Shark Cartilage Brings Arthritis Relief to Dogs

Veterinarians are getting wind of a new nontoxic and effective way to help dogs and cats with arthritis. It's called shark cartilage, a product widely used by alternative medicine practitioners for cancer in humans. Ben B. Dow, D.V.M., of Putney, Vermont, has used shark cartilage successfully for several of his animal patients.

One case involved a Labrador retriever, 9, named Matthias, who suffered from severe arthritis in his legs and vertebrae. Matthias had been under Dr. Dow's care for four years, during which time he had tried several standard steroidal drugs (azium, flucort, prednisone, and dexasone) to reduce swelling and pain, but they hadn't helped. This shouldn't be surprising because conventional anti-inflammatory drugs try to block the inflammation in the joints without actually treating the main problem.

There are several forms of arthritis (for instance, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), but all involve an inflammation of the joints. Cartilage and the synovial membranes work to cushion any impact on the joints, but if these become eroded or soft, then inflammation, accompanied by sometimes severe and chronic pain, is the result. This condition has a variety of causes, including infections, metabolic disturbances, and constitutional imbalances. In animals, nutritional deficiencies are the most likely cause of arthritis. Matthias became so inactive and moved with such difficulty (the inflamed vertebrae produced a "distinct arch" in his back) that the owners asked Dr. Dow to put the dog down. Instead, he decided to try shark cartilage, a natural substance not generally known in conventional veterinary practice. Dr. Dow gave the dog shark cartilage supplements at the rate of four capsules, three times daily. Shark cartilage provides the body with the nutrients (especially calcium) necessary to repair its own cartilage and reverse deterioration of the joints.

Studies have shown that shark cartilage contains proteins, mucopolysaccharides (which contribute to the formation of joint fluids), calcium, and other ingredients that inhibit the growth of new blood vessels in the joints (which leads to calcification) and promote healing of already damaged joint tissues. After three weeks, the owners called Dr. Dow to report a dramatic improvement in Matthias' condition. The formerly arthritic dog was moving around more, had a better appetite, and the arch in his back was gone. Even better, Matthias was now able to jump into the back of the owner's pickup truck. Dr. Dow subsequently reduced Matthias' intake to a maintenance dose of two capsules, twice daily.

More than a year later, the owners reported that Matthias was completely healed, "behaving like a puppy." As Dr. Dow saw it, "the use of shark cartilage was the last resort and has saved this pet for now."

A second case involved a 14-year-old female Queensland Blue Heeler. Like Matthias, Dora had severe arthritis in her leg joints and had been given several standard steroidal drugs without any effect. Dora was in such discomfort that the owners were, as with Matthias' owner, ready to have their dog put to sleep. Dr. Dow began giving her shark cartilage at a dosage of three capsules, three times daily. After one month, the owners reported to Dr. Dow that Dora had become more active again, chasing geese, in fact, and had started going on long walks with the owner again. For some time prior to the treatment, she had been unable to do either activity. The owner was delighted that there was no need to put Dora to sleep. "I have been a practicing veterinarian for about 25 years, and this is the first time a product has appeared that produces such significant results in arthritic dogs and without the side effects which often accompany drug therapy," comments Dr. Dow.

A nutritional supplement such as shark cartilage, which promotes the body's own healing processes, may not show an immediate effect and may require two to four weeks before improvement is noticeable. Before starting your pet on any new therapy, it's advisable to consult your veterinarian, particularly if your pet is pregnant or lactating, suffers from any heart condition, is recovering from surgery, or has any other health condition which might be affected by supplementation.

SOURCES-I. William Lane, Ph.D., and Linda Comac, Sharks Still Don't Get Cancer (Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group, 1996). Nina Anderson et al., Super Nutrition for Animals (Birds Too!) (1996), Safe Goods, East Canaan, CT.

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