In canines, healthy joints are a cornerstone of physical health. They allow for easy movement and mobility that is crucial for a dog’s welfare. Once a joint begins to degenerate, it can significantly impact the quality of a dog’s life and overall health.
The most common type of joint problem that occurs in dogs is osteoarthritis (OA), also called Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD). According to a 2018 study, it is the most commonly diagnosed type of joint disease in veterinary medicine, and it can pose great challenges for the health and the general welfare of a dog.
What Exactly is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis typically affects older dogs, though younger canines can sometimes be affected as well, due to improper joint and bone development, genetic predisposition, or injury.
A joint is a place in the body where two (or more) bones meet. To prevent them from rubbing against each other, there is a flexible tissue between them, called cartilage. Over time, this cartilage can wear down, causing the bones to rub together and various symptoms will start to appear. They include stiffness, limping, favoring a leg, difficulty getting up and down, reluctance to jump and play, fever, swelling, tenderness, and limited mobility.
Can Obesity Cause Canine Arthritis?
Canine arthritis can have many causes, and obesity is definitely among them. Recent research shows that there is a very strong link between obesity and osteoarthritis. This has also been confirmed by the previously mentioned study, which has concluded that OA is more prevalent in dogs with higher body weights.
Therefore, a dog’s diet can have a huge impact on their health. Paying attention to what a dog eats is of great importance and can make a big difference in their life. While a balanced diet is a key component, your choice of the food and the quality of its ingredients also play a significant role.
Can Joint Problems be Prevented with Food?
Unfortunately, there has been no evidence that supports that OA can be entirely prevented, especially as dogs get older. However, if a dog maintains a lean body condition throughout their life, and they get regular, low-impact exercise accompanied by good nutrition, the risk of developing joint problems can be reduced.
Foods That are Not Beneficial for Canine Arthritis
OA is a progressive disease and at this time does not have a cure. There are not any magic solutions, but rather a comprehensive, multi-modal approach to managing symptoms is what is recommended for the best outcomes and to keep our dogs healthy and active for as long as possible.
Since extra body weight can put more pressure on the joints and cause even more pain in dogs that are suffering from OA, maintaining optimal body weight is crucial. Subsequently, foods that can help a dog lose weight and stay lean are beneficial.
Pet owners are advised to steer clear of foods that are high in calories but contain little to no nutrients. Treats should be given in moderation, always bearing in mind a dog’s daily caloric intake, and how many calories they get from their regular meals. Treats should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s total daily caloric intake.
When it comes to protein, lean meat instead of fatty protein is always the better option. In addition, processed foods that contain a high percentage of carb-based fillers should be avoided when possible.
Foods That can be Beneficial for Canine Arthritis
Just like humans, canines also need different kinds of nutrients to stay active and healthy. They will need proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, and there are some specific guidelines as to their exact proportion in one perfectly balanced meal.
In addition to always making sure that a dog’s diet is balanced, there are certain foods that dogs suffering from OA might benefit from. For example, omega-3-fatty-acids, commonly found in fish and fish oil, are praised for their multiple health benefits. Research has also shown that they might improve the quality of life for dogs suffering from OA.
Also, wholesome ingredients, such as oats and barley, can reduce the risk of obesity and thus help maintain optimal body weight, which is beneficial for alleviating symptoms.
There are also important supplements that can help to treat the pain stemming from OA. Some of them have proved their potential in regenerating cartilage. A 2019 study particularly mentions glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate as some of the supplements that are capable of improving joint health and minimizing the pain associated with advanced stages of OA.
Some scientists say that their impact might be slower to show than expected, but vets continue to report positive results.
How to Choose the Right Dog Food?
In addition to consulting your veterinarian about the specifics of your dog’s dietary needs, there are a few general pointers that can help with choosing the right dog food.
Always pay attention to the company that makes the dog food. Check their credentials and their reputation. The more reputable a company is, the more likely it is that they use good quality ingredients, adhere to pet food legislation, and utilize quality assurance measures.
Read the labels carefully to determine if the ingredients are natural, safe, as well as nutritious.
Finally, choose a type of food appropriate for your dog’s age, nutritional needs, and any other needs (medical, for instance) that they may have.
While the most obvious link that exists between the food a dog eats and their joint health relates to obesity, making sure you feed your dog nutritious and balanced meals is incredibly important for their overall health. Always try to source the very best meals you can, paying special attention to their protein content and source, and you should have one happy and healthy dog on your hands.