Arthritis in Dogs
I don’t normally do this but to set the scene for the cause and solution to arthritis in dogs let me begin with a little anecdotal story of my old girl Meg. A shepherd/rough collie cross, Meg did not evade the poor hindquarters that commonly curse poor inbred shepherds. By the age of seven she had started to go lame and was diagnosed with chronic hip dysplasia.
Within a few months, Meg was on shots of anti-inflammatory Cartrophen for her stiffening limbs, Synoquin tablets (consisting of Glucosamine and Chondroitin), highly expensive special dry food for mobility prescribed by the vet which contained “green lipid muscle with cartilage precursors” and a reduced exercise plan. These were on top of her usual quarterly chemical flea treatment, quarterly chemical worm treatments, 7 in 1 annual boosters and kennel cough. This was perhaps one of the most medicated dogs in Ireland…and she was declining, quickly.
Soon we were only walking her for 20 minutes on the lead. Gone was her beloved beach, ball and muddy cliffs. She looked and walked like a geriatric.
After doing some research on everything from that constitutes a good diet and a few more natural minded ways of looking at things I decided to experiment on my own dog. I could see that all this expensive, synthetic food and meds were ot helping so I thought I’d see what happened if I removed it all and went back to basics, real fresh food and some simple natural additions known to be effective in the treatment of stiff joints.
The change was remarkable. By cutting out the carbs, I leaned her up slowly on her new high protein diet. Within days, Meg was moving easier. I stopped the Synoquin (glucosamine and chondroitin are sugars that are involved in the building of cartilage, as I was now feeding lots of fresh cartilage I no longer needed to add the cartilage in tablet form, not to mention that glucosamine and chondroitin is not only pretty ineffective, certainly under scientific scrutiny but the human version is the EXACT SAME and one tenth of the price). I never went back for another cartrophen injection until Meg was 14 years old. Meg was back running up the cliffs within a week and continued to do so before old age caught up with her.
You have nothing to lose trying the tips below. Give it two weeks and then tell us we’re wrong!
I’m Dr Conor Brady, a canine nutritionist with a lot of experience helping inflamed dogs. Below I give you lots of tips how you might alleviate arthritis in dogs. Articles like this get folk on to my site. If you need specialised help you can book me for a consultation.
7 Steps To Relieving Arthritis in Dogs:
1. Take Out Factors That Inflame and Thus Aggravate Arthritis
Everyone wants the quick fix of “what can I put in to stop this happening”. Initially though for inflamed joints, what’s more important is what you take OUT. So many things taken as the norm today will cause inflammation in your dog, from highly processed, chemical-laden, cereal-based dry food full of joint rotting salt and bad fats (see Food Allergy in Dogs) as well as most pet store treats. You also need to address the overuse of completely unnecessary chemicals in your inflamed dog (including chemical flea and worm control for pets with no parasites, boosters for already vaccinated dogs, the completely ineffective kennel cough “vaccine”, etc). You need to remove all the crap products and give their system a day off. This alone can make marked improvements in both humans and dogs.
2. Feed a Diet That Will Fuel Strong Joints
All dogs, but particularly in dogs suffering from arthritis, need to be fed a fresh diet containing meat, vital cartilage and fresh bone. Fresh cartilage and bone is packed with fresh calcium, glucosamine, chondroitin and other vital minerals which the dog’s joints are starving for.
Making your own raw dog food is always best but if buying a pre-made raw I highly recommend Paleo Ridge (for all these reasons!). It’s meaty, ethical, organic and has a great range of extra ingredients on the end (e.g. green lipped mussel) that is sure to help your dog become as robust as possible.
[I participate in the Online & Local scheme which allows folk like me to promote companies they know and trust and retain a percentage of each and every sale. It helps me keep the lights on. It’s only for British customers mind. Irish readers, please go to www.storganics.ie, the cheapest for all your Paleo Ridge needs.]
I would find a source of nice, fresh oily sardines which I would add to their diet every day (whole, raw, from frozen). It is the best source of fresh fish oil after all and studies show it lubricates stiff joints in dogs.
3. Focus on leaning them up, considerably
Almost all dogs are meant to be lean. They are long-distance running machines, not sprinters and not fatty little couch potatoes. If your dog is suffering inflammation in their joints then they REALLY need to be lean to reduce the pressure on the joints and make sure they last as long as possible. Forget “you should be able to feel the ribs but not see them”. Personally, I’d be looking to see a faint outline of the ribs. Meg was really, really lean though muscular. She still had really big meals only they were lower calorie. I used white meats (chicken, turkey, fish) over red meats (beef, lamb, pork) and I included 30% cooked vegetables instead of 10-15%. They don’t need to eat less just eat smarter. This needs to be the focus. If you feel your dog is a bit heavy please check out the article on obesity in dogs which will help you get it under control. Again, light dry food is absolutely not recommended for all the reasons in the article.
4. Some Natural Anti-Inflammatory Additions You Might Consider…
- Cod liver oil: Containing lots of beneficial omega 3’s which will lubricate stiffening joints, cod liver oil capsules can be added to their dinner. I would give a stiff labrador 2-3 1000mg capsules for the first few weeks and reduce down to 1-2 thereafter. Warning here, cod liver oil tablets are coming in for a bit of flak lately so at least avoid generic fish oil capsules. Fresh, whole, raw sardines is the best source of omega 3, find them and you don’t need the capsules. 2 sardines per day for a lab. Other than that consider using a purified form of omega 3 such as a refined fish oil. It will be high in EPA & DHA, the most vital omega 3’s for cooling inflammation. Find refined fish oil on Amazon here.
- Green lipped mussel: Studies show green-lipped mussel is very effective at helping to relieve arthritis in dogs. Find it in various forms here on Amazon.
- Golden Turmeric Paste: Lots of folk use GTP for arthritis in dogs. It is possibly the strongest natural anti-inflammatory out there and easy to make at home! Strongly recommend you lob that in too.
- Glucosamine, Chondroitin & MSM: Everyone has heard of these but did you know they are just selling you dry or powdered chicken or fish cartilage in a capsule, for the most part? They can also replicate it in the lab now but that’s the same stuff. Studies find chondroitin quite effective at alleviating joint pain, glucosamine less so, but it’s definitely worth a go. Just a note, the human stuff is the very same as the grossly over-priced stuff for dogs (e.g. Synoquin).
- Yumove. One of the most popular joint supplements for dogs is probably Yumove. 4.8 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot over nearly 500 reviews. That’s not easily done. It combines all the above really, glucosamine, chondroitin, green lipped mussel and also hyaluronic acid, vitamin E & vitamin C. If you’re going to spend money on anything, you might start on this.
5. Suitable Exercise, Swimming, Hydrotherapy and Acupuncture
I can’t overemphasise how important a weekly swim can be for those stiffened and bunched up joints. When a dog gets inflamed and sore they compensate by shifting their weight elsewhere, usually putting the spine under strain. The muscles and joints around the affected area begin to weaken and waste. It’s vital to keep normal exercise applied to these joints. The swimming movement will free up the joints, loosening the tension around them, maybe eventually helping to rebuild the muscle around the joint, stabilising it.
Acupuncture works on the same basis. The effects of this on horses and dogs is incredible. Acupuncture works on getting the energy and blood flow to areas where it may have been restricted from. What happens is the muscles around the sore joint tighten, constricting blood vessels in the affected area, starving it of vital nutrition, further weakening it. The hair above these joints is usually thin and dry and scraggly looking as it to is starved of the good stuff. Acupuncture convinces these muscles to relax allowing the blood and energy to flow back into the area.
And watch out for guilt-laden exercise. That’s the type that is done when a dog has been at home all day, on his own, for ten hours. Put the runners on, get the throwing arm ready and run them until they puke in the park. This is a mega strain on the joints. Take it easy. They have a condition, so treat it accordingly.
6. Make Sure Their Bed is Really Comfy
This sounds quite obvious but many people neglect the fact that many things affect the fluidity of joints during the day. A dog with inflamed limbs needs to be rested regularly with a really good bed, not on an old bit of carpet but comfortable and warm dog bedding. Memory foam is excellent as it’s robust enough to give them grip (big, soft duvets can be hard to get out of for struggling dogs). Maybe even a hot water bottle at night time (the heat does wonders). Good rest is vital, don’t underestimate it!
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I have spent a lot of time building up my knowledge. From a doctorate in animal behaviour and nutrition to years in guide dogs and the last seven year inside and out of the pet food industry, I have always provided all my information free to the public, articles that I spend a lot of time putting together. While it’s clearly a passion of mine the fact remains, I can’t do this and a steady job at the same time. Without a salary or fancy sponsorship, I am left trying to moentise my site as much as I can without pushing on you horrible adverts for car loans and crap pet products. One way I do this is by tracking some of the links to products I recommend (where Amazon will give me 7% of your first purchase). Now I’m going to put a donation button at the bottom of my more helpful articles. So, if this helped you in any way, fixing your dog where repeated vet visits have failed, and you feel you’d like to give me the price of a cup of coffee (€3), please free to do exactly that. If you’re strapped and can’t afford it, I can totally sympathise, you’re free to read on, no questions asked. We’re glad to have you on board spreading the word regardless.
Many thanks and continued good health to you and your pets.