This Autumn / Winter manage your dog's arthritis naturally with a multidisciplinary approach
Put a spring back into your dog’s step this Autumn
As the seasons change Autumn can exacerbate arthritic symptoms in both humans and dogs. As a London based canine nutritionist, I often get asked what supplements can help my dog become less stiff in the winter months.
When it gets cold your dog’s body is more sensitive to pain and chiller temperatures slows down blood circulation, causing stiffness, even muscle spasms, combined with damp weather which also triggers flare ups.
Osteoarthritis or degenerative joints disease is the most commonly diagnosed, and accounts for 80% of arthritis in dogs. Just as in people, OA is a condition primarily caused by inflammation of the joints and a degeneration of bone density.
Nobody is invincible from the effects of ageing, but it’s not inevitable that every dog will get arthritis – which literally means inflammation of the joints.
Some larger breeds like Labradors and German Shepherds are prone congenitally to hip and elbow issues. Terriers can be prone to slipping kneecaps/luxating patella. Bigger pooches are also more prone to OA as they carry more weight bearing on their joints, so tend to suffer from OA more than smaller dogs.
Traditionally Medics have viewed OA as a structural disease that involves the breakdown of articular cartilage and its subsequent effect on the joints. Whilst wear and tear overtime is one cause, new technology, and the sciences of Epigenetics and Nutrigenomics highlight how negative environmental influences, like obesity and diet affects gene expression making dogs more likely to suffer from inflammation of the joints.
Researchers have discovered that this isn’t just down to a dog’s excess weight stressing their joints, but to many inflammatory cell markers that are ‘turned on’ in overweight dogs with OA.
Interestingly, fat tissues secrete biological pro-inflammatory cell messengers called cytokines that specifically stimulate inflammation in the articular cartilage.
If arthritis is connected to inflammation, then if fat cells are breeding an inflammatory environment, promoting oxidative stress also associated with arthritis, it begs the question which comes first the structural joint changes or environmental influences causing changes in gene expression that led to these structural changes?
If we are what we eat, then a diet that comprises pro-inflammatory anti-nutrients like starches, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, and rice, these ingredients will be fuelling inflammation in the body. Not only making losing excess weight more difficult, but without any health benefits.
Whereas a diet that’s functional and species appropriate for dogs comprising a variety of fresh wholefoods, including meats, offal, ground bone and seasonal veggies offer an anti-oxidative, and pro-nutrient dense alternative that will reduce inflammatory responses in the body, and optimise good health and longevity naturally.
Not only helping to reduce weight more easily, a natural unprocessed diet offers support your dog’s physical frame. Studies show that as dogs lose weight, they not only gain mobility, but there’s a decrease in the systematic inflammation and oxidation associated with OA.
If medicine can be your food, it offers an alternative, at least a reduction in Non-Steroidal Inflammatory medications or prescribed pro-inflammatory diets. There’s evidence that when NSAIDs are used long-term, they can cause damage and injury to tissues of the liver, kidneys and bone marrow.
Being aware how weight and environmental factors like diet, over medication, correct exercise, can impact on joint health enables us to make informed choices and, with a few adaptations, putting a spring in your dog’s step feasible, no matter the weather!
MY TOP TIPS:
- Opt for a nutrient dense raw, balanced and complete food. I recommended researching a raw brand for their ethical standards, and traceability. Especially for senior dogs to offer them a boost with food enriched with herbs, supplements, and fresh whole anti-oxidants. Paleoridge Paleo Plus is peace of mind in a bowl combining single protein sources packed with anti-inflammatory superfoods, including blackberries, kale, hemp seed powder and blueberries. Plus, it combines Green Lipped Mussel
- I suggest adding key functional foods /supplements that science concurs alleviates the symptoms of OA. These ingredients work causally to strengthen the joints and reduce inflammation. There’s been a raft of studies, including in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary research on the efficacity of Green Lipped Mussel (GLM). Packed with species appropriate sources of glucosamine and chondroitin, and a spectrum of omegas – EPA and DHA, the gait of 23 dogs fed a diet enriched with GLM greatly improved compared to those that did not take GLM.
- Consider adding Turmeric or Curcumin another potent antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory properties. Or MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane), which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory for the joints. Also, by adding Collar-gen to boost the natural structural protein that depletes in all mammals with age.
- Adding Bone Broth is 110% nutrition for the physical frame and the immune system offering a natural source and super food boost including, minerals, vitamins, collagen, proteins, fats and calcium.
- Avoid unnecessary wear and tear! Unwittingly we can create ‘inflammation’ in the joints by over-doing exercise, especially in the puppy phase. Too much jumping, ‘rough and tumble’ play, awkward landings cause shock and stress to growing joints. Overtime this can make for arthritic prone joints. I recommend floor runners indoors to balance the effects of slippery floors. Dogs like to feel secure underfoot, rather than skidding. Tensing their bodies to compensate can overtime cause stress on the hips, shoulders, and the spine.
- Support your dog with regular massage, or post injury consider Physiotherapy, Acupuncture and Hydrotherapy either for specific rehabilitation or simply to main optimum physical health.
- Dogs as masters at disguising pain, be aware of eye contact avoidance, squinting, head turns, lip licking and chewing paws, which can be signals that your dog is in pain.
- I’m a fan of Photizo Vetcare , which harnesses ‘red light therapy’ to help with strained muscles, cut paws, and overall wellness . We also stock the silent version for noise sensitive animals