How to Treat and Prevent Stiffness in Dogs Naturally
Recently I received a Facebook response to my page. One of our readers was not happy when I said that older dogs can jog and run with us. In fact, she said it was her surgeon who advised her that older dogs should not run because it would wear out their joints and cause arthritis.
This discussion made me realize it was time to write an article about joints and dogs. Every day I see stiff older and even younger dogs, bumping and limping around and most people don’t know that these dogs could be much better.
MUSCLES OR JOINTS?
This is a question people should ask themselves when they see their dog limping or getting stiff. Many people are surprised when I say that the most common reason dogs are stiff is not joint problems, but tight muscles. Dogs are not much different from humans and often slipping, sliding, falling, fetching too much ball or other obsessive activities can cause them to become contracted and inflexible. On the outside this may look like arthritis, but it often is not.
The word arthritis is a Latin word for joint inflammation. The joint itself is made of cartilage, which covers the spongy ends of each hinged bone. The smooth and slippery parts of many compounds are made of hyaline cartilage that ensures effortless movement of the joints. Most people have seen chicken drumsticks with an almost translucent white-blue shiny surface: hyaline cartilage.
Some structures such as intervertebral discs or knee joints are also covered fibrocartilage that is flexible and strong.
Joints also contain a lubricant called viscous fluid synovial fluid which promotes joint movement and protects cartilage.
Research has shown that arthritic joints appear to have an increased presence of protein-digesting enzymes, lower synovial fluid production, and also a higher concentration of toxins and heavy metals. Chronic inflammation of the joints often leads to deterioration of the joint surface and later to calcification, which leads to friction, pain and increased stiffness.
5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
Although joint problems are often seen in a mechanical way, I see arthritis as the result of a long process that starts much earlier.
There are 5 important factors that play a role:
- Power supply
- Buildup of toxins
- Function of the immune system
- Lack of exercise
Feeding the right diet is the most crucial part of preventing arthritis.
Prevent corn, wheat, dairy products, toxic preservatives and flavorings. These are some of the main causes of arthritis. If you want your dog’s joints to be healthy, a healthy raw or at least cooked diet is a must. Raw bones are also essential building blocks for healthy joints. You can read more about them here.
Supplement essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, sulfur, zinc and more to ensure the body has enough building blocks to build, nourish, lubricate and repair joints. The reason why so many of our customers report improvements in mobility on GreenMin is that almost all dogs and people suffer from deficiencies in certain minerals and amino acids. This is because the entire food chain is now starved of nutrients due to intensive agricultural practices.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are also key to healthy joints, as they reduce inflammation and promote joint regeneration.
Glycosaminoglycans are naturally occurring substances that are an important part of the regeneration of joints and cartilage. Most people know about glucosamine, but they don’t know that most joint supplements on the market are synthetic. I used GlycoFlex in three phases, which is made from Green-lipped mussel.
Toxins are also one of the leading causes of arthritis. Joints appear to accumulate toxins that trigger the inflammatory process, which in turn triggers the production of antibodies. The vicious circle will only stop when we provide the right nutrition and detoxify the body. My dog Skai receives liver support and cleansing for a month once every six months as part of a preventative program. Dogs that are stiff, tight and arthritic should follow this protocol once every three months.
FUNCTION OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Most cases of arthritis certainly involve the function of the immune system. Sometimes the body produces antibodies against its own joint tissue, especially if the joints are ‘toxic’ or if improper nutrition is given. In fact, most arthritic dogs on processed foods undergo a miraculous transformation when switched to a raw diet. The immune system is closely linked to the intestines and a raw diet combined with anti-aging probiotics ensures the right intestinal flora.
I don’t agree with the view that autoimmune arthritis just happens. In my opinion it is a disease of an overworked and overwhelmed immune system that panics and starts attacking its own cells. Providing the right nutrients and detoxifying the body is absolutely essential.
Injuries often go unnoticed. A lame dog is easy to spot, but most dogs show no visible signs of injury. Looking at the evolution of dogs, they are primarily built for trotting and walking, with the exception of short, intense sprints where they hunt prey animals.
Modern dogs suffer injuries from inappropriate exercise, such as retrieving balls for long periods of time, jumping up, chasing Frisbees or swimming too much.
When I say this, some of my clients look at me in disbelief and some even get angry. However, it only takes a few consultations before they realize that more trotting, searching, playing with other dogs or walking and running is the best way. Frequent visits to a physiotherapist or chiropractor are worth their weight in gold when it comes to the prevention of disease and arthritis.
AVOID LACK OF EXERCISE
Older dogs need to exercise to stay mobile. Many dogs and people become weaker because people wrongly assume that they don’t need to exercise as much because their body parts wear out. In reality, the opposite is true. Endurance and walking, even uphill, is the best way to maintain strength.
About 10 years ago, when I was 38, I cycled up one of the local mountains with a 70-year-old cycling friend. I consider myself generally fit, but guess what? I didn’t cycle up the mountain once a week like he did and my senior friend left me in the dust! It was funny. Since then, I continue to exercise and make sure that my age does not become an excuse for laziness.
Dogs usually like to exercise and if your dog doesn’t want to, it’s probably because he is in pain and needs to see a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath.. In my experience, veterinary colleges have seriously neglected the area of proper exercise and treatment and there are only a few veterinarians who recognize the subtle changes and shifts in the spine that can be crucial in disease prevention.
BEWARE OF INFLAMMANTS
Anti-inflammatories are the most commonly used quick fix for stiffness in dogs. The sale of medicines is also a huge business, despite many serious problems. It seems that potential side effects such as liver failure, kidney failure or gastrointestinal bleeding are not serious enough for some companies that are marketing more and more NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Instead, clients are told to check their dog’s blood levels more often and we veterinarians are seriously misinformed about what else can be done besides medications.
Even more serious is the use of steroids that amputate the functions of the body’s immune system. Corticosteroid hormones cause irreversible damage and shorten lifespan. I strongly advise against using them.
All of the above medications slow down the regeneration and healing process and do more harm than good. Taking it can be compared to taking a sleeping pill when your stove catches fire. They put you to sleep and the destruction continues.
Sometimes I get questions about Cartrofen injections. For me they are too expensive and achieve the same thing as good quality supplements. I am not in favor of injections, because they are not a natural way to get nutrients or building blocks.
Instead, I prefer to use the turmeric-based product Zyflamend which has been clinically tested on humans and works well in dogs. Start with a half dose for two weeks and gradually increase to a full dose.
Zyflamend capsules are recommended for dogs over 30 lbs, where a full capsule can be given. Splitting capsules for smaller dogs is difficult and the ingredients have a strong odor that some dogs do not like – so we do not recommend this.
Recommended use Normal capsules;
30 – 60 lbs 1 – 2 capsules per day
60 – 75 lbs 2 capsules per day
More than 35 kg 2 – 3 capsules per day
Use for dogs under 30 pounds Zyflamend mini soft gels. (6 soft gels = 2 capsules)
Recommended use Mini Soft Gels;
less than 10 pounds – consult your treating veterinarian
Further dosage instructions:
The dose can be doubled in case of acute injury or after surgery. A double dose should only be given for 30 days or less. Dogs diagnosed with cancer can be given three times the recommended daily dose in the long term under the supervision of a veterinarian.
If you’ve ever been told that your arthritic dog cannot be pain-free without medication, this is incorrect 99 percent of the time.
The following plan works for most stiff dogs:
1. A good raw or cooked, grain- and dairy-free diet (including treats).
2. GreenMin and SoulFood.
3. Liver cleansing.
4. Glucosaminoglycan supplement, such as GlycoFlex.
5. Zyflamend for performance in older, arthritic or injured dogs.
6. Regular check-ups with your holistic veterinarian, an animal physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath or IMS practitioner (intramuscular needle stimulation).
I wish you and your dog many more playing days.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM