Managing Canine Arthritis Naturally in Autumn

16th October 2023 8 min read

Guest Blog: Anna Webb

Put a spring back into your dog’s step this Autumn and find out how to manage canine arthritis naturally with a multidisciplinary approach.

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Managing Canine Arthritis Naturally in Autumn

As the seasons change Autumn can exacerbate arthritic symptoms in both humans and dogs.

When it gets cold your dog’s body is more sensitive to pain and colder temperatures slow down blood circulation which can cause stiffness and muscle spasms, combined with damp weather which also triggers flare-ups.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is the most commonly diagnosed condition 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 aging, 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 over time is one cause, new technology, and the sciences of Epigenetics and Nutrigenomics highlight how negative environmental influences, like obesity, affect 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 does it help to reduce weight more easily, a natural unprocessed diet offers support for 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 of how weight and environmental factors like diet, overmedication, and correct exercise, can impact 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!

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. 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 that science concurs alleviate 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.
  • Avoid unnecessary wear and tear! Unwittingly we can create ‘inflammation’ in the joints by overdoing exercise, especially in the puppy phase. Too much jumping, ‘rough and tumble’ play, and awkward landings cause shock and stress to growing joints. Over time 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 over time cause stress on the hips, shoulders, and spine.
  • Support your dog with regular massage, or post-injury consider Physiotherapy, Acupuncture and Hydrotherapy either for specific rehabilitation or simply to maintain optimum physical health.
  • I’m a fan of Photizo Vetcare, which harnesses ‘red light therapy’ to help with strained muscles, cut paws, and overall wellness.

Further Reading

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