by Charles Loops, DVM
One aging condition often seen in dogs and cats is osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. In the large breeds, this condition usually involves the hip joints, and in smaller dog breeds and in cats, it can be found in any joint. In middle age, the large breeds are often afflicted with this condition, whereas the small and medium breeds of dogs and cats are generally affected in older age. Specific symptoms are pain, restricted movement of the joints, occasional joint swelling, inflammation and joint stiffness with restriction of movement. More general symptoms are lethargy, restlessness (can’t get comfortable), irritability and weakness of the affected limbs.
Traditional veterinary treatment often involves weight loss, if the animal is overweight; restricted or limited exercise; and the use of anti-inflammatories, including cortisone. Some relatively new products are in use that increase the lubrication of the joints and sometimes are of temporary benefit.
Homeopathic treatment can be very effective in these conditions and there are many possible remedies to choose from. See Table 1 for a list of some of these remedies with their guiding symptoms and modalities. Frequently, arthritis comes in acute attacks during self-limiting periods or painful episodes. These periods often follow exertion or exercise, or they may be due to injury to an arthritic joint. During such episodes, the listed remedies will help the most.
The first four remedies listed are the ones that I have used most frequently in my practice to treat acute, arthritic attacks. Many more possible remedies are available, but if the modalities, or individual characteristics of the symptoms, fit one or more of the remedies below, you could try it before consulting a veterinary homeopath. Remember, if your companion is under homeopathic constitutional treatment, do not use other remedies without contacting your holistic practitioner first.
However, in the long-term, the correct constitutional remedy is often the most successful remedy for treating a chronic arthritis problem. The best option is to consult with your veterinary homeopath to determine which remedy is the best, but in many cases, the listed remedies will help for long periods.
Rhus Toxicodendron (Rhus tox.):
Modalities: (fits the typical, arthritic patient) Symptoms are worse for: cold, dampness, drafts and weather changes; sitting or lying; first motion; but better for motion; mornings; overexertion; left side.
Symptoms are better for: warm bathing; warm weather; continued motion.
Guiding Symptoms: Restlessness, can’t get comfortable; cracking of joints; hot, painfully inflamed joints; trembling in limbs, especially after excessive exertion.
Modalities: Pain worse for: slightest jar or slightest movement; touch; right side, especially right shoulder; evenings, especially after 9pm.
Pain better for: lying perfectly still.
Guiding Symptoms: Tense, red or pale, swollen, hot joints with aggravation from touch; gradual onset; irritability.
Modalities: Pain worse for: motion; warm bed; evenings until midnight.
Guiding Symptoms: Especially affects hip joints; multiple joints affected; Lyme Disease symptoms; has tearing or shooting pains.
Ruta Graveolens (Ruta.):
Modalities: Pain worse for: lying on painful side; touch; ascending and descending stairs.
Guiding Symptoms: Legs give out; weakness; unsteadiness; trembling; especially good for lower extremities, such as the wrist (carpus) and ankle (tarsus)
Phytolacca Decandra (Phyt.):
Modalities: Pain worse for: Heat; restlessness (urge to move, then aggravates); night; change of weather; getting wet; right side
Guiding Symptoms: joints are hot, swollen, tender and hard; weakness and stiffness
Modalities: Pain worse for: before a storm; windy weather; lying
Guiding Symptoms: especially for hips, worse right side; can be helpful for small joints also; joints may be hot and swollen
Modalities: Pain worse for walking; rising from sitting or lying.
Guiding Symptoms: overreaction to pain, fearful.
I recommend using potencies lower than 30C for these arthritic problems (6X, 12X, 30X, 6C or 12C). If the remedy is helping, administer dose morning and night and continue for 10 days, if necessary. If there is no response in two to three days, try the next remedy that fits the symptoms. I often find that if a particular remedy helps, then later when subsequent episodes occur or if mild symptoms are exhibited, administering another dose or two frequently takes care of the problem.
The question often comes up whether to use combination homeopathic remedies or single remedies for arthritis. A number of combination products are labeled for imflammation or arthritis, and these may prove temporarily helpful, symptomatically, in relieving your companion’s pain. However, I prefer the use of one remedy at a time. Depending on the reaction to a given remedy, useful information is often gained as to which remedy to try next or which remedies to avoid. With combination products, one never knows what helped or what did not.
Classical homeopathy involves the use of one remedy – the one remedy most indicated, which covers the totality of the symptoms – then waiting for the action of that remedy to stop before taking another dose or changing the remedy. This is the “highest” use of homeopathy or homeopathy working at the deepest level of disease with curative effects, not just covering up the symptoms.
Symptomatic use of remedies or “palliation” of disease can be accomplished with combination remedies or sometimes with the frequent repetition of an incorrect remedy. This is why over-the-counter use of homeopathic remedies has its limitations. For self-limiting, acute conditions, those conditions that would probably resolve on their own with time, the selection of over-the-counter, self-treatment is generally safe. Homeopathy will greatly speed the healing process when the correct remedy is used.
For treatment of chronic disease, however, one needs to find the remedy matching the whole individual and that particular animal’s expression of imbalance, which are the individual’s symptoms or expression of the disease. Chronic disease includes genetic predispositions to disease, which are called miasms; vaccinosis or vaccination-induced disease[see Vaccinosis Article]; deep organ dysfunctions, such as heart, liver and kidney disease; and other long-acting disease conditions.
The use of anti-oxidants, supplements and dietary adjustments can also assist with therapy or on a regular basis as supportive therapy. The effectiveness of these supplements varies from animal to animal. Try one thing at a time to see what will be of benefit to it. [see suggestions below].
Dietary Changes for Older Dogs with Arthritic Problems
Change to a raw food diet if the dog or cat is on commercials foods. (In some cases I have seen some success with vegetarian diets helping arthritis)
Use anti-oxidants as supplements. Add
Bycnogenol or Grape Seed Extract. 1 mg per pound of body weight per day
Vitamin E. 200 IU daily for small dogs and cats; 400 IU for large dogs
Vitamin C. 250 to 500 mg daily for cats and 250 mg. to 1,000 mg. daily for dogs, depending on size.
Supplement with combination products. Many excellent supplements are on the market than contain anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes. Consult with your holistic veterinarian for recommendations.
Supplement with Glucosamine Sulfate, which is found in several products by other trade names and in generic tablets. It serves as a precursor for connective tissue substances found in joints, and helps many arthritic patients when given daily.
[Short bio omitted for purpose of e-publication on Dr. Loops website.]
Published in Natural Pet Magazine, December 1996; Homeopathic Healing – Classical Solutions. “Arthritis Remedies”
(transcribed by Joanna Loops, May 2003)