Bone edges should be clear but, instead, there are 'roughened' areas.

Dog Skeleton from Wikipedia
Dog Skeleton from Wikipedia

The cause for hope

The skeleton will be renewed

A dog's skeleton is being renewed and refurbished at an imperceptible rate but in a continuous process. This means that the skeleton currently in existence will cease to exist in 12 - 18 months (at best estimates). The old skeleton is gradually removed and replaced by new.

What this means is that the skeleton and any abnormalities that have developed over the years are not permanent. They are subject to change, for the better or for the worse. In fact, change is inevitable, whether we like it or not. What we hope to do, through natural medicine, is to influence the renewal process such that gradual improvement can take place. At the same time, we attempt to deal with the disabling pain symptoms (through healing, not through suppression of symptoms by painkillers).

At best, the suppressive painkilling approach of modern drugs will suppress pain for a time but it cannot prevent worsening of the disease. At worst it will cause drug side effects.

If the lameness is in one or other front leg (or both), it is wise to prevent repetitive trauma to the front legs, as might occur with jumping off furniture, jumping out of cars, going down stairs or steps and jumping over obstacles such as walls, while out on a walk.

In natural medicine, we aim to stimulate the body's natural healing and recycling/remodelling processes, so that real improvement can take place.

We also look closely at diet, since the ingredients of the diet will directly contribute to the health of the new skeleton that we are trying to cultivate. Ideally, the diet should be fresh, preferably organic and home-prepared from ingredients of known quality. In the 'links' section of this article, there are links to diet advice.

The main therapies we might use would be Acupuncture, Homeopathy and Herbs, sometimes combined in an integrated treatment programme.

Veterinary Acupuncture Dog Arthritis
Veterinary Acupuncture Dog Arthritis


Ancient Chinese Enigma

Acupuncture has been beneficial in so many cases, not only to help the longer term issues presented by arthritis but also to help in pain management and mobility in the shorter term.

We would use needling or LASER treatment of acupuncture points.

We would also use chiropractic manipulation, to ensure optimal skeletal alignment.

The image on the right shows an ageing dog relaxed during a needling session. The needles can be seen.

The links section at the end of this lens will provide a link to more information on Acupuncture.

Samuel Hahnemann - founder of Homeopathy
Samuel Hahnemann - founder of Homeopathy


An amazing healing stimulus

Homeopathic medication is used for two main purposes. The first is to bring about more comfort and more mobility. The second is to guide that skeletal remodelling we were discussing, in order to bring about longer-term real improvement in skeletal structure, health and function.

Common homeopathic medicines that have been used are Bryonia, Calcarea carbonica, Calcarea phosphorica, Caulophyllum, Dulcamara, Ledum palustre, Rhus toxicodendron, Ruta graveolens and Silicea but there are many others that might be chosen, on the basis of signs and symptoms, constitutional appearance, demeanour, behaviour etc.

The links section at the end of this lens will give a link to more detail on Homeopathy.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)


Nature's Pharmacy

Herbs may have a great part to play in the management and treatment of arthritis.

Herbs such as Alfalfa, Arctium lappa, Berberis vulgaris, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Filipendula ulmaria, Salyx sp., Symphytum officinale, Taraxacum officinale and Yucca sp. may be offered.

Herbal medicine is the forerunner of modern drug medicine and many modern drugs are derived more or less directly from medicinal herbs. Aspirin, a very effective treatment for arthritic pain, was originally derived from willow or meadowsweet.

The links section at the end of this lens will provide a link to more information on Herbal Medicine (Phytotherapy).

prescription drugs on a pharmacy shelf [Tim Boyle - Getty Images]
prescription drugs on a pharmacy shelf [Tim Boyle - Getty Images]

The conventional (pharmaceutical) approach

In conventional medicine, the basic approach is the administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These can bring relief but do nothing ot prevent progress of the disease.

The so-called 'Nutraceutical' supplements are now also often offered, esp. Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

The pharmaceutical approach is one which we would rarely consider as 'first-line', only using it if we fail to bring relief through natural healing stimulus of if pain is too severe in the short term. This is because there is a significant risk of side effects (adverse effects) and because most of our patients have already been through that process without success, before they come to us.


The very wide range of options in natural medicine, most of which offer either stimulus to healing or support for healing can offer an arthritic dog a great deal of hope. While not every case can respond, absolutely zero response is extremely rare.

The author is independent of commercial interest or sponsorship and cannot endorse any products or advertising material attached to this lens.

For more information, visit AVMC's information website (over 600 pages).

Chris Day - holistic vet - runs the Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre in Oxfordshire (AVMC) in Oxfordshire, UK.

Have you had a dog with arthritis?

What did you use?

Opinion please:

Should natural medicine be offered to animals?

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Dog running
Dog running

I'd love to hear from you

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    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      @norma-holt: Hey, that's just made my morning go with a swing - you're an angel!

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 6 years ago

      Another great lens *-*blessed*-* and featured on Angel blessings for Dogs on Squidoo

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      @jennabee25: When the time comes for help, I think you'll be pleased you did look at the 'alternatives'.

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 6 years ago from PA

      As my pooch ages ( I'm going to keep an eye out for more natural ways to ease his ailments.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      @greenspirit: Hope not reflecting human disease in the household. As you have said in the module above, this can happen. Animals often want to try to drain disease energy from us and, in the process, they can get caught up in it.

      May be I'l have to do an 'arthritis in the cat' lens - it was in my mind to do so.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 6 years ago from London

      Hi Chris. My oldest cat Tutu has recently developed painful back legs. I am going to read and absorb your lens with great attention. Thanks. Lensrolling to my cat lenses.