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Degenerative Joint Disease - Arthritis

The cooler months are starting to sneak up on us again. The temperatures dropping, the leaves are falling, you have an extra blanket on the bed and your heater is on. The humans in your house may be all set for winter but what about your pet. Pets really do feel the cold, especially if they are small, old or don't have a thick coat.

If your pet is getting on in years you may find it slows down during winter and is reluctant to get out of bed and stiff when it moves. This is usually a sign of arthritic changes, which are common with age. The conditions technical name is Degenerative Joint Disease and it is a progressive disease - that is, it will slowly deteriorate with time. It is a disease that is not always associated with older pets either. Certain breeds are prone to developing arthritis at a younger age. These include the larger breeds like Labradors, Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Collies, Kelpies, Blue Heelers and the list goes on.

If your pet has had or has an orthopaedic problem such as a broken leg, cruciate ligament repair, hip or elbow dysplasia etc, then arthritis can set in regardless of age. One in five dogs suffer from arthritis, and many of them are undiagnosed.

There are lots of different treatment options available both medical and natural.

Weight Control

You can help by keeping your dog lean. Extra weight will make symptoms worse and add more stress to joints. Exercise is easier for a dog that is not overweight. Remember - what YOU feed your dog makes them overweight. It's not all through a lack of exercise. Talk to your Vet about an appropriate diet for your dog.

A pets diet can also become an issue in winter months. Dogs with fine coats may need extra food to maintain their weight. Alternatively, if your dog is exercising less they may need to eat less as well, so they don't gain too much weight. For larger dogs, have their food and water bowls elevated which alleviates strain on sore joints while bending down.


Weight bearing exercises help to stimulate cartliage and joint nutrition. Arthritic dogs should have short, frequent regular exercise. Ten minutes twice a day is far better than a one hour walk on the weekend. There is a saying 'If you don't use it, you will loose it'! Keep your dog active. By keeping them active it will preserve muscle mass and tone. It will also keep their joints supple and moving instead of becoming stiff and more sore.
  • Moderate hilly terrain helps to get full extension of all the joints.
  • Swimming is easy on the joints for fitness without the jarring on painful ones
  • Crawling exercises through a tunnel or under a chair or bed etc. is great to get full joint flexion.
  • Range of Motion and Stretching Exercises are not only great to help prevent and provide relief for muscle pain but also an excellent way to help you monitor your dog's physical well being and aid in the early detection of potential problems.
  • Hot and Cold therapy can be used to relieve general aches, pains and stiffness. Heat is used for comfort such as hot water bottles, heating pads, electric blankets on a low setting, a heated floor, extra blankets or a Heat Pak. However, when joint swelling is present and/or an injury is recent (within the last 48 hours), then ice or cold packs are used such as a covered bag of frozen peas. Do not use cold packs for longer than 20 minute at a time or it may have a reverse effect causing more swelling.

Keeping your dog mobile and products that can help

If your dog has lost muscle tone Hydrotherapy is a great way to improve it. Taking you dog to a heated dog pool or a Canine Rehabilitation Facility that is equipped with an Underwater Treadmill can help your dogs mobility. We can design an exercise program to increase strength of the muscles that support painful joints which improves balance and muscle tone. Please do not swim your dog in a pool if they are not used to water and swimming, as they tend to panic and swim very rigorously making sore joints, more sore. An Underwater Treadmill is a totally controled environment where the speed and water level can be controlled. It is also more beneficial for dogs with arthritis in their hind end as a dog will tend to swim with their hind legs tucked underneath their body rather than a full range of motion which is needed to build muscle.

Massage can be very beneficial if performed correctly. It can relieve pain, improve circulation and prevent muscle soreness after exercise or activity.

Mobility aids such as slings are a great help for dogs that are having trouble getting up, going to the toilet, in and out of the car or up and down stairs. They are easier to use than an old towel and have handle adjustments for you, so you don't hurt your own back bending over to assist your dog. Pet Wheelchairs are also useful as they take the stress off wobbly hind legs and allow your dog more freedom. They can still walk in the Wheelchairs as it prevents falls and further injuries. Protective Dog Boots are available for dogs that scuff their hind paws which can develop sores on top of their feet. Once established they are very hard to heal.

Keeping your pet warm

It is important that your pet has somewhere warm to sleep in winter, free of draughts and protected from the elements. Beds should be elevated so the cold and damp can't creep in from the ground, which aggravates the condition. We have a range of specially designed dog beds which are perfect for post-surgical rehabilitation and support of pets with chronic health or orthopedic related conditions such as Arthritis.

Depending on what kind of dog you have, your dog may benefit from a dog coat. We have our own range of dog coats available, which are sheepskin lined and fully wind and water proof. Special sizes can be accommodated.

Veterinary Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used in human medicine for over 5,000 years, and in animals for over 3,000 years. Veterinary Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body, which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to achieve a healing effect. It is not always a cure-all, but it works well when used alone or in combination with traditional veterinary medicine or rehabilitation. Acupuncture can provide great relief from pain. Veterinary Acupuncture occurs with no risk of liver or kidney damage as frequently occurs with conventional medicines such as anti-inflammatories.

Joint Supplements

There are many products on the market today that is for sure. Here is a list of ingredients which may help with the symptoms.

Glucosamine Sulfate / Glucosamine HCL

This is the biggest and best in this list. It has been extensively studied in the sulfate form but the HCL form is equally as effective. The sulfate of HCL is just a "carrier" molecule - pure Glucosamine is unstable by itself so it needs to be combined with a carrier so it stays pure and does not break down. There is some debate in terms of which carrier molecule is better, but some of the better formulations will include both, just in case one works better for you. Either way, you are getting as pure of a Glucosamine as you can (assuming the manufacturer starts with pure Glucosamine - many do not even tell you their purity).

Chondroitin Sulfate

This is the most beneficial ingredient behind Glucosamine. Chondroitin Sulfate is a component of cartilage. In molecular terms, it is a gigantic molecule, mainly composed of repeated chains of glucosamine sulfate. Because of this, it functions in a way that is similar to glucosamine ease joint discomfort and rebuild cartilage. Make sure you see Chondroitin listed as one of the ingredients on the list of any product you buy.


MSM, also known as methylsulfonylmethane, is a major supplier of sulfur, the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It is related, but not the same as another sulfur compound, DMSO. In animal studies, joints affected by osteoarthritis have lower sulfur content. Mice with arthritis, when given MSM, experience less joint deterioration. The results of a preliminary double-blind trial stated that patients with osteoarthritis found that MSM reduced pain after six weeks.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty Acids can not be talked about enough when it comes to helping out your entire body as well as treating arthritis pain. They reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, as well as help to reduce Coronary Heart Disease.

Manganese Ascorbate

Manganese is a mineral essential to the formation of connective tissue (such as cartilage). Manganese is extremely helpful for sufferers of Arthritis and also aids in keeping bones strong and preventing Osteoporosis.

Boswellia Serrata (Boswellin)

Boswellia is probably best for Rheumatoid Arthritis, but due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is also effective for Osteoarthritis. Boswellia inhibits pro-inflammatory mediators in the body, such as leukotrienes. Long-term use of Boswellia, as opposed to NSAIDs, does not appear to cause irritation or ulceration of the stomach.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin needed for the repair and growth of tissues in all parts of the body. Vitamin C is essential for the repair and maintenance of cartilage and bones as well as healing of wounds. It is essential to form collagen, an important protein used to make tendons, cartilage, ligaments, skin, blood vessels, and scar tissue. It also acts as an antioxidant to offset the damage of free radicals.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays an important role in bone formation and may also help to reduce the symptoms of Osteoarthritis. It is also a potent antioxidant and is needed to promote healthy bone development. Low Vitamin A may lead to reduced bone mass and consequently osteoporosis.

Vitamin E

Another antioxidant, Vitamin E may be helpful in both the prevention of and the treatment of (pain relief and increased joint mobility) Osteoarthritis. Vitamin E was tested against a NSAID (diclofenac) and was found to be equally as effective. Vitamin E also has many antioxidant properties.

Aloe Vera

Animal studies show that drinking soothing aloe vera can reduce swelling and inflammation in arthritic joints. It has been used since early recorded history for its first-aid like properties. Aloe Vera is one of the only known natural vegetarian sources of Vitamin B12, and it contains many minerals vital to the healthy function and growth process of all the body's systems.


Bromelaine may be as effective as the NSAIDS, for pain reduction. It may also help with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Use over time may also help with connective tissue disorders. It also appears to have anti-inflammatory properties.


According to the study "Yucca plant saponin in the management of arthritis" (J Appl Nutr 1975;27:45-50) there is evidence that Yucca can aid in Osteo and Rheumatoid arthritis. Yucca may work by blocking the release of intestinal toxins that inhibit normal formation of cartilage.

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