Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis is something that most dog and cat owners are going to come across at any age associated with developmental problems, after injury or as they approach their twilight years.
Usually, but not always associated with age, untreated osteoarthritis is a debilitating disease that can leave your pets in excruciating pain. As the cartilage between joints thins and inflammation or joint grinding sets in, you may well notice your pooch or cat slowing down, struggling to get comfortable or yelping when they rise from sleep. There is unfortunately no cure-all approach to treating arthritis once it sets in, but we can certainly work together to get a firm diagnosis and treatment plan in place to stop the pattern of pain, stiffness, inactivity and eventually atrophy (or irreversible breakdown of tissue).
While we can help your dog or cat to feel more comfortable with the use of medications, therapies and supplements, your pets’ diet is also a major factor in slowing down the breaking down of cells.
Introducing ‘healthy joint’ nutrients and supplements and removing foods that trigger symptoms can help slow the process of osteoarthritis:
Nutrients for healthy joints:
Omega-3 is found primarily in cold-water fish, shellfish, plant and nut oils, and flaxseed. It is important for reducing the oxidative damage that occurs throughout the body. This damaged is increased when inflammation is present, and in joints this is known as arthritis. It is also needed in balance with Omega 6s, and in humans the balance is different to that required for pets, meaning that human supplements are not a suitable choice.
Omega 3s are also essential for brain development and function, in older pets as this begins to decline, Omega 3 sources can be a major benefit. Oily fish like sardines and salmon are full of Omega 3 fatty acids, and are great for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Derived from bone, cartilage and even good old hooves and horns, hydrolysed gelatin contains proline and hydroxyproline required for the synthesis of collagen, the main structural protein in the joints and bones. This is where some good old-fashioned bone broths can be of use, but remember they are 90%+ water so the nutritional benefit is limited. That’s not to say that they are of no benefit though, and frankly they taste pretty good, so what’s the harm?!
Fatty proteins can aggravate symptoms of inflammation and lead to extra padding and obesity, which is a leading cause of arthritis in dogs. Choosing lean meats like turkey, chicken and kangaroo can help to keep your pets diet varied and interesting but low on the extra calories. Lean proteins also help manage hunger, taking longer to digest and more effort by the body, these not only give us the building blocks for our tissues, but also help us feel fuller for longer as that take longer to pass through the gut. Is also supplies L-carnitine to help with fat metabolism and weight management and is only found naturally in animal based protein sources.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine is a natural sugar that exists in the fluid around the joints, as well as in animal bones, bone marrow, shellfish, and fungi. The glucosamine in supplements usually comes from the shells of shellfish, though there is also a synthetic form. Chondroitin is derived from cartilage usually of animal or fish sources. While both are important building block in joint fluid and cartilage, the lack of consistency of studies produced to date and poorly set up trials means that we are basically uncertain of the required dose to help manage and treat arthritis, and many studies are still underway. Both are basic building blocks in the formation of joint fluid (glucosamine) and joint cartilage (chondroitin) and there can be no doubt that we need these nutrients on our diets for healthy joints.
Fibre has several roles to play in the management of joint and overall health. Obesity is a leading cause of joint trauma and the free radicles produced in metabolising poor quality fatty diets lead to enormous degradative changes within the body, including the joints. High fibre diets help by encouraging your pet to feel fuller for longer and therefore decreasing food intake as part of healthy weight management. Specialised fibres (FOS) also help to promote a healthy gut biome managing overall health, immune system health (and remember arthritis is in part caused by the immune system attacking the structures with in the joints) and reducing a number of harmful products produced in the gut.
Foods to avoid:
All of our pets are different, but there are some foods that in general, can exacerbate or aggravate the arthritic symptoms your pet is experiencing.
Fatty meats, sausages and dog food rolls (except for specialised diets like Prime 100 developed for animals with allergies)
Highly processed or high fat meats go hand in hand with middle-age spread for both dogs and cats, and carrying too many extra kilos can put unnecessary pressure on your pet’s joints resulting in more pain and stiffness.
Keeping your pet active and trim even though they have signs of arthritis are crucial – it really isn’t the time to begin letting your pet enjoy their twilight years with all day naps and intermittent snacks! If your pet does have arthritis, exercise is still an important physical and mental stimulant that needs to remain a part of your daily activity. You can adapt your schedule by taking shorter, more frequent walks, leisurely swims at your local watering hole, or on-leash bush track explorations if your local community allows it.
The best way to provide your pets with all the nutrients that can help manage arthritic inflammation and tissue restoration is to use a product that brings all of these ingredients already into balance. It is a veritable mine field out there with all sorts of products making all sorts of claims. Many only have supplemental levels which is fine if you don’t have disease present. However, disease needs therapy and treatment choices in therapeutic levels and there is often a huge difference. At Direct Vets, we choose only to invest in a couple of products, having used them for years, we have seen the proof in the pudding. In terms of overall balanced and therapeutic diets, Delicate Care Mobility and Royal Canin Mobility are by far the most beneficial. In the interests of full disclosure, I have never received a single cent or freebies from any of these companies. And the really cool thing is not only do the pets that eat these diets feel better, have reduced pain and increased mobility, those with fading brains seem to clear a bit of that fog too!
If you are looking for a treat type product to add to your pet’s current meals, Glyde chews are the bomb, with all the desired ingredients (glucosamine, condroitin Omegas/EFAs) at therapeutic levels, and they are also a great source of once a day bribery. We have also seen pets on Antenol (which is a pure Omega 3 cold pressed oil product) derived from Green-lipped Muscle and Krill able to reduce levels of medication in the early to moderate stages of arthritis.
It’s important to remember that dogs and cats find it difficult to communicate their pain with owners, and will often be left suffering for some time before their human masters realise that they need treatment. Even if your pet is young, healthy, and not showing any major signs of osteoarthritis, it’s never a bad idea to check the signs with our handy checklists below, or to have a quick chat with your vet at your next check-up.
If you would like to chat to us further about which options may be more suitable for your pet, please feel free to drop us a line on 9369 1822, or book your pet’s health check online here.