The Natural Approach to Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain in the weight-bearing, larger joints such as hips and knees. It is characterised by worsening stiffness and limited mobility. It is more common in elderly dogs, however, it can affect younger dogs too, especially after an injury.
What causes dog arthritis and joint problems?
- Genes; can be an inherited condition
- Muscle weakness
- Obesity – considered a cause as well as a mediator which will worsen the condition
- Wear & Tear of the joints from overuse
- Autoimmune disease and prolonged inflammation
- Injury to the joint – a torn ligament or an infected wound can damage the joint and cause chronic inflammation which subsequently causes further joint damage.
How to spot arthritis in your dog?
Symptoms of arthritis in dogs
- Difficulty getting up
- Morning stiffness, which gradually eases during the day
- Discomfort when walking, sitting or getting up
- Licking potentially painful areas
Certain breeds are more prone to suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia, which can be a predisposing condition for dog arthritis. Such breeds include golden and labrador retrievers, german shepherds, rottweilers and generally larger breeds.
Whilst arthritis is not curable, it is treatable and your dog can have a quality life. However, like with many conditions, prevention is better. Whilst the general treatment relies on medication in the form of steroids, there is a natural approach you can take and actually prevention and treatment methods are one and the same in the holistic world.
How to prevent and treat a dog’s arthritis naturally?
Exercise is key to keep your dog active, healthy and to prevent obesity. Exercise strengthens the muscles, which is essential to support the joints. If the muscles are not strong enough, the joint takes over supporting the dog’s weight, which puts too much pressure on them; eventually causing damage. Two 30-minute walks a day are recommended to protect the joints. Whilst you can give your dog more, please bear in mind that over-exercising your dog is just as damaging as under-exercising them.
A diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants
For a human, my first advice would be to have plenty of rainbow coloured vegetables and fruit in the diet with oily fish, nuts and seeds. Whilst it might seem ’funny’ to have this advice for a dog, it stands true and relevant. We just have to bear in mind that dogs do not need to eat 10 portions of vegetables a day! Eating the rainbow of vegetables and fruit is essential as the more colours, the more phytonutrients, which are essential to prevent diseases and keep us and dogs in tip-top condition. Choose from sweet potatoes, pumpkin, strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, peppers, courgettes, spinach. For more advice on best vegetables for dogs, please read the article Vegetables for Dogs.
Keep your dog lean
There are two reasons why you want to keep your dog lean. Firstly, overweight dogs simply weigh more, which puts extra pressure on the joints. Secondly, obesity and inflammation go hand in hand. Whilst it is not fully understood yet how obesity triggers inflammation, we know that inflammation caused by obesity can become chronic leading to serious health problems, one of which can be arthritis.
Now, you might have noticed that I didn’t mention dog joint Supplements. There is a very good reason for this and that is I believe in providing the body (be it human or dog) with what it needs in the most natural and recognisable way. It is easier, cheaper and works better. Synthetic supplements will never achieve what wholefood can and that is because in food, things works synergistically and not in isolation. Take, for instance tomato. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which supports heart health, lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. and as such a synthetic supplement would have this as the key ingredient. However, tomatoes also have vitamin E, B, potassium, flavonoids, lutein, zeaxhantin, etc. and I believe it’s the power of all these key compounds working together which exhibit health benefits.
There has also been many examples of supplement companies not doing things the right way or sourcing their ingredients in a sustainable way, especially when it comes to fish oil. There are certainly good players but that means having to pay a lot more for a good pill! I don’t know about you but I’d much rather include some sardines, mackerel, salmon or sprats in the diet (you only have to do it twice a week to get sufficient omega 3 in the diet) as well as the mentioned fruit and vegetables.
Of course pet supplements companies would like you to think otherwise; after all it’s a multi-billion industry. The global pet supplements market reached USD 1.47 billion in 2020 and is forecast to reach over USD 2.32 billion by 2028! (Source: Grand View Research)
There are certain compounds that do help both in preventing and treating arthritis in addition to anti-inflammatory diet and exercise, and these are:
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin – they are essential for joint health and to repair cartilage inside the joints. An easy way to have them in the diet is to treat your dog to Trachea, Chicken feet, Duck necks and Duck feet as they are all rich in them.
- Turmeric – make your golden paste, see recipe below. A small teaspoon a day can be added to food.
Get in touch if you need anything further.
Treating Dog Arthritis Naturally
- The treatment of arthritis has to start with prevention
- Provide your dog with at least two 30 minute exercises a day
- Keep them on the lean side
- Supplement their diet with steamed, rainbow coloured veg and fruit (think of berries)
- Top their food with oily fish twice a week. Choose from Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herring and Sprats. Tinned fish is perfectly fine.
- Treat them to glucosamine and chondroitin rich treats such as Duck Neck, Trachea, Chicken feet and Duck feet
- Make Golden paste and put some on their food daily.