Arthritis in Dogs. Recently, the need for a higher level of health care for senior pets has been recognized by veterinary medicine. Owners of the current 45 million plus pet boomers are searching for solutions to help their dogs make the most of their senior years. Today veterinarian and author, Dr Carol Osborne is with us to offer natural nutritional strategies for dogs with arthritis.
Q. What determines longevity or how long our dogs can live?
A: Longevity is attributable 70% to lifestyle and 30% to genetics so by making simple changes in your dogs daily regime there is a 70% chance you will make a dramatic impact on your dog’s future health and wellness. In my veterinary practice, I have large breed dogs doing well at age 16 and small breeds thriving at age 22. Soon dogs will be enjoying healthy years up to age 30.
Q. Where do we begin to create a longevity program for our pets?
A: A successful longevity program begins with nutrition. You are what you eat and so is your pet. Today so many foods are over processed that as veterinarians we are now seeing young dogs afflicted with disorders once reserved for the elderly. Diseases including cancer, arthritis, diabetes and liver disease are showing up in young dogs between 6 months and 2 years old. Today we will focus on arthritis.
Q. What nutritional factors are most important to consider?
A: Vitamin Supplements, Diet and Exercise
Q. Arthritis is a big problem-How common is it?
A: Arthritis affects over 50% of large breed dogs age 2 and over and the 3 top joints affected are the stifle, elbow and hips.
Q. What are the basics or the critical ingredients dogs need?
A: Regardless of age and specific disorders most dogs need the basics:
- Anti-oxidants: Vitamins A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E: fight free radicals-slow aging process
- Vitamin B Complex: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 along with Biotin and Folic acid: Energy.
- No Brewer’s yeast as a source of B vitamins as it causes allergies-itching and skin infections
- Minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Selenium and Zinc
- Dosages need to be appropriate for your dog’s age and health status
Q. What additional nutrients are helpful for dogs with arthritis?
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids-have been proven to actually reduce inflammation and decrease joint pain as well as NSAID’S-prescription medications without the adverse side effects
- Glucosamine/Chondroitan sulfate
- Enzymes: Bromelain-from pineapple
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Vitamin C
- Stem Cells-new derived from the dogs fat and now available at affordable rates
Q. What about managing a dog with arthritis-what’s most important?
A: Diet & Exercise
- *Don’t let your dog get fat-keep ‘em lean
- Demo: you should be able to feel but not see each rib and your dog should have a waist-a tucked up area behind the rib cage
- 1 pound of wt loss gives a 4 fold decrease in joint load
- 10% wt loss increases joint function by 28%, decreases joint pain and improves your dogs mental attitude and quality of life
- >60% of hip replacement candidates can avoid surgery by just losing weight
Q. What diets are best to feed?
A: Organic and natural diets are available commercially and you can discuss these with your vet. Homemade diets take a little more time but are well worth the extra effort: 1/3 lean protein, 1/3 long acting carbohydrate, 1/3 vegetables-blend, season and cook with a little extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil smells good, enhances taste and is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Feed at least 2 meals a day. For weight loss feeding 4-6 small meals a day stimulates your dog’s metabolism which uses energy, burns calories and promotes weight loss.
- Q. Are there any foods to avoid with arthritis?
- A: yes, avoid vegetables from the night shade family: tomatoes, potatoes, egg plant and peppers as they aggravate arthritis
- Q. What about exercise?
- A: Exercise is the “Universal Rule of Longevity,” you name it and exercise helps it!
- Q. What types of exercise are best with arthritis?
- A: Each dog is unique so it’s always best to check with your vet but in general:
Walking, jogging, swimming and massage. Join a local pet sport club, try agility or fly ball. There are many choices but, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, the single factor that is closest to a magic bullet for health is exercise. Pets and people with bone, neuromuscular and joint disorders reap the most immediate benefits from exercise. Without exercise pets at risk for arthritis become crippled by stiff, deteriorated joints. In fact not exercising an arthritis dog increases his risk of permanent disability by 33%.
Q. How should you set up your dog’s exercise program?
Make easily achievable goals, build gradually on each accomplishment and focus on functional gains. Build up your dogs exercise program slowly and gradually so he gains strength and improves his aerobic capacity. This protects inflamed joints, reduces pain, and improves joint function, balance, endurance, coordination and quality of life. It reduces the risk of diabetes-by improving glucose (blood sugar) tolerance your pet will need less medication(insulin) to control blood sugar), strokes(by increasing blood flow to the brain), hypertension and heart attacks. Exercise also increases the body’s natural production of endorphins, which are the “feel good hormones”, so with regular exercise, your dogs body naturally wants to stay active and even is scheduling time is tough, you and your dog will both feel so much better its crazy not to do it.
Q. What’s the best way to monitor your program?
A: Make a chart and re-access weekly at first then monthly
- The 3 R’s of re-assessment are: recheck, reassess and revise your program accordingly and always work with your vet to get your best results!
- Starting sooner is better than later but regardless of your pets age it’s never too late to begin a longevity program for your pet. You will both reap the rewards and your pet will be living proof of your success for years to come