When Joint Pain Sidelines Our Pets
By: M. Sinex
Who can bear to watch the anguish of our fur babies when each step becomes a painful task to be avoided, rather than the anticipated highlight of their day? Age and heredity can create joint pain in our cats and dogs, which will sap enjoyment from their daily exercise with the family. Eventually, their inability to stand or walk without pain will leave them huddled in their bed, not able to move like they used to. There are many traditional ways to treat joint pain and new treatments are being researched and tested. For many pets, however, prevention can help delay or eliminate the onset of debilitating joint pain. Natural alternatives to a never ending regimen of pain medications, combined with a natural, healthy lifestyle can promote a long, active life for the furry members of your family.
According to Prevention Magazine (https://www.prevention.com/health/how-to-protect-your-pets-joints), “Joint disease, such as arthritis, is as common in cats and dogs as it is in people, particularly when they reach their senior years.” Add to this hereditary diseases like dysphasia, and our pets have a fair chance of developing painful joints. Constant pain will cause them to avoid exercise, lowering their immune system and damaging their health further as they age.
Pet surgeon and author Nick Trout (https://thebark.com/content/should-you-treat-your-dog-stem-cell-therapy) says total joint replacement has been an expensive, yet successful method of treatment for joint disorders and pain in the past. Although costing an average of $5000, joint replacement and physical therapy have shown positive results with many pets regaining full use of the joints in weeks to several months. According to Trout, “Till now total hip replacement has been the last trick in the bag when weight loss programs, physical therapy, acupuncture, joint supplements and a long list of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory‘s are no longer working.“. He reveals, however, that “A new, cheaper regenerative medicine is on the horizon to treat pets suffering joint pain.“
The new treatment, that is receiving a lot of publicity Trout says, involves stem cell replacement. He explains that the treatment takes the dogs’ own stem cells, processes them in the lab, and returns them to the effected joints. Trout admits that despite the anecdotal pictures of previously suffering dogs leaping and jumping like puppies, there are only two research studies on the new therapy; both sponsored by Vet-Stem, the pioneer in what they call regenerative medicine. The studies had several flaws including a population of only 35 dogs, and the continuation of prior treatments of anti-inflammatories while testing the new treatment. Despite the flaws however, the 2011 mainstream media had declared the experimental treatment a complete success.
In 2015 Dr Karen Becker (https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2015/06/24/stem-cell-therapy-for-dogs.aspx) updated the progress of the treatment, costing from $2000 – $3000, saying that while the results of stem cell treatment for pet joint pain are still anecdotal, it is becoming a more popular option. While she does not recommend against the treatment, she admits that results are not always positive.
According to Becker’s article, which gives a detailed explanation of the stem cell treatment as well as anecdotal outcomes for several pets, “Stem cell therapy is considered a safe procedure (although any procedure requiring anesthesia carries some risk), and since the substance being injected is derived from the dog’s own body, immune reactions are rare, but can occur. Additionally,” she said, “the long-term immunologic effects of stem cell therapy have not been researched in pets.” According to Becker requests for stem-cell injections are currently outpacing the research on it, which is scant. Experts say such injections can reduce inflammation and pain but it’s unclear how long their effects last or if they help regenerate cartilage.
Dr. Becker is a strong believer that preventative care is still the way to go with your pets’ joints. “By taking a proactive approach to preserving the integrity and function of your dog’s ligaments, tendons and joints throughout life, you may be able to avoid the need for invasive procedures,” she wrote. “Supporting those all-important hip and knee joints should be a primary focus for every owner of a large breed dog,” according to Becker. Her article is thorough and shares physical therapies, nutrition, and other preventive approaches to joint and arthritis pain. Along with diet, Becker recommends starting early with therapy and supplements to reduce the risk of joint and arthritis pain in later life. She said,” The physical therapies I mentioned, combined with the right nutrition, supplementation, and exercise, can go a long way toward keeping your dog active, agile and pain-free for a lifetime.”
Preventive measures to reduce the risk of debilitating pain are varied, and some have shown side effects. Veterinarians can prescribe a multitude of supplements and medicines which claim to prevent joint pain as a pets grow older, but each pet has an individual body system for which every treatment may not work. Some of the treatments are effective in some pets, yet, not successful in others. Additionally, the constant ingestion of synthetic supplements can create side effects which may be even worse than the pain they reduce.
As with most health issues, the Prevention Magazine suggests ways to slow the onset of joint pain and several ways to treat the pain once it begins. Diet is an effective deterrent, according to their article, suggesting a trim pet will put less strain on joints. They recommend fish oil in their diet and avoiding “high-intensity,” strenuous activities in excess. Once the pain manifests, anti inflammatories and other medications to ease pain and rebuild cartilage are recommended. In a side-bar, however, Prevention admits that medications can cause side effects such as liver and kidney problems. The article mentions several natural treatments like acupuncture, therapy, and massage in the side bar.
Supporting the body systems for overall health using nutritional supplements like essential oils was not mentioned in the Prevention Magazine article. Dr. Melissa Shelton DVM, in her book the Animal Desk Reference: Essential Oils for Animals, states that, “It is important to address pain in animals since it can depress their immune system and create a deterioration in overall health.” She recommends supporting the nervous system with the advice of a veterinarian so that the pain levels are properly addressed (ADR p. 440). Specifically for joint pain, Shelton recommends that essential oils and supplements can support the nervous system.
According to Shelton’s ADR, individual oils like “Copaiba, Helichrysum, Lavender, Marjoram, Myrrh, Palo Santo, Peppermint, Tansy (Blue), and Wintergreen,” can be used to support the body systems in dogs, while cats will not do as well with the Peppermint. Shelton also recommends essential oil supplements to use as overall support measures. Young Living’s BLM capsules, NingXia Red, Omega Blue, Ortho Ease Massage Oil, and Ortho Sport Massage Oil, are all supplements which can be used to support body systems.
Shelton’s recommended oils and supplements for systems support, combined properly with an otherwise healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise, seems to be the ultimate support for aging dogs and cats. The natural oils will not build up in the tissue of the pets, unlike synthetic pharmaceuticals, so there is little chance of side effects. There are thousands of years of anecdotal evidence, as well as years of veterinary study and experience, to support essential oils as a part of a lifelong support of body systems.
Joint pain can devastate the lives of both our humane and pet families. natural supportive care and a healthy lifestyle, however, can support general health and support the joints in the entire body, so all our family members continue to enjoy the activities we cherish in life.
Becker, Karen, DVM, June 2015, An Innovative New Way to Repair Joints, Healthy Pets,
(Trout, Nick, Apr/May 2011, Should You Treat Your Dog With Stem Cell Therapy? The Bark, ,
Mccaffery, Jen, March 21, 2017, How To Protect Your Pet’s Joints, Prevention
Shelton, Melissa, 2012, ADR: The Animal Desk Reference – Essential Oils for Animals