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Alternatives to NSAID's

2012 experience - A friend of ours has a Pit Bull named Jose. He is a big loveable dog and at the very least, 80lbs (36kg). He had an ongoing hip problem that made it painful for him to get up and down and even to lie down caused him pain. It progressed from bad to worse until he was barely able to drag himself up to go outdoors to do his business.

My friend's vet suggested Jose be put down. That broke my heart as he is such a happy, friendly dog and at only five years old, I could not imagine his life coming to an end.

At any rate, my friend saw an advertisement for Cosequin DS plus MSM for dogs. It is a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and other joint help products combined. She ordered it online and said there is a chart on the back of the bottle showing how many capsules a dog of a certain weight should have per day. Jose received three tablets per day for six weeks and is now on a maintenance program of one tablet per day.

She said to look at him now you would never have guessed that he was so close to being put down because of joint issues. He is now able to move about very well! She has several other dogs and one, older and larger than Jose, began receiving the Cosequin DS Plus MSM too. She has experienced excellent results. My friend used turmeric in the past with good results but said the Cosequin DS Plus MSM is what really saved Jose's life.

Because of her good experience with it, I am now using it for our dogs and I have definitely seen improvement, especially in one of our dogs whose leg I thought would never be the same after he slipped on our tile floor and his leg went out sideways rather than behind him. He is bounding up and down the stairs now whereas before, he took his time and limped. This is two years after his accident. ~Mel K911.biz

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What a European group thinks about Cox-2 inhibitors

There are many alternatives to NSAIDS available, so scroll down to see all of the choices you can make for a healthier dog!

Turmeric (Curcumin or Kurkuma) should not be confused with “turmeric root,” a colloquial name for the plant commonly known as Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), which is in the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family and is a popular herbal remedy in its own right.  

Goldenseal can be toxic if overused, whereas few adverse effects have been recorded regarding the frequent consumption of turmeric.

Read about the benefits of turmeric 

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More Options for Treating Arthritis from Canine Arthritis

When your dog shows signs of arthritis, there are a number of natural anti-inflammatory supplements that you can try before resorting to medications.

Fish oil is first and foremost. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, reduce inflammation and provide other benefits to the body. Be sure to use fish body oil, such as salmon oil or EPA oil, not liver oil, which is high in vitamins A and D and lower in omega-3 fatty acids. (Also, liver oil would be dangerous at the high doses needed to fight inflammation).

Most fish oil gelcaps contain 300 mg combined EPA and DHA, and you can give your dog as much as 1 of these gelcaps per 10 lbs of body weight daily.

If using a more concentrated product, containing 500 mg EPA/DHA, give 1 gelcap per 15-20 lbs of body weight daily. If using liquid fish oil, adjust the dosage so that you are giving up to 300 mg combined EPA/DHA per 10 lbs of body weight. Be sure to keep the product refrigerated so that it doesn't become rancid.

You must supplement with vitamin E as well whenever you are giving oils, as otherwise the body will be depleted of this vitamin. Give around 100 IU to a small dog, 200 IU to a medium-sized dog, or 400 IU to a large dog daily or every other day. Vitamin E in high doses also has some anti-inflammatory effect.

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It works best if given separately from meals (at least one hour before or two hours after). Its effectiveness may be increased when it is combined with quercetin, a flavonoid. There are many combination products available, or you can give each separately.

Resinall-E (Bromelain- reduces pain, swelling and inflammation associated with injuries) can be purchased online and does not need a prescription.

Certain herbs help to reduce inflammation. Some of the best ones to use for arthritis are boswellia, yucca root, turmeric (and its extract, curcumin), and hawthorn. Nettle leaf, licorice, and meadowsweet can also be used.

I usually rotate between various herbs and herbal blends. I've had the best results using liquid tinctures or glycerites when available, such as Animal's Apawthecary's Alfalfa/Yucca blend and Azmira's Yucca Intensive.

Other folks have had success using DGP (Dog Gone Pain, see "Safe Pain Relief," WDJ May 2006). Note that willow bark is another herb often used for arthritis. It is a relative of aspirin that may be easier on the stomach, but as a NSAID, it should still not be combined with other NSAIDs.

SAM-e (s-adenosylmethionine), a supplement that is used to support the liver, can also reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation caused by arthritis. It works best when given apart from food, and when combined with a B-complex vitamin.

Supplements that have worked for other people who have dogs with arthritis include MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), is sold as a dietary supplement that is marketed with a variety of claims and is commonly used (often in combination with glucosamine and/or chondroitin) for helping to treat or prevent osteoarthritis.

Duralactin contains MicroLactin, a patented special milk protein concentrate (SMPC) from the milk of hyperimmunized cows. The anti-inflammatory activity provided by MicroLactin is effective regardless of the cause of the inflammation, and appears to function with no evidence of gastro-intestinal tract irritation.)

There are also some newer herbal blends being marketed as replacements for NSAIDS, including Kaprex from Metagenics and Zyflamend from New Chapter, but I have not heard much feedback on them.

Why not look into natural options or other alternatives such as Cosequin,Chondroitin Sulfate, Glycoflex, Cartiflex, Arthri-Nu and many others. Be aware though that dogs with diabetes should not take glucosamine, which is in Cosequin and the other remedies mentioned.

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Devil's Claw for Arthritis

This article deals with the human equivalent but holistic vets use this herb for canine arthritis.


Studies have found that taking devil's claw for several months substantially reduces pain and improves physical functioning in people with osteoarthritis. A 4-month study, including 122 people with knee and hip osteoarthritis, examined the effects of devil's claw root powder on pain.

The devil's claw supplement reduced pain and improved functional ability as effectively as standard doses of a leading European medication for osteoarthritis. In addition, those who received devil's claw experienced fewer side effects and required fewer pain-reducing medications throughout the study.

Another study found that devil's claw supplementation was effective in patients with rheumatic diseases (arthrosis and low back pain). Seventy-five patients with hip or knee arthritis were given devil's claw, 2,400 mg daily, corresponding to 50 mg of harpagosides, for 12 weeks. The dosage provided a significant reduction of pain and symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. Only two cases of possible adverse drug reactions were reported (complaints of indigestion and a sensation of fullness).

Back and Neck Pain

Although study results have been somewhat conflicting, evidence suggests that devil's claw may help relieve low back and neck pain. In a small study of 63 people with mild-to-moderate back, neck, or shoulder pain, 4 weeks of treatment with a standardized extract of devil's claw root provided moderate relief from muscle pain. In a larger study of 197 men and women with chronic low back pain, those who received daily doses of a commercialized devil's claw extract every day for a month reported experiencing less pain and needing fewer painkilling medications than those who received placebo.

Another study followed 73 patients. Thirty-eight patients took a standardized devil's claw supplement, while 35 taking the COX-2 inhibitor medicine rofecoxib, also known as Celebrex, for up to 54 weeks. Results inidicated that devil's claw was as effective in relieving pain as the rofecoxib.

Other Uses In addition to the treatment of these and other painful disorders, many professional herbalists consider devil's claw to be useful for upset stomach, loss of appetite, headaches, allergies, and fever. Topical preparations of devil's claw are also applied to the surface of the skin to heal sores, ulcers, boils, and skin lesions.

What's it made of? Devil's claw contains iridoid glycosides, components believed to have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Harpagoside (one type of iridoid) is highly concentrated in devil's claw root and has been reported in some laboratory studies to have significant pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Available forms: Devil's claw is available as dried or fresh root supplements and is found in capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and topical ointments. Teas (infusions) can also be made from dried devil's claw root.

How to take it: There are no known scientific reports on the pediatric use of devil's claw. Therefore, it is not currently recommended for children. Check with a holistic vet for dosage information prior to giving Devil's Claw to your dog.

Adult Recommendations

  • Standardized dose: 600 - 1,200 mg, standardized to contain 50 - 100 mg of harpagoside, 3 times daily
  • Dried tuber or dried root powder: 100 - 250 mg, 3 times daily
  • Capsules containing dried root powder: 100 - 250 mg, 3 times daily
  • Liquid extract (1:1 in 25 % alcohol): 2 - 7 drops, 3 times daily
  • Tincture (1:5 in 25 % alcohol): 10 - 30 drops, 3 times daily
  • Tea (Decoction): Boil 1/3 - 1 (1.5 - 4 gm) teaspoonful in water. Strain and drink, 1 - 3 times daily.

Precautions: The use of herbs is a time-honored approach for strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.

Devil's claw is nontoxic and safe, with virtually no side effects if taken at the recommended therapeutic dose for short periods of time. However, high doses can cause mild gastrointestinal problems in some individuals, and it is not clear whether devil's claw becomes toxic if taken for long periods of time. Individuals with stomach ulcers, duodenal ulcers, or gallstones should not take devil's claw unless recommended by a health care provider.

Possible Interactions / Warfarin / Devil's claw may interact with a blood-thinning medicine called warfarin (Coumadin) and cause bruising or bleeding disorders. For this reason, individuals taking warfarin or other blood thinners should not use devil's claw without first talking to a health care provider.  

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Other Natural Therapies

Dogs with arthritis often respond to acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. Massage therapy can also be very beneficial, and is something you can learn to do yourself at home. Hydrotherapy using warm pools or underwater treadmills is becoming increasingly popular and can be very helpful, particularly for dogs recovering from surgery or injury.

If acupuncture helps your dog, you may want to consider gold bead implants, which are a form of permanent acupuncture.

Many dogs respond to chiropractic treatments, which can be especially beneficial if your dog tends to become "misaligned" due to favoring one limb.

Warmth can help reduce arthritis pain. Thick, orthopedic beds that insulate your dog from the cold floor or ground as well as cushioning the joints provide a lot of comfort. There are also heated dog beds available, but be sure that the cords cannot be chewed. A product called "DogLeggs" can be custom-made to keep elbows, hocks, or wrists (carpus) warm.

Some people have reported success using the homeopathic treatments Traumeel and Zeel by Heel Biotherapeutics.


Eventually, no matter what you do, your dog may require treatment for chronic pain. There is one more nutraceutical that can help with this: dl-phenylalanine (DLPA), an amino acid that is used to treat both depression and chronic pain.

The most common dosage range for dogs is 1 to 5 mg/lb (3 to 10 mg/kg) of body weight, but I have seen dosage recommendations as high as 5 to 10 mg per pound (2 to 5 mg/kg), two or three times a day.

In humans, very high doses may cause numbness, tingling, and other signs of nerve damage, so be on the watch for any signs that your dog may be experiencing these if using such high doses.

It takes time for DLPA to begin to work, so it must be used continuously rather than just as needed. Often, however, you needn't continue to give DLPA daily once it has taken effect; sometimes it can be given as little as one week per month to retain results.

It is safe to combine DLPA with all other arthritis drugs, but Do NOT combine DLPA with MAOI drugs such as Anipryl (selegiline, l-deprenyl), used in the treatment of Cushing's Disease and canine cognitive dysfunction, or Amitraz (found in tick collars).

MAOI's (monoamine oxidase inhibitors).  MAOI's are very effective
but have potentially life-threatening drug and food interactions. 

I (Kay Jennings) use Thorne Veterinary's Arthroplex, which includes DLPA, because it makes it easy to give the proper dosage for a small- or medium-sized dog, but you can use human DLPA supplements for larger dogs. They are available in 375 mg and 500 mg capsules.

Kay Jennings, who lives with three dogs in Bristol, England, has a young German Shepherd Dog who began limping as a puppy, and was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. "I've kept my Lad active and pain-free using just DLPA plus Syn-Flex, and my arthritic Border Collie too," she says. "It's so effective that they can both take it just every other week and its residual effect keeps them covered for the other week."

Jennings also has a working sheepdog who required higher doses initially. "My Polly had to start at 1,000 mg a day (she weighs 45 lbs). I was about to write it off with her at 500 mg a day, assuming she was one of those for whom it doesn't work.

I found a starting dose of any less than 1,000 mg made no difference to her even after a couple of weeks. Once we hit the right dose it worked within three days, and after a few weeks I could reduce to a lower level (500 mg a day) that still provided relief. After several months at this level, I was able to reduce her further, to 250 mg/day, and even put her on the week-on-week-off schedule that has worked for my other dogs.

"I have to say, I've found DLPA to be remarkably effective: Polly is now 14, and doing better than she has for some time. Kiri, my Border Collie, has recently (at the age of 11) started doing a bit of obedience again, and Ziggy, the GSD, is still totally sound and very active, when his vet was convinced he'd need NSAIDs for his entire life just to be able to get about."

Homeopathy for Arthritis - Arnica 200 and Hypericum 200

Using 2 or 3 pellets (try not to handle them with your bare hands as this can lessen the effect of the remedy), crush between 2 spoons and toss the powder onto your dog's tongue. Dosage amount does not vary, regardless of the size or weight of your dog.

  • Do not give food or water at least a half hour before or after giving the remedy.

Arnica is available in the 200, all others will be in the 30 strength.  When using the 30, administer one dose, then wait an hour and dose again. This seems to deep seat the remedy. 

Arnica helps with pain, can lessen bleeding and bruising under the skin and is great for sprains and muscle injuries.

Arnica is available in two forms, the herbal and the homeopathic. Here, we are discussing the homeopathic form, which is to be used internally. The herbal form is to be used topically only as serious complications could arise if taking the herbal form internally.

Hypericum 200 works for five to seven days without repeating and can be used with Arnica without either one canceling each other out.

Hypericum, also called St. John's Wort, is the gold standard for the homeopathic treatment of shooting nerve pain, particularly resulting from injury or surgery.

It has been used for centuries as an herbal medicine and today is used around the world for mental, emotional, and physical problems. Homeopathic Hypericum is safe and effective for all ages, for animals, and is FDA regulated in the United States and recommended by the World Health Organization.