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Arthritis and colitis options for dogs

By Sarah Smith Published 06/13/2006 | Pets and Animals

I came across this herb a couple of years ago when I had a patient in extreme discomfort. He was an 8-year-old neutered German shepherd dog. He had suffered from bowel upsets most of his life. His bowel movements were always loose regardless of what he ate. His human guardian had never known him to produce a really normal looking poo. He also suffered from bad hips and general arthritic aches and pains. He had been receiving anti-inflammatory drugs for several months to help keep his discomfort at a minimum.

He came to my attention late one night when he was in a great deal of distress. He was having a bad attack of bowel discomfort and was passing frank blood from his rectum. He also felt a severe urgency to pass a stool even though there was hardly anything left for him to pass. Because he continually felt like he needed to poo he had to squat every 5 minutes on his poor old hips. His distress was overwhelming him and he was howling every time he went to squat. His guardians were beside themselves seeing their much-loved doggy in so much pain. The presence of all that blood coming from his back passage was also frightening them.

It was a tricky combination of problems. The anti-inflammatory drugs had to be stopped straight away as they were likely to have been involved in exacerbating and may have even been causing the bowel bleeding.  At the same time this dog needed help with his arthritis and hip pain, which was crippling without the anti-inflammatory drugs.

The immediate crisis was attended to but the long-term solution was Boswellia.

There are two species of Boswellia that are commonly used as medicines. These are Boswellia serrata and Boswellia carteri. Boswellia serrata is the one I have personally used and is the species most commonly available in tablet form. Another name for it is Indian Frankincense. Almost everyone would have heard of Frankincense before. Its commonly found as a type of incense. It was also a gift of great value given to the baby Jesus by the three wise men.

It has well known effective and potent anti-inflammatory activities. It reduces stiffness, pain and inflammation of the joints. Chemically it contains a compound known as boswelic acid. This compound acts by inhibiting an enzyme known as 5-lipoxygenase. The inhibition of this enzyme stops one of the major biochemical pathways involved in inflammation. The beauty is, unlike most of the common anti-inflammatory drugs used to help arthritis sufferers, it only inhibits this one enzyme. As a consequence we see all the positive anti-inflammatory effects and none of the negative ones like ulceration and bleeding from the bowel.

Not only do we not see the negative bowel effects, this herbal product will actually heal ulcerations of the bowel. As such it is, in fact, also a recommended treatment option for colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Signs of colitis are typically seen as frequent straining to defecate but only small amounts of faeces are passed. The faeces typically are more mucoid than normal and often contain fresh blood. In some cases, where the inflammation in the lower part of the bowel is very severe, there will be pain and straining to defecate and only blood is being passed.

It seemed like an ideal treatment option for the German shepherd doggy in the above story and it was. His human guardians reported back to me that within 2 weeks he was moving more freely than they had ever known him to. He was passing normal poo that could easily be picked up with a spade. He was happier than they had ever known him to be and he was no longer taking anti-inflammatory drugs.

As a general guide the dose rate for Boswellia in dogs is as follows; 10-15kg dogs would receive 500mg twice daily, a 15-30 kg dog would receive 500mg three times daily. Dogs larger than 30kg would receive 1,000mg twice daily.

The dose I used in this case was 500mg three times daily.

Herbal remedies were once our mainstream medicines. Much information has been lost or at least crowded out by the all too common quick fix that many of our modern potent drugs provide.

Its certainly worthwhile looking into whats available in terms of natural remedies for our animal companions. Many veterinarians are starting to realise this and are making positive moves towards expanding their knowledge to encompass effective, safe natural treatments. It may be a bit of a battle to find a veterinarian that is educated in these areas but hopefully youll be able to find one that is open minded enough to begin looking at the old ways when the new ways just arent working or the side effects arent worth the benefits.

By the way it is important to use only the best quality products when you are using herbs for specific medicinal effects. Some over the counter preparations are less than helpful. Some dont actually contain effective amounts of the compounds needed. You may be bitterly disappointed in the results if you choose to use inferior products.