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Over 25% of dogs eight to 10 years old suffer from the pain of osteoarthritis. Of dogs 10-13 years old, 35% are afflicted. For dogs weighing over 50 pounds the rate is reported to be 45%. The numbers for cats show an even greater occurrence of arthritis. A 2011 study found:

61% of cats 6 years and over showed x-ray evidence of arthritis in at least one joint


48% of cats in the same age group showed x-ray evidence of arthritis in multiple joints


82% of cats 14 years showed x-ray evidence of arthritis

And treatment for cats is much trickier than dogs due to their sensitivity to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids. But increasingly, even dog parents are questioning the safety of these drugs for their fur babies. Many pet owners are seeking a solution with alternative therapies. What are some of these alternative treatments and medications?


Tumeric and boswella have long been used to treat joint pain in humans and are now used as alternative pain relievers for dog by veterinarians, particularly those interested in a holistic approach.

Tumeric, related to the ginger root, is a major spice in curry and other cuisine from India. Tumeric contains curcumin, which inhibits enzymes in the inflammation process that results in painful joints. It is also an antioxidant. Antioxidants help decrease damage to joint cell walls which can reduce pain. Antioxidants are also believed to reduce the risk of cancer. Curcumin in turmeric is not readily absorbed in the intestines (bioavailable) but there are products on the market that have purified curcumin and partnered them w/ other curcuminoids from ginger to enhance bioavailability.

Boswellia scara is a tree from which the Biblical oil Frankincense is extracted. Boswellia resin is harvested similar to syrup extraction from maple trees, with much shallower incisions to the bark. The resin contains a chemical that interferes with inflammation similarly to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and reduce arthritic pain. Like curcumin, boswellia appears to have anti-cancer properties as well.

Holistic veterinarians can help you with product selection and dosages and their appropriateness for cats.

Therapeutic Oils

You all know the taste of wintergreen and may have even chewed on the leaves directly from the plant. Wintergreen is likened to nature’s aspirin. The oil extracted from the leaves can be rubbed on the skin surrounding joints to relieve joint pain.

Cassia and cinnamon oils from different species of the Cinnamomum plant genus contain chemicals that inhibit inflammation exactly like the popular pet non-steriodals, Rimadyl, Novox and Ketoprofen. They are used topically like wintergreen

Wintergreen, cassia and cinnamon are also FDA approved as food additives and/or GRAS (generally regarded as safe) so may be suitable as oral supplements in dogs under the supervision and direction of your veterinarian.

Cats appear to be very susceptible to essential oil toxicity. Use of oils on or in your cats should also be under supervision and direction of your veterinarian.

Cold Laser Therapy

The use of cold laser therapy is dramatically increasing in veterinary practices. Exposure of joints to certain spectrums of laser light appears to relieve inflammation and joint pain. It also speeds up the healing of repaired wounds and surgery sites. This treatment is extremely safe and is well suited for cats with a much smaller muscle depth that light needs to penetrate.

Is your veterinarian offering you these alternatives for your pet?

Dr. Ken Tudor

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