An A–Z of natural solutions for canine arthritis

Searching for a natural therapy for your dog’s arthritis? Take a look at this comprehensive list!

As dogs age, they begin to suffer from many of the same conditions we do – including arthritis. Luckily, there are many natural therapies that can help prevent this common affliction, and ease the symptoms in dogs that already have it. While treatment will vary from case to case, the following A-Z list of herbs and supplements will better equip you to work with your holistic or integrative vet, and find the best solution for your pup!

ASUs (avocado/soybean unsaponifiables) are plant-derived compounds that support healthy cartilage and help protect against cartilage breakdown. They may also reduce pain associated with joint inflammation.

Boswellia is known for its anti-rheumatic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to help with pain and stiffness in dogs with osteoarthritis and other degenerative diseases.

Chondrotin sulfate is a complex sugar found naturally in cartilage which helps resist compression. Adding it to your dog’s diet can reduce inflammation and help his joints absorb shock more effectively, ultimately keeping arthritis at bay.

DLPA (DL-phenylalanine) can be used as an effective alternative to NSAIDs to help soothe chronic pain. This natural amino acid relives discomfort by inhibiting the destruction of endorphins, one of the hormones responsible for reducing pain.

EPA and DHA, two components of Omega-3 fatty acids, reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis and other joint problems in dogs. Look for a fish oil supplement, which tends to be richer in EPA and DHA than plant-based sources.

Fatty acids (see EPA)

Glucosamine is one of the most common supplements prescribed for arthritis in both humans and dogs. It’s produced naturally by the body, this production slows over time, impeding range of motion and joint lubrication. A glucosamine supplement – alone, or in combination with chondroitin – can help rebuild cartilage and reconstruct damaged tissue. It also reduces pain, swelling and other symptoms associated with arthritis.

Hyaluronic acid (HA) slows the degradation of joint tissue and increases the viscosity of joint fluid. “HA can be given orally or injected,” says veterinarian Dr. Mark Newkirk. “This is a major component of the synovial fluid within the joint itself, and is often given intra-articular for inflammation.”

Indian Frankincense (see Boswellia)

Joint supplements are formulated to combat arthritis by combining herbs, vitamins and minerals that promote joint health. Novelty Pet’s Hip & Joint+, for instance, contains glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM, organic turmeric, green algae kelp, nucleotides and PSB complex enzymes. “It’s the only product containing this proprietary blend of ingredients,” says owner Susan Davis.

Kelp is a rich source of nutrients, including amino acids, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium. Kelp also boasts a high level of antioxidants – including carotenoids, flavonoids and alkaloids – which protect your dog’s joints against the free radical damage that can lead to cartilage breakdown and inflammation.

Do not use herbs without direction from a holistic or integrative veterinarian.

Licorice root is an anti-inflammatory herb that can also provide effective pain relief, according to veterinarian Dr. Christina Chambreau.

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a sulfur compound often added to glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. “MSM works synergistically with glucosamine for even greater pain reduction and anti-inflammatory response,” explains Susan. It also provides effective relief from the stiffness associated with arthritis.

Nettle leaf is rich in vitamins and minerals, providing nutrients that aid in joint repair. It’s also a diuretic, which means it increases urine production to help flush toxins out of your dog’s body.

Olive oil is high in antioxidants, vitamin E and healthy fats, making it a good addition to any dog’s diet. Extra virgin olive oil also contains a compound called oleocanthal, which works to combat inflammation in the joints. Be sure to use in moderation, as too much of this polyunsaturated oil can cause diarrhea.

Perna canaliculus (green-lipped mussels) contain properties that inhibit the body’s inflammatory response. Supplements that include green-lipped mussels have been shown in clinical studies to reduce arthritis pain in dogs.

Quercetin isn’t typically prescribed for arthritis. In fact, it’s commonly used for the treatment of seasonal allergies. However, if your pup is already taking quercetin to stop his sneezing, you might notice that it eases his arthritis pain at the same time. Quercetin is a member of the flavonoids group, which can help naturally reduce inflammation.

Rhus toxicodendron is a homeopathic remedy that’s great for combatting joint stiffness. “Rhus tox, as it is commonly known, is a classic remedy for arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties,” says Dr. Newkirk.

Shepherd’s purse is a common weed that can be applied topically as a poultice to inflamed joints. When eaten, it also helps rid your dog’s body of toxins. “It has a special affinity for removing waste compounds from arthritic joints,” says Dr. Chambreau.

Turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin, which is a “high quality antioxidant and powerful anti-inflammatory,” says Susan. It works to improve mobility and joint comfort, and reduce pain and swelling. Make a paste by combining ¼ cup organic turmeric powder with 1/8 cup of coconut oil and ½ cup filtered water. Add a sprinkle of black pepper to maximize the turmeric’s effect. Store the paste in a sealed jar in the fridge, and add a quarter teaspoon to your dog’s daily meals.

Urtica dioica (see nettle leaf)

Vitamin C is a water-soluble compound known for its antioxidant properties. It also works to control inflammation and maintain healthy collagen, an elastic protein found in joints and connective tissue. Typically, your dog will receive enough vitamin C through a high quality diet, but your vet can help you determine if supplementation might improve his joint health.

White willow bark is great for fighting inflammation and pain. Due to slow absorption in the gut, it has a long-lasting effect, says Dr. Chambreau. “It also contains salicin which is used in aspirin, so should not be used for cats,” she adds.

Xian Ling Pi (Epimedium) is commonly used in Chinese herbal blends designed to target arthritis in dogs. If your dog is diagnosed with Coldness in his joints by a Chinese medicine practitioner, Epimedium may be prescribed in combination with other herbs to ease soreness in the joint tissue.

Yucca root is an herb derived from Latin America. It boasts wonderful anti-inflammatory properties, and works to increase blood flow, providing pain relief for arthritic dogs.

Zingiber officinale (Ginger) is an anti-inflammatory and vasodilator, which means it increases blood flow to your dog’s sore joints to speed healing. “This herb can have a negative effect, so use in combinations or observe carefully after introduction,” cautions Dr. Chambreau.

If your canine companion has achy joints, ask a holistic or integrative veterinarian if any of these remedies are right for him. In combination with a healthy high quality diet, adequate exercise, and plenty of TLC, they’ll help keep him running and playing well into his senior years!