At the center of every dog’s health is nutrition. What nutrients are present and lacking affect the dog’s quality of life. Oftentimes, symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle aren’t visible until a dog ages. Giving your dog a diet that covers all of their needs is especially important when they face a disease like arthritis.
One out of every four dogs will experience arthritis in their life. Thankfully, there are new technologies and valid techniques to relieve dogs from many arthritic symptoms. A raw food diet provides the enrichment your dog needs to combat arthritis.
In this article, we will explain the dominant causes and symptoms of canine arthritis, show you solutions, and include why a raw food diet is best suited to your dog!
Arthritis: Types, Causes, and Symptoms Types
Although the way arthritis occurs is generally the same—some deterioration of the joint—the different types of arthritis come with their own set of complications. The following are the five most common types of arthritis in dogs.
- Osteoarthritis: Otherwise known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), osteoarthritis is when a damaged bone regrows around the joint, making it stiffer. This limits the movement of a joint and causes it to degenerate slowly. It continues until the joint is unable to function properly.
- Hip Dysplasia: The most common arthritis development occurs in the hips. The hips play such an essential role in a dog's life, and they can easily be overdeveloped or underdeveloped as the puppy ages. Dogs' hips can also be overworked if they exercise too much at too young of an age. Luckily, arthritis in dogs' hips is also the most treatable kind and has medical and surgical interventions available. The earlier this disorder is discovered, the better chance your dog has of correcting the problem.
- Elbow Dysplasia: This development disorder occurs on the front legs and can arise in as young as six-month to nine-month-old dogs. It is possible to have surgery for elbow dysplasia to relieve symptoms, although arthritis will likely worsen as time goes on. Most dogs affected are large breeds, those who grow rapidly during their first year of development.
- Knee Dysplasia: Also known as patellar luxation: the "patella" is another name for the kneecap. Similar to hip and elbow dysplasia, this occurs when the knees can move up and down in its socket. This type of arthritis is common among small, toy, and teacup dog breeds.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD): OCD occurs when the joint cartilage thickens beyond its normal viscosity. In doing so, the cartilage can be torn, leaving the affected joint lame and unable to be used. Certain large breed dogs are more prone to this disease, which can be exacerbated by being overweight.
The next question to answer is how these types of arthritis occur. Unfortunately, sometimes, the degradation builds up over time until, one day, the condition seems to arise spontaneously. Other times, they can be linked to a specific underlying cause.
- Physical trauma: Because of how sensitive all the different components of the joint are, any physical trauma applied directly to a joint can be enough to throw the workings into disarray. Bone fractures and joint sprains can cause a deformity within the joint itself. From there, increased friction and time are all that's needed to inflame the joint and cause arthritis.
- Autoimmune disease: Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system codifies a healthy cell as a pathogen. The white blood cells then attack the healthy cells, damaging whatever organ, muscle, or bone they were a part of. If the autoimmune disease targets the joint—the cartilage or the lubricating fluid—this could result in a nasty form of arthritis.
- Old age: Both humans and dogs experience health complications as we age. Body parts become less flexible, metabolisms slow down, and exercising outdoors seems to lose its luster. This contributes to why the older population (again, in both humans and dogs) has an increased rate of arthritis.
- Genetic predisposition: Not all dog genes are created equal. And some dogs are prone to diseases like hip dysplasia at a disproportionate amount. Larger breeds—Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers—are more susceptible than smaller breeds (although smaller breeds aren't immune).
- Joint infection: An infection at the joint can cause significant damage and lead to arthritis, especially if it's left untreated. Infections can be cured typically with broad-spectrum antibiotics administered via your local veterinarian.
Malnutrition at a young age – As your puppy grows up, they rapidly develop all of their muscular and skeletal structure in 6-24 months. If the puppy doesn't receive the nutrients they need at any point along this timeframe, it could cause irregular growths. For example, without enough calcium, the hip joints don't fully form. If they don't fully develop, it becomes easier for the hip bone to pop in and out of place. This provides a direct link to hip dysplasia.
Some symptoms to look for include the following:
- Swollen joints
- Muscle degeneration around the joint
- Popping or cracking when changing positions
- Weight loss or weight gain*
- Depression or irritation
- *Yes, this contradiction exists. Much like with humans, when injured, your dog can become very depressed. Depending on their temperament, they might have a complete lack of appetite. Or they could become unwilling to exercise, thus gaining weight.
You can see a more detailed list of symptoms here. If you suspect your dog has arthritis, schedule an appointment with your local vet. They will test for arthritis and help you tailor a plan to soothe your dog's ailments best.
While arthritis is not a completely curable disease, some techniques and practices can decrease your dog's pain and increase their mobility. Just as there is no single cause of arthritis, there is no single treatment, which allows you to choose which treatments will be best for your dog.
- Holistic care: The most basic treatment for dogs is providing them with a weight management plan and light exercises. This will relieve any excess pressure on their joints and develop the maximum range of movement. Strengthening the muscles around the joint can also be beneficial to protecting what's left of the joint. Holistic care is all about providing the dog's body with the best chance it has at fighting back against the development of arthritis. However, before you start taking your dog to reiki sessions and yoga classes, know that the underlying cause is the most important factor. Holistic care will do little against something like an autoimmune disease, where, regardless of the weight and health of the dog, the immune system will still be fighting its own body.
- Medical intervention: Certain medications are available to treat canine arthritis. Some medications focus on pain management, while others protect against cartilage damage and promote the repair of joint structures. These are typically combined with anti-inflammatories to ease the swelling around the joint.
- Alternate Therapies: Unlike medications that come with side effects, LED light and cold laser therapies are noninvasive and promote healing. LED light therapy uses light applied to a specific area to reduce inflammation and pain. It also can be done from the comfort of your home. Cold laser therapy uses light to increase cell regeneration and blood flow. Massage, Chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture are also great alternatives. Acupuncture is often used to treat dogs with arthritis and joint inflammation. For example, dogs with hip dysplasia or degenerative joint disease are good candidates for acupuncture, which may alleviate pain and improve joint range of motion. Like chiropractic care in human medicine, a veterinarian uses their hands to apply a fast, specific adjustment to a joint to restore a normal range of motion. This gentle treatment doesn't go beyond a patient's normal range of motion. Massage for your pet offers the same benefits as it does for humans. It helps us loosen a pet's tight muscles, relax a pet and improve circulation. Depending on a pet's need and comfort level, a massage may be brief or extended.
- Nutrition: A holistic diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate will help your dog's system slow down the effects of arthritis. A bad diet, full of fats and sodium, will only increase inflammation and pain. Joint supplements, such as bone broth, also contain probiotics, which will help balance your dog's gut. Joint cartilage wears down with continual use and becomes damaged with time. Bone broth is a fantastic source of collagen and gelatin. This protein helps form connective tissue and promotes joint health.
Having a proactive plan before your dog has arthritis is ideal. You can easily prevent arthritis with a fresh diet and by monitoring your dog's activity. When it comes to most diseases and chronic pain, the best prevention comes from a holistic approach. Dogs need the same things humans do: nutritious food, exercise, rest, and emotional bonding. Still, the best practices are the simplest ones:
- Daily exercise: Exercise has been known to have long-term benefits for joint health. However, that's not all. Exercise also regulates mood, digestion, prevents diabetes and heart disease, and keeps your dog's mental health in balance. A simple 30-minute walk around the block is enough to stimulate your dog and keep them happy and healthy.
- Nutrition: Doggy development, especially during the puppy stage, is a crucial determining factor for arthritis later in life. Puppies that are too heavy will experience increased pressure on their joints while they're still forming. Too few nutrients may cause the sockets to be underdeveloped, allowing the bones to freely pop in and out and cause the cartilage to degrade. Nutrients needed for skeleton development and maintenance need to be bioavailable to the dog- synthetics will not get the job done.
- Dietary supplements: If you're concerned about not getting enough nutrients, talk to Volhard about a dietary supplement for your dog. Many dog foods don't have the bioavailable nutrients needed for your dog to absorb 100% of their daily vitamins and minerals. This is where supplements can help.
- Regular checkups: Knowing whether your dog breed is prone to arthritis can allow you to take preventative measures with the help of your vet. Talk to them about your dog's developmental health as they age and go in for regular checkups.
The Rescue Diet is unique because it has many of the nutrients that aid in fighting inflammation and canine arthritis.
Our Rescue diet includes functional foods and herbs in addition to quality whole food sources of omega-3 fatty acids and coconut meal (which is an anti-inflammatory ingredient). To see a more extensive list of the quality ingredients we have and how they help your dog, you can visit here.
We believe every dog deserves a long, happy life, which is why we take our products seriously. You can take a look at our diet offerings here. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!