Most joints in dogs, just like machines, are moving parts. They wear down; they wear out. Unlike bearings and belts in engines, joints have some ability to repair themselves and to heal. Arthritis, or ‘osteoarthritis’ or ‘degenerative joint disease’ is a balance of wear and tear versus repair.
Joint supplements for dogs
Herbs can help in the repair and maintenance of joint structures, just as they can help kidney, liver or skin tissue. They fall into five main groups; depurative herbs to clear metabolic waste, anti-inflammatories, circulatory support, pain herbs and organ support herbs.
Depurative herbs clean the body’s metabolic waste products. Just as we have an exhaust pipe on a car to get rid of the byproducts of burning petrol, so the body clears unwanted end-products from tissues using blood and lymph and the eliminative organs. Common depuratives are the traditional Nettle, Urtica dioica, Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale and Burdock, Arctium lappa.
Anti inflammatories for dogs
Second, we have the anti-inflammatory herbs. They and pain herbs cross over in their function. (If you reduce inflammation, you reduce pain.) Herbs with a very strong affinity for osteoarthritis and joints include the adaptogens Withania somnifera, or Ashwagandha and Gotu cola, also known as Centella asiatica. Ashwagandha, as it’s known in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition, has cartilage protective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-arthritic properties, making it a contender in all arthritis formulae. Centella is known in China as one of the ‘miracle elixirs of life’, known over 2000 years ago.
Joint care for dogs
Circulatory support for joints comes in two forms; joint circulation herbs and bone microcirculation modulators. To improve blood flow to the joints, Prickly Ash, Zanthoxylum americanum and good old ginger, Zingiber officinale are the herbs to look at. To promote microcirculation, thought by some arthritis specialists to be at the heart of joint break-down, Ginkgo biloba and our friend Centella should be considered.
Pain relief for dog
The fourth group, the pain herbs, are more simple to choose. Different dogs respond to different herbs, but our first thoughts would turn to Devils Claw Harpagophytum procumbens, Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) and Willow Bark, Salix alba, for example.
Organ support herbs are selected by herbalists because they realise that inflammation or dysfunction in any organ system, be it gut, kidney or skin, can have a knock-on effect on the rest of the body, including the joints. Common sites of inflammation are gut and itchy or devitalised skin, so herb to support these might be good old Chamomile, Tumeric or Garlic, for example.
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