With winter and cold weather setting in, it’s time to think about the joint aches that often affect older pets. What is generally perceived as “slowing down” or “a little stiff” may be a sign of significant joint deterioration or arthritis, and probably causes some degree of discomfort in most older pets.
Arthritic cats often gradually stop jumping up as high as they once did. The inflammation and pain that go with arthritis can cause house-soiling if there is not a litter box on every level of the home!
Dogs with arthritis may not be as enthusiastic about hiking, playing, or stairs. They may choose to sleep on the floor if they can’t get to the bed or sofa. Even getting into the car can be a real challenge.
Providing “steps” (a box or stool, for instance) up to a bed, chair, or other favorite high spots may be greatly appreciated by an older pet. A portable ramp may be a great answer for getting an older dog into the car or truck.
Cats’ unique metabolism makes metabolize many of the arthritis and pain medications commonly given to dogs, such as carprofen (Rimadyl®) too hazardous to use. (It has also caused some serious, even fatal, side effects in dogs.) Moreover, ibuprofen (Advil®), naproxyn (Aleve®), and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) are all highly very to both cats and dogs.
The good news is that there are simple, inexpensive nutritional supplements that are very effective and, most important, very safe. Supplements for arthritis include:
Cartilage and joint fluid building blocks: glycosaminoglycans such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid. These supplements also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Green-lipped mussels are an excellent source of these compounds.
Connective Tissue Support: MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane) provides elemental sulfur for the body to make certain amino acids and other compounds used in connective tissue. Silica, another component of connective tissue, is found in the herb horsetail (Equisetum arvense) along with MSM.
Antioxidants: to help minimize and resolve inflammation, which is the primary cause of joint pain. These include antioxidant vitamins C and E, astaxanthin, and essential fatty acids.
Anti-inflammatory herbs: Boswellia serrata (frankincense) is traditionally used in combination with other herbs in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Since some herbs can be extremely toxic to cats, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian trained in the use of western or Chinese herbs. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine; modern science has validated its beneficial properties. Yucca schidigera was used by Native Americans for arthritis pain. (Yucca also has the odd but useful “side effect” of reducing intestinal gas!)
These supplements are not quick fixes—it may take 3-5 weeks for improvement to be noticeable, and they must be given daily to prevent return of pain and improve your pet’s activity and flexibility. Here are a few supplements containing these important nutrients:
Only Natural Pet Lubri-Ease (several formulas) (Note: the topical formula, Joint Gel, contains white willow bark, which is related to aspirin; please consult your veterinarian before using this product on cats.)
Only Natural offers many other excellent nutritional products that aid joint health for dogs and cats.
From a holistic viewpoint, no physical condition is simply physical. In energetic terms, disease, including arthritis, starts on the energetic plane and progresses through the mental and emotional spheres before manifesting itself in the physical body. One way to address this is through the use of flower essences, which can heal the imbalances on the mental and emotional planes. Another way to look at this is that mental “stiffness” ultimately contributes to stiffening of the physical joints. Flower essences, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, massage, aquatherapy, physical therapy, and other holistic therapies can help your pet stay mentally, physically, and emotionally “flexible,” and minimize the energetic stresses that contribute to the development of arthritis.
Last, but certainly not least, a warm, soft bed is an essential for older pets; letting the joints get cold can make them stiffer and more painful. Check out Only Natural’s wide variety of cozy beds for pets.