Arthritis in dogs: a holistic guide to managing your pup's pain

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Dr Darcy Marshall, Louise Hawkins
Arthritis in dogs: a holistic guide to managing your pup's pain | Lyka Pet Food Journal

When your pup reaches their golden years, you might notice a few signs of age beyond their wise eyes and sugary face.

If their mobility and activity levels have decreased and their joints seem stiff, swollen or painful, arthritis might be the cause.

Arthritis in dogs is a very common problem, especially in senior pups. Although it’s incurable and degenerative, it can be managed effectively to slow its progression. So, while your pup might not be able to frolic with the puppies at the park anymore, they can still enjoy a full and active life.

In this article, we take a closer look at canine arthritis:

  • What is arthritis in dogs

  • How to tell if your dog has arthritis — the key signs and symptoms

  • How your dog’s diet can affect their arthritis

  • What you can do to help your arthritic dog

What is arthritis in dogs?

Arthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis. Like humans, a dog has both cartilage and synovial fluid that cushion their joints and act as a lubricant so their bones don’t grind together when they move.

When cartilage deteriorates and the synovial fluid loses its lubricating properties, the result is arthritis — painful inflammation, reduction in mobility and sometimes the growth of bone spurs.

Arthritis can be a natural result of ageing, but it can also be a result of injury, repetitive stress or disease. Some large breeds like Labradors, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, can be more prone to develop arthritis. Other factors that increase the risk of developing the disease include your pup’s genetics or hereditary conditions, like hip dysplasia.

The most common joints to be affected by arthritis are the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders, but it can affect any joint.

How can I tell if my dog has arthritis?

There are many different signs and clinical signs of arthritis to look out for in your dog, beyond the telltale joint stiffness.

  • Stiffness: You might notice your pup is slower on walks or lagging behind you. They may be unusually reluctant to get up or get going and their range of motion might be limited.

  • Lameness: Limping or finding it difficult to bear weight on one or more painful arthritic limbs.

  • Painful joints: If your pup is in pain, they will probably lick their joints to promote healing. They may avoid contact and affection or yelp when touched because the affected areas are very sensitive.

  • Inflammation: Swollen or thickened joints are a key indicator of arthritis and may indicate excess fluid in the joint spaces.

  • Muscle weakening: If your pup’s activity levels have decreased the muscles in their legs and back can develop atrophy. You may notice these parts of their body have become thinner and weaker as a result.

  • Weight gain: This can be the result of a change in activity levels or age.

  • Mood change: Has their normal happy temperament changed to become more easily irritated?

How can my dog’s diet affect their arthritis?

Food doesn’t just provide energy for your dog, it provides the essential ingredients for their health and bodily functions including their nervous, digestive and respiratory systems. Your pup’s hormone regulation and immune system are also reliant on a nutritious diet.

When treating arthritis, it’s important to consider your pup’s diet to ensure that they can benefit from ingredients that support cellular function and generation, and address inflammation.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Excess weight puts additional pressure on the joints, so weight management is vital.

Food should be calorie and portion controlled. Your pup’s meals should be chock-full of nutritious ingredients to boost their health from the inside out.

If your pup is overweight or obese, your vet is likely to recommend weight loss as part of your pup’s initial treatment program. This helps to reduce the stress on the joints. Senior dogs can be more prone to weight gain as their metabolism slows, so this is especially important for them.

A complete and balanced diet

Your pup’s diet should be complete and balanced, meaning it contains all the essential nutrients in the right amounts to support optimal health and wellbeing.

Every Lyka dish contains 100% human-grade, wholefood ingredients carefully selected by in-house Integrative Veterinarian, Dr. Matthew Muir, and Board-Certified Nutritionists. These fresh meals provide the right proportion of macro and micronutrients and your pup’s daily calorie content to help maintain a healthy weight. Plus, they’re truly drooly delicious!

Anti-inflammatory nutrients

Arthritis is often characterised by swollen and inflamed joints that are sensitive to touch. A diet that contains anti-inflammatory agents can support joint health and ease inflammation.

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, are found in fatty fish and flaxseeds, well-known for their ability to reduce inflammation and promote healthy joint cartilage.

Fish oil, sardines and flaxseed oil are all bursting with omega-3 anti-inflammatory goodness. Omega-6 is an important EFA in the diet too, but too much can cause inflammation.

Lyka meals have an optimum ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 between 3:1 and 3.6:1 to counteract the pro-inflammatory properties. The omega 6:3 ratio has been linked to “acute postprandial inflammatory response” — inflammation after eating, which can increase the risk of health conditions.

To avoid this, Lyka recipes contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 in relation to omega 6 than the AAFCO minimum omega 6:3 ratio of 30:1, as well as increased levels of natural vitamin E, to offset the higher requirements associated with a high omega-3 diet.

Antioxidants

Oxidative stress caused by free radicals plays a key role in age-related diseases like arthritis. A diet that contains natural whole food antioxidants and phytochemicals acts against cellular damage and can help prevent arthritis from developing in the future.

Vegetables and plant superfoods like turmeric, spirulina, shiitake mushrooms and fennel seeds have strong antioxidant and phytochemical properties. Natural wholefoods are our jam — they’re more readily digested and absorbed directly into your pup’s system because of their bioavailable properties, so we include them in our meals.

Supplements

Supplements are taken in addition to your dog’s meals and can boost their nutrition and target particular health concerns, including degenerative joint disease.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are the building blocks of cartilage. Dietary supplements that contain these ingredients are a good first step in addressing arthritis naturally, and can be easily purchased over the counter.

Look for supplements that include egg-shell membrane, which is a rich source of collagen, and the powerful anti-inflammatory, rosehip extract.

Green-lipped mussels are full of omega-3 fatty acids and have anti-inflammatory properties too, so this may be another natural arthritis treatment for dogs. It’s one excellent reason why we chose these mega-molluscs to be part of our nutritious range of air-dried treats. Mussel Munchies are one of the Lyka pack’s favourite lip-smacking single protein treats and great for pups with rusty joints.

Lyka’s Joint Pupper Supp is specifically designed to protect your pupper against cartilage degradation and oxidative stress. Its collagen-rich recipe promotes healthy connective tissue and it’s bursting with natural wholefood antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to address mild joint stiffness.

Try Joint Supps

How can I help my dog with arthritis?

When it comes to health and physical wellbeing it’s always better to prevent problems from occurring rather than wait to see the signs of ill health.

Although there is no cure for this degenerative disease, you can slow the progression of your pup’s arthritis with effective management techniques.

Along with a balanced and complete diet and targeted supplements, here are four ways you can help your dog with their arthritis.

  1. Minimise their discomfort: Make sure that they have a comfortable bed in a warm place away from cold draughts. Special orthopaedic beds can offer the right level of cushioning and support for arthritic joints.

  2. Low-impact exercise or activities: Don’t avoid exercising your pup, instead choose walking or swimming, which will keep them mobile and ease their joints.

  3. Support their mobility: Avoid steps and stairs and consider installing ramps to help them reach their favourite spots. Help them in and out of the car so they don’t have to make difficult jumps.

  4. Vet support: When it comes to arthritis, always consult your vet. They may suggest treatment including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), physiotherapy or acupuncture.

A nutritious, balanced and complete diet is the foundation of good health for all dogs and can hinder the early onset of age-related diseases like arthritis.

Arthritic pups love Lyka (and we love them right back)

At Lyka, we believe that every dog deserves to live their healthiest and happiest life. Although there isn’t a cure for degenerative joint disease, we can minimise the effects of ageing and try to prevent the onset of arthritis through a nutritious diet.

Lyka meals are made from fresh, human-grade, bioavailable ingredients. Each recipe has been specially formulated by our in-house Veterinarian and Board-Certified Nutritionists to include vital minerals and powerful nutrients, including omega fatty acids to support ageing joints.

Join our pack of thousands of healthy, happy dogs to benefit from real food nutrition in drool-worthy dishes.

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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