Holistic, Natural, or Prescription Treatment for Canine Arthritis?

When deciding how to treat your dog’s arthritis pain, a number of options exist.  If you do a quick search online, you will find groups advocating for each option while criticizing your other choices.  This process can be overwhelming, as well as confusing.  What are the differences between each type of treatment and what do they entail?  Each option is explored below.

Holistic Treatment
Holistic veterinarians live by the principle that the dog’s body is interconnected between a number of systems and that modification in one area may lead to a secondary disease or ailment.  In fact, many holistic veterinarians believe that vaccinations can ultimately trigger or cause arthritis.  When taking the holistic approach to treating your dog’s arthritis, treatment plans will address the entire system.  For instance, instead of simply treating joint health with a steroid injection or pain reliever, the dog’s diet may be changed to improve digestive health that could be contributing to inflammation.  Acupuncture and chiropractic care are also recommended for holistic healing.  A holistic acupuncturist or chiropractor can help trigger your dog’s immune system to work more efficiently in fighting the pain associated with arthritis in dogs.  Few side effects exist from holistic care provided by a qualified professional; however, more harm than good can be done if visiting a poorly trained practitioner.

Natural Treatment
When pet owners seek “natural” treatment options, they are typically looking for remedies that exist in nature, such as herbal supplements.  In general, the efficacy of natural remedies is poorly tested in comparison to pharmaceuticals, and some herbs and supplements can cause side effects or interfere with other medicines.  It is always wise to speak with a veterinarian (either holistic or conventional) before going a natural route.  Natural treatments include accepted practices such as administering coconut oil or gelatin supplements, to more obscure remedies such as herbs called Boswelila or Ashwaganda.  These herbs can generally be found in health food stores are known for their anti-inflammatory qualities.

Prescription Treatment
The most commonly used treatment method for canine arthritis is medicine recommended by a veterinarian.  After a physical exam the doctor can prescribe the correct strength and dosage of medicine to help relieve your dog’s symptoms.  Many pet owners try to avoid this route, however, because of fear of side effects that can appear when any type of drug is administered.  The most common pharmaceuticals that are prescribed for arthritis pain include NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and Glucosamine/Chronditin products.  NSAIDs decrease the body’s ability to produce inflammation which helps minimize symptoms a dog may be experiencing.  These medicines include Rimadyl, Zubrin, Deramaxx, Metacam, EtoGesic, and Previcox.  Side effects include damage to the stomach and intestines, kidney disorders, liver damage, or severe bleeding.  Non NSAIDs may also be prescribed, and typically contain concentrated amounts of cartilage or proteins.  A common medication is Adequan, which is an injectable drug.  Although anecdotally popular, there is little science to support its use.   Ultimately, there is no type of treatment that is better than the other when all practitioners are properly trained.