DEAR READERS: Osteoarthritis is on the rise in the pet population. The 2019 State of Pet Health Report from Banfield Pet Hospital documents a 66% increase in canine osteoarthritis prevalence in the past decade, and a 150% increase in feline cases. Carrying excess weight can aggravate the condition, and the report found that 52% of dogs with OA were also overweight or obese, along with 41% of cats. (Pet Product News, June 25)
Read on for more advice on osteoarthritis and joint pain.
DEAR DR. FOX: Some years ago, I heard you on public radio and I called in about my 7-year-old dog, Chip.
He had very bad hips and had difficulty getting around. He was in obvious discomfort. Not overweight. The vet wanted to do hip surgery that would have cost thousands of dollars. You suggested I give him turmeric.
Thank you! Chip is now 14 and has had no surgery, only a daily dose of turmeric. He is close to the end of his life now (heart problems), but enjoyed a wonderful, active life until now. He thanks you! -- M.S., Monticello, Minnesota
DEAR M.S.: I am glad that the turmeric helped your dog avoid surgery and enjoy a long life without further joint problems.
There are other beneficial supplements and various treatments for dogs and cats that can help reduce the problems of osteoarthritis and joint discomfort. Prevention is the best medicine, and can maintain our animal companions’ quality of life, which these maladies can greatly impair. Joint pain means less physical activity, which can lead to animals becoming overweight. And cats with joint issues often find it painful to get into a litter box with high sides, and also to squat, so they develop litter-box aversion and evacuate elsewhere in the home.
A few daily drops of fish oil in the pet’s food can help with joint issues, and holistic veterinarians are also prescribing yucca root, boswellia, alfalfa and CBD oil. Massage therapy, as per my books “The Healing Touch for Dogs” and “The Healing Touch for Cats,” can make a big difference, as can regular exercise and, if possible, swimming for dogs (in safe waters) and active games for cats.
Afflicted animals can also benefit from acupuncture, cold laser and acoustic compression therapy. There are some veterinarians who are certified in veterinary chiropractic, which can also be highly beneficial. Above all, keep cats and dogs lean, since obesity produces inflammatory substances and hormones from fat cells that may exacerbate arthritic problems.
DEAR DR. FOX: My husband and I are vegans and we do not, therefore, buy honey or bee pollen. You suggest these may help dogs with allergies. Is there an alternative? -- K.C., LaBelle, Florida
DEAR K.C.: I applaud your choice to be vegan, and I hope it is for more than health reasons, as the environmental, economic and humane reasons are paramount, in my opinion.
But in my opinion, vegans should include honey and bee pollen in their diets, and also give it to their non-diabetic dogs with allergies, so as to help support beekeepers staying in business. Their bees, and wild species also, are vital pollinators of many of the fruits and vegetables you consume -- all ideally organically certified! (Non-certified fruits and vegetables can mean that insects have been needlessly killed in the growing of such foods.) And many plants will soon be extinct, along with the birds and other wildlife that cannot live without a supply of healthy bugs.
FLAME RETARDANTS AND FELINE HYPERTHYROIDISM
Exposure to flame retardants in household products such as furniture and air fresheners might raise the risk for hyperthyroidism in domestic cats, according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology. Researchers found links between exposure to a specific ester compound and high concentrations of a hormone associated with hyperthyroidism, as well as rates of diagnosed hyperthyroidism. (HealthDay News, July 10)
This is further confirmation of earlier studies drawing the same conclusions. The dust from chemically treated carpets and upholstery fabrics are inhaled or ingested when cats groom themselves after being in contact with these surfaces.
Regular vacuuming may not suffice. Putting cotton sheets over treated furniture, replacing old carpets with natural, untreated fibers -- cotton, hemp etc. -- and putting slipcovers on cat beds that have also been treated with flame retardants may help reduce exposure.
Additional contributing factors include the chemical linings of pet-food cans, which manufacturers have not yet addressed, to my knowledge. Another issue is the high level of fluoride in some cat foods from seafood products. Safer, more sustainable food sources for cats are chicken and turkey.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)