Lew Olson's newly revised edition is filled with an abundance of new topics and information. Whether you are new to home feeding or a seasoned raw feeder, have a senior dog or a new puppy, a pregnant mom or a toy breed, this book presents all the information you need to make the best nutritional decisions for your dog.

Arthritis & Joint Problems

Arthritis & Joint Problems


By Lew Olson • Spring 1998 Newsletter
Arthritis is currently estimated to affect one in eight dogs. This certainly is a specific problem in the breed of Rottweilers, and covers a wide variety of ailments. Arthritis is defined as an inflammation of the joints, so it describes a symptom rather than a specific disease. The causes of arthritis and joint pain can be varied in our breed, from a specific injury, to arthritis causing conditions, and autoimmune disorders.

Traumatic Injury such as inflammation and pain in the joints can be caused by overuse or repeated use that causes temporary or permanent injury. This is often seen when a dog is worked too young or too often in activities such as roadbook, jumping or hard play with other dogs. The repeated stress and strain on the joint can cause inflammation, resulting in deterioration of the cartilage, loss of synovial fluid and eventual buildups of boney spurs and/or bone chips. Early symptoms include limping, swelling in the joints and pain on manipulation of the affected joints. This can be hard to detect in Rottweilers, as many will not respond to pain as other breeds of dogs. If detected early, response to the injury is found with rest and avoiding the activities that caused the inflammation.

Arthritis Causing Joint Conditions
Some types of these conditions include:
Canine Hip Dysplasia
This condition involves the development of the ball and socket found in the hip joint. Dysplasia simply means 'bad development,' and describes several disorders. The ball of the hip may not fit into the socket correctly, the socket may be too shallow, the ball may not be the correct size or 'roundness' to fit well, or the ball joint may not even be placed inside the socket of the hip. It does take a radiograph to correctly diagnosis this condition. It is generally thought to be genetic in nature, although there is speculation that other factors such as injury, excessive exercise or diet can play a role in hip development. As the dog ages, and irritation develops from the incorrect set of the ball and socket joint, inflammation and deterioration of the hip joint can occur.
Elbow Dysplasia
This is a disease found most commonly in large, fast-growing canines. The cartilage in the affected joints becomes thickened, and can eventually die. As the cartilage dies, it peels from the bone, and protrudes into the joint. It is also believed to be genetic in nature, with environment contributing to this condition. Six types of elbow dysplasia include: osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD), ununited anconeal process (UAP), fragmented coronoid process (FCP) and degenerative joint disease (DJD). These conditions are determined by radiographs.
Ruptured Cruciate Ligament
Found in the rear legs of the dog, these ligaments can become torn or injured during such activities as jumping, pivoting on the rear legs, or ordinary activity if the dog is born with weak cruciate ligaments. As this ligament is a necessary part of the knee joint, injury can cause pain and arthritis in the leg.
Geriatric Osteoarthritis
A form of arthritic condition found in older dogs, it is caused by wear and tear of the joints. This condition is generally affected by weather changes and strenuous exercise as the dog ages.
Although this is not technically a joint disorder, this condition is included as it is often confused with the diagnosis of CHD, OCD and Elbow Dysplasia. This is a disease that most often affects the long bones in the legs. It is diagnosed through radiographs that discover increased areas of density which can mean formation of bone in the marrow cavity. Symptoms vary from subtle to dramatic lameness that can switch from leg to leg. It most often appears between five and twelve months of age, and can affect one or more legs at a time. It has also been reported in later ages as well. Panosteitis is a disease of unknown causes.
Autoimmune Disorders
More research is being conducted regarding the autoimmune response in relationship to arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune response, but it is rarely seen in dogs. Some conditions that can cause autoimmune triggers leading to arthritis in dogs include lyme disease, valley fever and lupus. There is also speculation that some food allergies and vaccinations can lead to inflammation of the joints. Arthritis can act as an autoimmune disorder, as it appears to attack cartilage and destroy joint linings.
Traditional Medicine Approaches to Treating Arthritis and Joint Pain
The traditional approach covers two areas. One is the use of medications for inflammation and pain, and the other is surgery, to correct and repair bone or cartilage disorders. This type of therapy is focused on reducing the symptoms.
These are the most potent anti-inflammatory agents. The types most often used for arthritis are prednisone and dexamethasone. Although these drugs were used commonly in the past, they are not used as often today. Their side effects include weight gain, high blood pressure, thinning of the bones and skin, kidney failures, failure of the immune system, atrophy of adrenal gland, osteoporosis, hypertension. Prolonged use can worsen symptoms of arthritis.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
A group of drugs including ibuprofen, Motrin, naproxen sodium, ketoprofen and aspirin, they are inappropriate for dogs, as they can cause gastritis, intestinal bleeding, vomiting, dizziness, headaches and allergic reactions. A new drug is now on the market which is being prescribed by veterinarians. It is called Rimadyl, or Carprofen. Although it is in the same family as ibuprofen, it is being advertised as safe for dogs. There has been some anecdotal information on liver failure, diarrhea and vomiting when dogs use this drug. Although the veterinarians' associations deny this, they are recommending lowering the dose after seven days, and to observe for black or tarry stools, and treat for kidney problems before using this drug. In Europe, it is generally recommended not to use this drug for more than three days in succession.
This is an injectable substance known as polysufated gylcosaminoglycan. It is injected intramuscularly twice weekly for up to four weeks. Its action is believed to replace the synovial fluid lost in the joints due to arthritis conditions. It has no known side effects. It can be expensive, and does not work in all conditions of arthritis.
Traditional veterinary medicine uses surgery to ease pain and try to correct arthritic conditions in dogs. Although some surgeries can alleviate conditions, the invasive procedures themselves can cause further arthritis later in the dog's life. It is recommended to get a second opinion before proceeding.
Canine Hip Dysplasia Surgery Options
A Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)
The word osteotomy means 'to cut bone.' This surgery is designed, by cutting the pelvis and hip bone in three places, to rotate the acetabular portion so the femoral head will fit in place. For a dog to be a candidate, they must be at least seven months old, have partial dislocation of the hip, the femoral head and acetabulum are normal in shape and there is no arthritis present. Once arthritis sets in, it is too late to perform the surgery to reduce pain. This surgery includes several screws, wires and a stainless steel plate. Estimated cost of this procedure is $1,200, and generally one leg is done first, with the second hip having the same operation six weeks later. The recovery period is six to nine weeks, with exercise being severely limited during that time.
Femoral Head Osteotomy
This is a procedure performed by having the head of the femur removed, and muscles from the surrounding tissue utilized to compensate for the missing joint. This operation is not used in Rottweilers, as it is only successful in dogs weighing less than 40 pounds.
Uncemented Hip Prosthesis
This is the newest technique. It creates good hip support by building a beaded surface to which the bone and fibrous tissue attach.
BOP Shelf Arthroplasty
BOP is an experimental method that uses polymer lattices implanted into the joint. The theory is that new bone will grow over the lattice. This is not offered yet to the public.
Total Hip Replacement
In this surgery, a new acetabulum is built using what is called a polyethelene socket. The ball is also replaced with a metal prosthesis.
Canine Elbow Dsyplasia and Osteochondrosis Options
The most popular choice for surgery in these conditions is removal of the extra or dead cartilage flaps from the joint. Although elbow dysplasia is commonly found in Rottweilers, most published reports suggest surgery in Rottweilers has little benefit, compared to other breeds.
Canine Cruciate Ligament Repair
This surgery does not involve cutting the bone, but it is an invasive surgery, used to repair the torn or ruptured ligament. It is often the case that when one cruciate ligament needs repair, the other leg will eventually develop the same problem.
Alternative Approaches and Solutions
Although there are no cures for arthritic conditions, there are several techniques and methods that can help alleviate the pain, inflammation and prevent further damage. Alternative and holistic approaches differ from traditional methods by treating the underlying causes and promoting nutritional support. The idea is to promote better health by treating the "whole dog," through diet, exercise, supplements and a positive attitude. Rather than just treat the symptoms, holistic methods are developed to promote overall good health. The healthier the dog, the better the dog's system is able to help in overcoming disease.
While the most common method for feeding dogs is dry kibble, it is becoming more evident that fresh food can improve a dog's health. Dry dog foods are cooked and processed for three to four days, and lose most of the nutrients through the cooking process. Additives and supplements are added, to meet government standards, but cannot match the nutrient value of fresh food. Many preservatives are added as well, (BHT, BHA and ethyoxiquin) which are also proving to have side effects, including joint problems. Digestibility is also a factor. Dry kibble takes 14 to 16 hours to digest in a dog's system, while fresh foods can digest in four to six hours. Fresh, healthy nutrients are important for recovery and good joint health. There are several good books on preparing a fresh diet, including Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown DVM's book, A Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog," and Dr. Pitcairn's Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. There are also fresh food recipes listed on my web site. Good diet and fresh foods are the most important element in healthy joints, fighting arthritis and setting the stage for recovery.
The most important vitamin for pain relief and collagen repair is Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids. Dr. Belfield has done numerous studies and research on vitamin C in dogs. Mega doses of vitamin C (to bowel tolerance) have an ability to help with pain, lubricate the joints and aid in collagen (tissue) repair. Suggested doses are to increase until runny stools develop, or at about 2,500 mg twice a day. Back off the dose to a comfortable level (firm stools). Vitamin C is water soluble, and cannot build up in the system. Excess is flushed by the kidneys. The B vitamins are helpful for nerve repair. Vitamin E is an antioxidant (as well as vitamin C) and is helpful in painful joint conditions (at about 400 IUs a day).
Cartilage and Synovial Fluid Nutrients
Glucosamine (made from green lipped mussels) has proven effective in replacing synovial fluids in the joints, and aids in repairing damaged cartilage. Chondroitin Sulfate (bovine extract) has the ability to rebuild and repair damaged cartilage in the joints. These work best if combined with ascorbate manganese, which acts as a carrier to take these nutrients to affected areas. These can be purchased as a capsule (such as my Flexile-Plus [editor's note Please see Aspen Flexile-Plus), and need to be given for at least six weeks to see results. Once relief begins, the dose can be dropped by one-third the original amount. Other products that contain cartilage are plain gelatin, raw chicken necks and shark cartilage. These have shown some effectiveness in aiding damaged cartilage.
Anti-inflammatory Herbs and Foods
Several common foods aid in reducing swelling in the joints. Flaxseed Oil, used at one half tablespoon twice a day, will help in reducing inflammation. Primrose oil also works well. Bromelain, an enzyme made from pineapples, is effective in relieving joint pain. Doses of 250 mg daily are suggested. Seaweed mixes (such as my Sea Kelp) made from premium blends, are effective for arthritis pain. The algae found in the mixes contain selenium, amino acids and other trace minerals essential for anti-inflammation and immune boosting. Yucca, an herb containing the agent saponin, has actions similar to cortisone, but without all the undesirable side effects. The liquid yucca is the best for relieving inflammation. Two folk remedies that work well are using Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, mixed equally with raw (unheated) honey. Rottweilers do well on one half tablespoon twice a day. This appears to help with pain, keep the system acidic, help with endurance and help with the uptake of calcium without adding any. The other remedy is one fresh chopped clove of garlic a day. This seems to stimulate the immune system, and it also repels fleas. Lastly, alfalfa powder added at one half tablespoon to the meal twice a day, helps with reducing inflammation and pain.
This method was developed in China, and is based on the idea the body has various patterns, or meridians in the bodies that are related to the energy flow. When an illness occurs, the belief is that one or more of these 'forces' are out of balance. Acupuncture is used to put this energy back into 'Chi,' through the use of simulating with insertion of a needle. This method has been very effective with pain control, and in relieving symptoms of joint pain. It is important to use a veterinarian trained in this skill. Acupuncture has also been utilized for skin conditions, behavioral problems, reproduction, performance and stimulating the immune system. For listings of veterinarians who perform acupuncture, call 303-682-1167 or e-mail IVASOffice@aol.com.
The concept of homeopathy is that rather than treat the symptoms, the goal is to stimulate the bodies vital force, to rid itself of the disease. It uses the rule of similar, in that 'like cures like.' A homeopathic veterinarian will ask many detailed questions, to learn about the character of the dog, particular traits and interests, and aspects of the illness. Through this interview process, the doctor will determine which remedy would be appropriate for this particular animal. In other words, although two dogs may have a similar disease, they may get two totally different remedies, depending on the characteristics. The idea behind this approach is that the remedy will draw out the disease, and cure the underlying causes. To obtain listing of veterinarians who use homeopathy, fax 305-653-3337 or e-mail avh@naturalholistic.com.
Often when an animal suffers from joint pain or arthritis, the skeletal system can be out of alignment. Chiropractic veterinarians can offer adjustments for the dog, and relieve pain and symptoms. Chiropractic care covers three areas, which are the skeletal system and joints, the muscular system and the nervous system. This is a gentle and drugless treatment that first became popular with race horses. For information, call the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association at 309-658-2920.
In conclusion, alternative methods are often less invasive than traditional methods, and give the owner more control and participation in the treatment. If arthritis conditions are diagnosed early enough, permanent cartilage and joint damage can be retarded or even stopped. Always seek radiograph diagnosis to determine the exact nature of the inflammation and/or lameness, and seek a second opinion if surgery is recommended. Holistic steps for these conditions include:
1) A good fresh food diet with specific vitamins to help joint health.
2) Supplements to aid with joint conditions, including Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids for collagen growth, Flexile-Plus (containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for synovial fluid and cartilage rebuilding and repair), gelatin and shark cartilage.
3) Acupuncture and chiropractic methods for easing pain while the healing process is under way.
4) Natural anti-inflammatory agents as needed for swelling and pain.
5) Exercise appropriately for the dog's condition.
Often during the healing process, the dog will exhibit worsening conditions, as the dogs body works to repair and rebuild cartilage and bone remodeling occurs. This often worries the owner, but patience will pay off. Alternative methods are generally slower, but show rewarding and lasting outcomes for the owner and dog alike.
For further information
Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn DVM Ph.D. & Susan Hubble Pitcairn, Rodale Press
Four Paws Five Directions, by Cheryl Schwartz DVM, Celestial Arts
Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats, by Diane Stein, The Crossing Press
The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, by Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown DVM, Howell
– AltVetMed: http://www.altvetmed.com/arthriti.html
– Animal Arthritis FAQ: http://www.primenet.com/~webdoc/arthfaq.htm
– B-Naturals: http://www.b-naturals.com
– Dr. Wendell Belfield DVM (Vitamin C info): http://www.belfield.com
– Dr. Anna Scholey DVM (email and phone consult): http://www.
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