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Canine Arthritis – a Naturopathic Approach

By Dr. Jeannie (Jeanette) Thomason


Arthritis (from Greek arthro— joint + -itis, inflammation) is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation or an inflammatory response of one or more joints. Arthritis is not a single dis-ease. Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic dis-eases and other conditions that can cause discomfort, stiffness and swelling in the joints.

Dogs can suffer from different kinds of arthritis; the most common form of arthritis in dogs is osteoarthritis or canine arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a slow, progressive disintegration of cartilage in your dog joints is called osteoarthritis and is a chronic degenerative joint disease. When the cartilage of a joint is worn away the adjoining bones begin to rub against one another causing muscle discomfort and joint pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a collective term for many diseases. Infection or immune-mediated diseases can be localized or affect the entire body simultaneously. Resolving the infection or addressing the particular dis-ease with species specific nutrition and naturopathic remedies may alleviate rheumatoid arthritis all together.

Conventional “Treatment”

Conventional, veterinary medicine recommends non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) to reduce the pain associated with arthritis. However, the NSAID drugs do NOT eliminate the causes of arthritis. NSAIDs, as with any drug, only mask and suppress the symptoms temporarily.

Researchers have recently found that dispensing NSAIDs for post soft tissue and bone repair surgeries are so dangerous that bone fracture surgical repairs are ending up with non unions, and ligament and tendon injuries upon which surgery was performed, have failed to heal! The use of NSAIDS often result in liver damage; one popular veterinary dispensed NSAID in particular here in the U.S. has become well known for being the leading cause of liver failure.

Additionally, we are finding that all drugs lead to critical nutrient depletion and NSAIDS are no different. Folic acid, iron, potassium, sodium, Vit C and Glutathione are all listed as nutrients that become depleted with the use of commonly prescribed NSAIDs.

What’s The Answer? Can we do anything to help ease the discomfort and aid actual healing and not just mask the symptoms?


Let’s take a holistic or “naturopathic” approach to this dis-ease.


Poor nutrition and toxin overload as well as aging can cause arthritis symptoms that have the ability to reduce the mobility and joint health of dogs, just as it does in humans.

Understanding the various causes of arthritis and possible remedies for relief will assist in enhancing your best friend’s quality of life.

With age, it is often the daily wear and-tear of joints that begins to destroy the cartilage, often causing osteoarthritis and eventually degenerative arthritis. What happens is that the aging process reduces cell stability and membrane strength, leading to free-radical production and injury susceptibility. Much of the pain associated with arthritis is due to swelling and inflammatory response in the joint.

Illness, injuries, exposure to toxins, as well as poor or inadequate nutrition damage the  body cells and cause the release of compounds that create inflammation, muscle spasms and pain. Some forms of arthritis in dogs are caused by a weakened immune system due to poor nutrition as a puppy.

Your dog’s immune system can be kept in peak condition by providing:

  • raw and unprocessed food
  • plenty of exercise out of doors in the sunshine
  • filtered, clean water to drink
  • using naturally sourced, health promoting natural modalities (such as essential oil*, herbs or homeopathy)
  • avoiding known toxins and replacing them with healthy, natural alternatives (flea & tick pesticides, lawn & garden chemicals, vaccinations, chemical based cleaning products, etc.)

Nutrition Factor

Processed and or cooked foods are extremely low (and in most cases totally lacking) in the amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and trace minerals needed to grow and maintain healthy joints, let alone maintain over all health. Cooking also destroys any true live nutrients by cooking/processing at such high temperatures. Oh sure, they list almost every vitamin or mineral under the sun on the label but remember, any nutrients listed have all been added to the processed food and are from man-made synthetic sources.

Findings have shown in human studies that: “cutting back on the consumption of foods cooked at high temperatures and processed foods can reduce inflammation and actually help restore the body’s natural defenses.  When food is eaten that has been cooked,  processed, or pasteuried, it produces a toxin AGE ( advanced glycation end product). AGEs damage certain proteins in the body, and the body then tries to break these AGEs apart by using cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers.

Sugar and carbohydrates used in pet food, result in an increase in AGEs.

Processed pet foods also contain excessive salt and other preservatives to promote longer shelf lives. Dogs that have been fed processed pet foods for an exteneded amount of time may result in inflammation of the joints.

Over-weight dogs usually have a higher-incidence of joint problems than other dogs do. However, just as with humans, there are considerable differences between individuals for arthritis susceptibility and the rate of arthritis progression.


A raw, species specific (dogs are carnivores) diet, fed in as whole a form as possible is the foundation for true health. I have had clients who have switched their dogs from “pet food” to a raw meat, bones and organ diet who with time have eased and most often eliminated joint issues.  It only makes sense.

The Exercise Factor

Contrary to what many may think, exercise is vital for dogs with arthritis. It should start out as gentle exercise to get your dog’s joints moving and progressively increase it as the dog’s fitness levels rise.

Senior or older dogs (especially house bound or latch key dogs) that do not get regular exercise, plenty of fresh air and sunshine are more prone to arthritis.

We hate to see our dogs suffer in pain and they appear to be so uncomfortable that the thought of forcing them to play or go for a walk seems cruel to some of us. However, research has shown that exercise is an essential tool in managing arthritis and its pain!

Regular, consistent, moderate exercise offers a whole host of benefits to our companions with arthritis. Mainly, exercise reduces joint pain and stiffness by building strong muscle around the joints, and increasing flexibility and endurance. It reduces inflammation from arthritis and related conditions and reduces the risk of other chronic conditions. It also helps promote overall health and fitness by actually giving your dog more energy, helping him/her sleep better, controlling their weight and even helps to decrease lethargy and depression.

A dog with arthritic conditions can live a normal, healthy life and will better off out playing with a ball to keep their joints and muscles moving than lying around and having the muscles and joints atrophy and “freeze up” on them.


Our environment has become increasingly contaminated with pollutants that you may not have ever considered before!  Everyday contact with household cleaning products, air fresheners, scented candles, shampoos, household and personal products, vaccinations and prescription medications.  Most of these products are not only based with toxic chemicals but they also contain heavy metals as well!

All of these toxins join forces with other toxic contaminants that off-gas from bedding, flooring, furniture and other manufactured goods to further destroy health. It’s not an exaggeration at all to say our companion animals  have been overloaded with toxins.

Naturally Sourced Supplements

Synthetic supplements simply do not contain true food factors, which provide nutrient intelligence.

The best supplements are naturally derived from whole food. Sufficient whole foods meet the body€™s vital energy which is the first nutritional priority. The amount of available vital energy to the body physiology is crucial for maintaining the quality of health/life.

Most manufactured supplements are similar to refined foods — they are missing the life, the food factors needed for transportation and utilization within the body. Without these naturally occurring food factors the body must use vital energy reserves to convert synthetic or processed vitamins into usable form.

The benefits of providing nutrients in their natural state is that they don’t require any changes to be made in the body to convert them into acceptable structure to be digested and utilized, therefore saving vital energy.

When nutrients are whole, with naturally occurring, complete proteins and other phyto-nutrients, they are in a form that is readily recognized and used by the body.

Raw meat, bones and organs are chock full of LIVE, nutrition — vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc., for our carnivore pets.

When pasture raised/grass fed animals are fed to our dogs in a whole or prey model fashion, very little supplementation is needed because, it is “all in there”:

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids from animals, can reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis, heart disease and even cancer. The best source of omega-3 fatty acids for our dogs is to feed pasture/grass fed or wild animals. If this is not possible then the next best thing would be wild salmon oil.


Raw meats, organs and glands supply a natural source of vitamins A, C and E which support immune function to defend against harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins, which otherwise could induce rheumatoid type arthritis.

Mineral status is also a key factor for determining a dog’s response to stress, injury, exercise and illness. The vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants to reduce tissue damage caused by free-radicals and other harmful compounds. Naturally ocurring vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of collagen and connective tissue repair. Vitamin E blocks destructive enzymes that degrade cartilage.

NOTE: I am not referring to synthetically manufactured vitamins or minerals here, I am referring directly to the very best,  species specific sourced supplements ever created for our carnivore companions!

I am always being asked what the best multi-vitamin supplement for arthritic dogs is. The answer is always so surprising for some reason-

The answer is: “Animal Organs and Glands!”

All animal organs and glands are super nutrient dense foods for our carnivore companions.

Think about this — predatory animals instinctively eat the organ meats and glands from their kill first, before moving to the muscle meats. What do they know instinctively? They know THAT’S where the highest nutrient density meal is located! We’re talking about the liver, kidneys, brain, pancreas, heart, spleen, etc.

Beef kidney contains an incredible nutritional profile (USDA %):

B-12 458 %
B-5 40%
Zinc 13%
B-1 33%
B-2 167%
Iron 26%
Vitamin A 28%
Vitamin C 16%

Beef Pancreas profile:

B-12 264%
All other B-complex in significant amounts
Vitamin C 26%
Iron 14%
Selenium 40%
Phosphorous 37%
Zinc 19%

Beef Liver Profile:

Vitamin A 431% (retinyl palmitate, beta carotene is not Vitamin A)
B-12 800%
Iron 25%
Vitamin D 30%
Copper 486%
Selenium 35%

(Liver is also a very rich source of the following nutrients: Zinc, Manganese, Phosphorous, Folate, B-1, B-2, B-6, B-3, B-5 and Protein.)

Green Tripe contains the following minerals per 4 oz serving:

Calcium 78.0mg
Iron 0.7mg
Magnesium 14.7mg
Phosphorus 75.3mg
Potassium 75.7mg
Zinc 1.6 mg
Copper 0.1mg
Selenium 14.1mcg

Please Note: Factory-farmed organs and glands are going  to be higher in bad fats, lower in the good fats, contain more toxins and be less nutritious in general. Grain-fed beef for example, doesn’t contain omega-3 fats, although it does contain omega-6 fats. Uh oh.

Grass-fed beef (or lamb or any other pasture raised animal) is not only loaded with the vitamins, minerals but it contains just the right fat ratios, contains more B vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin K, and numerous trace minerals than its grain-fed counterparts. Organs and glands are no exception to the rule. If you consider the fact that you are feeding your dog the best balanced and species specific vitamin, mineral and antioxidant supplement there is for them, then you need to choose the most effective option. That, without doubt, is grass-fed organ meat!


Fresh food diets that incorporate bone matter in the diet are supplying a large amount of natural glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, and of course, calcium.

Bone is for calcium, cartilage is lubricating joints and interestingly, glucosamine is found in connective tissue, it is actually a structural component of connective tissue. So feeding bones and frames, is feeding a perfect skeletal package.

If the dog is older and missing too many teeth to handle whole bones, egg shells are a great source of calcium. More than 10 years of research have shown that eggshells are the ideal source of bio-available calcium (dense and well absorbed). Studies also showed accelerated healing when using eggshell for treating such orthopedic diseases as congenital dislocation of a hip or osteoporosis (softening of the bones).

There are 27 elements found in eggshells. Also the protein of a shell is composed of such essential amino acids as methionine, cysteine, lysine, isoleucine. Thus, properly prepared eggshells are the most balanced natural means to obtain calcium.

Raw Green Tripe,  as mentioned above is an excellent organ to feed for calcium as well as other immune boosting minerals. It contains  78.0 mg of Calcium in a 4 oz serving and the calcium:phosphorus ratio of green tripe is near perfect (1:1) whereas in raw muscle meat it is 1:6.


Collagen is the elastic protein that holds skin together. And as our pets age, the amount and quality of collagen in the body starts to diminish

Collagen is found in abundance in the joints and connective tissue of the body. In fact, collagen makes up 70 to 90% of our muscles, tendons, ligaments and other joint supporting tissues. As happens in the skin, when collagen breaks down in the body, the joints become less stable, the muscles and connective tissue loosen and become more brittle, and disorders such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, tendonitis and joint disease begin to occur. (Please see the article on Collagen, Joint Disease and Vaccines)

Chicken Cartilage is a source of Type II Collagen.

For reasons not yet defined, Type II Collagen found in Chicken Cartilage is able to bypass this immune system barrier and provide positive improvements in joint pain and functionality.

There have been a number of studies conducted with UC-II (Undenatured Collagen) on both animals and humans, including research at the Harvard University Medical school — all of which have shown that the undenatured type II chicken collagen found in UC-II effectively reprograms the immune system to promote healthy joints and increase joint mobility and flexibility.


MSM or Methylsulfonylmethane is natural sulfur. It is the raw material used by the body to build healthy new cells pretty much everywhere but the highest concentrations are in the joints, skin, hair and nails. MSM makes the cells more permeable, (things can pass through) meaning nutrients in (good stuff) and the toxins (very bad) out. It is an essential nutrient that is responsible for the ability to repair or replace damaged tissue quickly.

As our pets bodies age (and our own for that matter), the body’s sulfur supply depletes because the manufacture process slows down and the result is seen in  joints stiffening up, inflammation, slow wound healing, brittle hair and nails, poor circulation, joint pain and skin problems. Older pets require more MSM. However, it has become increasingly more difficult to feed them enough MSM. Farming methods have changed the use of synthetic and chemical fertilizers on the grasses used to feed the animals we then feed to our pets have caused a depletion of most of the rich essential minerals that are needed for all round good health. If you have been feeding a cooked diet or worse yet a processed pet food, these vital nutrients and minerals have been destroyed or at the very least, weakened in potency.

MSM and sulfur can be found naturally in raw free range/pasture raised eggs, meat and poultry however, unless the dog has been on a sufficient raw diet for a long period of time already the amount of naturally occurring MSM and sulfur may not be enough to help repair or replace damaged tissue and remove inflammation. Supplementation may be necessary in these cases.


Glucosamine, which occurs naturally in the body, plays a key role in the construction of cartilage and it stimulates joint function, improves mobility and repairs, renews synovial fluid and relieves the pain of osteoarthritis.

Meats or supplements containing glucosamine sulphate or glucosamine hydrochloride (both commonly known as glucosamine for short) can be very helpful for dogs primarily where the joints are involved. Glucosamine is naturally present in animal bones, it can help to promote new cartilage growth, relieve joints and muscle pain and improve joint mobility.

In a number of clinical studies, glucosamine has also been proven medically to be an effective alternative remedy in the treatment of both human and dog arthritis since there are no harmful side effects as compared to NSAIDS.

The connective tissue of animals, such as chicken marrow, and other animal materials, such as shell fish exoskeletons, contain Glucosamine.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Bovine trachea and gullet are a natural source for chondroitin sulfate. Bovine tracheal cartilage has also shown success in helping to isolate cancers, tumors and other diseases by preventing their growth and spread

The green-lipped mussel is a shellfish from Australia and New Zealand. This mussel flesh is a good supplement as a source of chondroitin and other glycosaminoglycans. The glycosaminoglycans maintain and rebuild connective tissue such as cartilage, tendons and ligaments as well as reduce inflammation, which results in reduced joint pain and stiffness, less inflammation, and quicker recovery from exercise and injury.

For a list of naturally sourced supplements and dried organ blends approved by The Whole Dog, click >> HERE

Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils

Several therapeutic grade essential oils that play a major role in supporting, affecting and maintaining over-all wellness and specific body structures and functions.

Essential oils that are high in carvacrol, a phenol, have been found to “suppress the COX-2 enzyme thereby greatly diminishing discomfort.”  Examples of a few essential oils that are high in carvacrol are: Oregano, Thyme and Mountain Savory.


There was a Japanese study published in the January 2010 edition of Journal of Lipid Research which found that several essential oils suppressed the COX-2 enzyme by as much as 75 percent! COX-2 is an enzyme responsible for inflammation and discomfort.  Thyme essential oil ranked number one out of six different oils tested. But there are over 50 different oils that show natural COX-2 suppressive  properties!

Arthritis does not have to be the depressing diagnosis we dread hearing and we surely can do so much naturally and holistically to eliminate it and its effects on our dogs.


Would you like to know which essential oils Dr. Jeannie uses and why?  Click HERE


If you are unsure about your dog’s diet or need support in getting him/her on a healthier, more natural lifestyle, you may be interested in the online program – Holistic Wellness for Dogs or a one on one consultation


Copyright 2006-2016 This article is the sole property of Dr. Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole Dog – for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.

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