Joint Problems in Dogs
Joint Problems in Dogs

Most of us dog owners have, many a time, watched our older dogs slowly become less mobile as joint problems set in. By focusing on the right exercise, diet and supplementation programme, you can do a lot to relieve your best friend’s pain and discomfort.

A joint, in the human or animal body, is the point at which two bones fit together. A protective layer of cartilage at the ends of the bones and a thin layer of synovial fluid absorb shock and prevent the bones from rubbing against each other.1

With ageing, wear and tear or arthritis, this cartilage can become thin, brittle and pitted, which results in the bones rubbing together and causing pain and inflammation.


Your average vet, up until recently, has typically prescribed one of two things for joint pain:

  • Steroids
  • NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

Although these do work on a short-term basis, they tend not to work after a few weeks and, in addition, there are serious side effects when used in the long term. Steroids cause immune system problems, susceptibility to fractures and upset stomachs.2,3,4

Furthermore, NSAIDs, apart from having serious side effects such as increasing the risk of heart disease and ulcers, worsen the situation for your dog. In the short term, your dog will feel better, but long-term use actually damages the cartilage even further and the arthritis gets worse.5


So, in a bizarre turnaround of the normal order of things, vets, convinced by the large amount of good scientific research, are quietly turning back to natural remedies to treat these problems.

This is how a lot of modern-day, holistically-minded vets are treating arthritis in dogs and cats:


Dr Megan Kelly, an expert on the benefits of exercise programmes in the treatment of joint disease says: ‘Pets with joint conditions use their bodies incorrectly. We call this compensation. They compensate to protect a certain area and in doing so end up overusing some muscles and underusing other ones. This results in muscle wastage of the underused muscles and spasm of the overused muscles. The underused muscles waste away and these muscles are usually the muscles that are important in stabilising the joints.’

A programme of exercise that targets the muscles that support your pet’s joints and the core muscles that keep the spine correctly aligned is highly recommended.

Low-impact exercise such as hydrotherapy, walks on a leash, and gentle indoor games are best. Avoid high-impact games where jumping, running, long distances and sudden turns are involved.

Pain relief

The pain associated with joint problems can be quite debilitating. In order for your pet to be able to do the necessary exercises, your vet will want to manage his pain.

Some good natural painkillers include: devil’s claw, turmeric and Boswellia. All of these have clinically proven anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, without the harmful side effects of NSAIDs or steroids.6-12


Apart from the natural painkillers, there are other natural products which should be included in the diet in order to keep the cartilage and synovial fluid of the joint as healthy as possible.

Cartilage is made up mostly of collagen, which in turn is made from glucosamine and proteoglycans. Supplementing glucosamine and chondroitin has been found to have a positive clinical effect in dogs with arthritis.13,14

Another molecule very useful in the holistic treatment of arthritis is MSM (methylysul- phonylmethane). Nobody is very sure how it works, but it is proposed to be effective by providing a source of sulphur.15-17 A study found MSM resulted in an 80% improvement over placebo.

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to be extremely beneficial for dogs with arthritis.18


A diet low in grains and high in good quality fats and proteins is recommended. It is also very important not to allow your dog or cat to become too fat – this is a major factor in managing the disease.


Follow these non-invasive and natural suggestions on how to care for joint pain in your pet; you will undoubtedly see a difference.


  1. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by Phyllis A. Balch
  2. Wang Q, Rozelle AL, Lepus CM, et al. Identification of a central role for complement in osteoarthritis. Nature medicine. 2011;17(12):1674-1679. doi:10.1038/nm.2543.
  3. Kanis, John A., et al. A meta‐analysis of prior corticosteroid use and fracture risk. Journal of bone and mineral research 6 (2004): 893-899.
  4. Saag, Kenneth G., et al. Low dose long-term corticosteroid therapy in rheumatoid arthritis: an analysis of serious adverse events. The American journal of medicine (1994): 115-123.
  5. Caplan, Liron, et al. Corticosteroid use in rheumatoid arthritis: prevalence, predictors, correlates, and outcomes. The Journal of Rheumatology (2007): 696-705.
  7. Williams, Dr, Eluned Jones, and Ariun Ishdorj. Competitive assessment and market entry study of devils claw in the us nutraceutical/herbal supplement market.
  8. Kemper, Kathi J. Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens).The Longwood Herbal Task Force and The Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research. 1999 (1999).
  9. Singh, G. B., Surjeet Singh, and Sarang Bani. Anti-inflammatory actions of boswellic acids. Phytomedicine (1996): 81-85.
  10. Reichling, J., et al. Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease. Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde (2004): 71-79.
  11. Funk, Janet L., et al. Turmeric extracts containing curcuminoids prevent experimental rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of natural products (2006): 351.
  12. Funk, Janet L., et al. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatology (2006): 3452-3464.
  13. Ramadan, Gamal, Mohammed Ali Al-Kahtani, and Wael Mohamed El-Sayed. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of Curcuma longa (turmeric) versus Zingiber officinale (ginger) rhizomes in rat adjuvant-induced arthritis. Inflammation (2011): 291-301.
  14. Clegg, Daniel O., et al. Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis. N Engl J Med 354 (2006): 795-808.
  15. McCarthy, Grainne, et al. Randomised double-blind, positive-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. The Veterinary Journal (2007): 54-61.
  16. Lawrence, Ronald M. Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (msm) a double blind study of its use in degenerative arthritis. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (1987): 2.
  18. Roush, James K., et al. Evaluation of the effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on weight bearing in dogs with osteoarthritis.”Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2010): 67-73.
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