Nutrition, Inflammation, and Osteoarthritis

From fetching a toy to jumping on a table to steal a snack, healthy joints help our dogs do the things that allow them to live happy, pain-free lives. Consisting of connective tissue and cartilage, joints act as the connection between bones, allowing our canine companions to move freely. So what happens when these joints become inflamed? Radiographic reports suggest that as many as 60% of dogs suffer from arthritis, an inflammation of the joints, in their lifetime. Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of arthritis, refers specifically to the breakdown of cartilage between joints and the resulting inflammation, pain, and stiffness this causes. Although OA is a degenerative joint disease (DJD), meaning it can be managed but not cured, there is much we can do to relieve our pets symptoms – and to keep this condition from progressing. Ensuring that your pet is receiving all the necessary nutrients is essential for the management of canine OA. While proper nutrition can help reduce inflammation and therefore make OA more manageable, poor nutritional choices will increase inflammation, leading to more pain and stiffness. 

What Causes Canine Osteoarthritis?

As a systemic disease, or a disease that affects the entire body rather than a single part, OA diagnosis and management must involve an evaluation of the entire pet. While genetics and past injuries play primary roles in the development of OA, many confounding factors can exacerbate a pet’s pain and mobility issues – including nutrition. It is essential that you work with your veterinarian in order to evaluate your dogs nutritional intake, as proper nutritional choices can make a significant difference in the quality of life for a dog with OA. This important first step will help to eliminate any inflammatory triggers present in your dog’s diet, thus making OA more manageable.

Understanding Inflammation in Dogs

While joint inflammation can lead to discomfort and stiffness, inflammation is not inherently bad; in fact, inflammation is an immune response essential to the healing process. When an injury occurs, the body immediately sends white blood cells to the injured area, while blood vessels begin to dilate. 

So, what causes inflammation to get out of hand? The answer is: when the trigger” of that inflammation is not removed. For example, if a dog with OA has a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids, which have vital anti-inflammatory properties, this dietary imbalance can worsen their OA and cause more inflammation. As the friction between the bones increases, white blood cells are released, resulting in even more joint inflammation and deterioration. This vicious cycle stops the inflammation from doing its original job” of helping the body recover. 

Why is Canine Nutrition So Complicated?

There is much confusion in the pet owner community when it comes to proper canine nutrition.How much meat should my dog eat?” “Is my dogs diet contributing to their pain or illness?” And Is grain-free good or bad?” are just some of the questions pet owners often ask. 

The problem is that every dog is different. Each breed has genetically unique metabolism and nutrient requirements, in addition to varying needs based on age and lifestyle. Despite all these complications, the link between chronic inflammation and poor nutrition suggests issues can be sparked by certain dietary problems and imbalances.” Your veterinarian will take this all into account in order to determine if your dogs diet is contributing to their symptoms of OA. 

Obesity and Osteoarthritis in Dogs

If your veterinarian suspects that your pet is overweight, this needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Excess weight, which often builds up as the result of improper nutritional and lifestyle choices, puts unnecessary pressure on a dogs joints, contributing to OA-related pain. In addition, research reveals that fat actually produces inflammatory and pro-inflammatory hormones on its own; this means that not only does excess weight put pressure on joints, but its very presence increases inflammation.

Dietary Solutions to Help Reduce Canine Osteoarthritis Inflammation

While there are complicating factors, professionals do agree on general feeding guidelines for dogs, in addition to the importance of including minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids in every dogs diet. Your veterinarian will be able to set priorities from a nutritional perspective,” creating a nutrient profile that will help you manage your dogs specific inflammatory issues. Often referred to as therapeutic nutrition, this process will not only help to manage your pups OA symptoms, but it will even help to reduce the need for medications, which often come with dangerous side effects. 

Nutraceuticals for Reducing Canine Osteoarthritis Inflammation

Scientists studying both human and animal medicine are still in the early stages of determining which specific foods should be included in an anti-inflammatory diet. However, there are many nutritional components and dietary supplements, also known as nutraceuticals, that have been proven to decrease inflammation and improve joint health:

While these supplements have very few side effects, it is still essential that you ask your veterinarian for guidance as you choose the best treatment path for your dog.

Other Promising Supplements For Canine Osteoarthritis

Other supplements that show promise for reducing the signs of canine OA include: 

  • Eggshell membrane: Containing glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, and hyaluronic acid, eggshell membranes have been proven in human medicine to effectively manage OA. While there are preliminary studies in animal medicine, there is no veterinary consensus yet when it comes to the efficacy of eggshell membranes to treat canine OA. 

It is important to note, however, that these products have not yet been studied extensively enough to demonstrate consistent improvement of canine OA. Your veterinarian will be the best guide for you as you choose which supplements to try for your pet.

OA Management for Overweight Dogs

If your vet thinks weight is contributing to your pets OA, theyll alter your dogs diet to ensure that their nutrient profile and meal portion size align with appropriate weight loss goals. Youll be able to tell if your dog is overweight by observing their abdomen; an overweight dog will not have a well-defined waistline and youll be unable to feel their ribs when petting their midsection. 

OA Management for Senior Dogs

Just like with humans, as dogs age, they need fewer calories and carbohydrates, in addition to lower sodium levels. Many veterinarians also suggest including joint supplements, omega-3 fatty acids, and other antioxidants to help manage inflammation and promote joint health. 

Treatment Options to Pair With Nutritional Changes for Canine Osteoarthritis

While there are plenty of pharmaceutical options to help manage canine OA, they do come with possible side effects. As an alternative – or in addition to pharmaceutical treatments – your veterinarian may suggest a variety of holistic and therapeutic methods to help reduce your dogs pain and inflammation. 

Assisi Loop Therapy: A Preventative Tool and Treatment Method for Canine Osteoarthritis

Assisi Loop Therapy is the perfect at-home tool to help manage OA pain and inflammation. Utilizing targeted pulsed electromagnetic field (tPEMF™) therapy, the Loop works to enhance nitric oxide, which in turn reduces inflammation and speeds healing. Targeted PEMF therapy is a great tool to help with your dogs OA because it is sensation-free, portable, and has no side effects. This means that your dog can get OA relief without any stress, right in the comfort of home. 

After treating Fred, a 17-year-old terrier, Dr. Lisa Lancaster told Assisi Animal Health, We are finding that the Loop helps with [quality of life], and the lack of side effects makes it so easy to try. Because the Loop can safely be added to any multimodal pain protocol, I encourage all of my clients to consider it. Sometimes we find we can lower the doses of other medications, or even wean them off medication entirely if the Loop continues to be used.” Want to learn more about Assisi Loop Therapy and other success stories? Visit the Assisi blog.

Rehabilitation Therapies to Reduce Canine Osteoarthritis Symptoms

One of the simplest rehabilitative measures you can take to help a dog with OA is light to moderate low-impact exercise. Just by exercising every day, you can help relieve stiff joints and increase your dogs mobility. While the amount of exercise needed is different for every dog, The AKC Canine Health Foundation recommends 15 to 20 minutes of exercise twice a day, stating that this option is better than providing one long, 40-minute walk. 

In addition to walking your pup, consider the following rehabilitation therapies, which are all effective ways to manage canine OA – without the use of drugs:

  • Hydrotherapy exercises, including swimming and using an underwater treadmill, are fantastic ways to help your dog get a low-impact workout. Not only will hydrotherapy help with their fitness, but it will also help increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. 
  • Laser therapy alters the bodys inflammatory response, leading to a reduction in OA-related pain and inflammation.  
  • Acupuncture works to reduce the symptoms of OA by improving blood flow, which in turn increases the oxygenation of tissues. 
  • Massage – administered by a professional or even on your own – can go a long way to restore blood flow to your pets aching joints. 

Ask your veterinarian if any of these rehabilitative techniques would be helpful for your dog! 

What Now?

The more you know about canine nutrition and its relationship to inflammation, the more prepared you’ll be to manage all of your pets current and future health needs. So, now that youre armed with this new nutritional knowledge, whats the next step? Creating a treatment plan for your pup with your veterinarian! Whether youre looking to manage, delay, or prevent canine osteoarthritis, the sooner you start, the better your pup will feel.