Dogs are a lot like people when it comes to joint health and arthritis. Some are more prone than others but diet and life style make a huge difference! Staying active and eating healthy are the keys to preventing and treating these debilitating conditions. Not all activity is created equal however and variety is important. A dog who plays fetch obsessively for example is a lot like a professional baseball pitcher. The repetitive use of certain muscles to an unnatural degree is more likely to cause harm to a certain area than a more natural and varied amount of activity. An occasional game of fetch is not bad by any means especially if your dog loves it but a wider variety of movements is better for the body. Running, swimming, hiking and socially frolicking is the most natural movements dogs were built for and changing it up keeps the body in equilibrium. Dogs usually stretch all on their own but massage and physical therapy can be very helpful in dogs especially to help alleviate preexisting conditions. Maintaining muscle mass and regular activity can do as much for the dog as their human companion so it’s a great routine for both parties. It’s mostly common sense but easy to miss due to the busyness of life!
Next comes Diet. This is a more complicated subject but the principals are simple. Healthy food. Because there are almost as many dog diets as their are people diets these days this can mean something different to different people. To me it means my dog eating the food her body is designed to eat. A balanced raw diet. It has been proven to reduce a multitude of heath issues; diabetes, kidney failure and arthritis to name a few. I believe this helps a lot but just like with people, it doesn’t always prevent a condition so it’s not the only answer. Aside from advanced physical therapy when necessary a lot can be done with the help of supplements to both treat and prevent painful arthritis later in life and they seem to be the same for animals and people in different doses. The good thing about this is that human Grade vitamins are often better, there are exceptions of corse and a LOT of snake oil in the industry for both species but typically better options for humans due to regulation and our ability to fight for higher standards. As long as care is taken to examine the ingredients and dosing I try to stick with these unless a canine specific supplement offers something I can’t otherwise find or is extremely transparent and reliable. For joint health I have found that there are many options and brands because a lot of the supplements have multiple uses.
Fish oil for example can be used to treat too many conditions to list, but it can also be toxic, so you have to be very careful about your source. Although different oil concentrations and extractions are directed at different things I believe what counts most for dogs is omega 3. They can’t produce it or get it from most of their food so they need it even more than 6 and 9. Next is DHA & EPA levels and a good source is high in both. Krill oil for example is an oil I am particularly not impressed with for use in dogs. It has low omega 3 and there is no proof yet that any benefit from the antioxidants it contains does a thing (for people either). My other concern is toxins. Our liver can handle more than our dogs so it’s vital that the fish be free of mercury and other things that could weigh heavily on our dogs health. There are a few companies that I’m just ok with like New Chapter, Nordic Naturals and Carlson but the winner in my book is squid. They have the least heavy metal toxicity and provide the highest omega 3 levels that I’ve seen. The only company that I know that carries this and is transparent is Dr. Dobias. He is a holistic vet in Canada that has standards that go above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen. My entire human family uses his fish oil but like I said the purity here is paramount for our dogs. Answers also makes a fermented fish broth that’s a great dietary addition. It doesn’t replace the oil necessarily but it’s bioavailability is key and it’s list of benefits goes beyond what fish oil alone can do.
Next on the list is glucosamine and chondroitin. This is often combined with other supplements for enhanced absorption. To help make it easier many manufactures have taken the guess work out and added them for us. Glycoflex is one example. I think their supplements are good because their derived from Green Lipped Mussels. They make for easy one stop shopping but I prefer getting things straight from the source and adding a multivitamin. Green lipped mussels have gained in popularity lately. As a result a simple Amazon search will show you dozens of companies that have cropped up recently to make a profit. Doing this kind of research is my least favorite because I hate feeling like I have to play defense as a consumer but the research is necessary. I’m by no means done but the conclusion that I came away with so far was that powder straight from New Zealand is the best. For whatever reason the process that has the best extraction rate is the powder (unlike oil with fish) and the company that seemed to have the highest standards was called Xtendlife. If this changes I will update but so far they just seemed to be the best that I could buy on-line. This is a human supplement so I am still trying to establish the dosing but it’s a start. Honest kitchen also makes a freeze dried mussel treat that I think is great but not adequate to treat a dog in pain. Just like fish oil helps other things this and the vitamins that go with it at a maintenance dose is ideal and though we don’t use it every day like the fish oil and vitamins I like to keep it in her diet on a regular basis because it can do a lot of good.
Ok so now that I’ve exhausted these first two main supplements, here is a quick run down of some other key ingredients to look for both within supplements or on their own:
GLUCOSAMINE helps the body naturally rebuild and repair damaged cartilage.
MSM to ease pain and inflammation, increase cortisol (a natural anti-inflammatory hormone) reduce swelling, improve the cellular uptake of vitamins and aid in detox.
CHONDROITIN that helps cartilage to retain water and ease pain.
KELP which is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic that repairs and rebuilds damaged tissue, increases energy levels and helps to clean and detoxify internal organs.
COLLAGEN a protein that supports elasticity in joints, tendons, cartilage, skin and ligaments. It also increases bone strength.
CoQ10 for heart health and to defend against oxygen free radicals that aggravate arthritis.
ALFALFA a protein rich in vitamins and minerals that reduces pain and inflammation.
TURMERIC decreases inflammation (helps with itchy skin issues), is a powerful antioxidant, helps thin the blood (lowing the risk of blood clots), protects the liver from toxins, naturally relieves pain, naturally detoxifies the body, helps with allergies, eliminates parasites and stomach ailments, increases heart health, and can help protect the body against things like cancer. It can put a stop to ongoing skin infections caused by various yeast, bacteria and fungi. It improves the skin shine and coat. It is effective in fighting and preventing infections caused by viruses and bacteria, and enhances wound healing. It improves the activity level and socialization in older dogs by stimulating cognition has recently been identified to induce neural stem cell proliferation which may explain its positive effect on brain function and depression. Reduced inflammation is important to gut health and may improve a variety of stomach conditions. It increases the levels of glutathione in the liver and this component is a major antioxidant and conjugating agent which is used to detoxify and eliminate harmful compounds.
The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin but to date, at least 235 cmpounds have been identified. These compounds are fat soluble so the coconut oil is used along with piperine (ground black pepper) because it is necessary for the metabolism of curcumin by considerably slowing its excretion and prolonging the positive metabolic effect.
FISH OIL with OMEGA 3, 6 & 9, EPA DHA
Fish oil can greatly improve skin, coat, joint, kidneys, heart, and immune system health. Fish oil contains two essential fatty acids: EPA and DHA. Both are Omega-3 fatty acids that can only be made in a limited capacity in dogs.
EPA acts as an anti-inflmmatory. It will help with any condition that cause inflammation of the heart, kidneys, skin and joints. It will ease inflammation due to allergies, and reduce itchy skin and dandruff and is used to treat hot spots. It promotes a shiny, healthy coat and reduces shedding.
DHA is important in brain, eye and neuron development. This fatty acids affects cell permeability and the growth of nerve cells which is important for optimal development.
Both EPA and DHA are important components of cell membranes. These unique fatty acids act as signals in cells to decrease inflammation. Less inflammation leads to less pain, redness and swelling in the skin, joints and other organs.
VITAMIN E to aid in the absorption of Omega oils, DHA and EPA.
VITAMIN C to reduce inflammation and free radical damage.
MANGANESE to increase the efficiency of Vitamin C in the body.
HYALURONIC ACID to provide joint lubrication.
VITAMIN B to promote a healthy nervous system
BREWERS DRIED YEAST is rich in Omega fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants. It enhances health, aids with flea control and improves the immune system. The B vitamins help with nerve function and stress management, reducing anxiety and balancing hormones including those related to adrenaline and epinephrine.
FLAXSEED meal provides Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and dietary fiber. In addition to the omega fatty acids, it contains alpha-linoleic acid, which offers benefits to the immune system. Alpha-linoleic acid also has an anti-inflammatory effect which may help if there are any joint problems. Lignans in Flaxseed contain antioxidants.
ZYFLAMEND is a fabulous supplement that I forgot to mention for treating on-going and more critical issue!
BONE BROTH is another fabulous addition for dogs with (or without) joint issues because it contains collagen, glucosamine and other compounds that build joint health and is unique because:
“the glycosaminoglycans from bone broth are resistant to digestion and are absorbed in their intact form. According to Dr Shanahan, they act like hormones, stimulating cells called fibroblasts, which lay down collagen in the joints, tendons, ligaments, and even the arteries”
RAW GOATS MILK contains enzymes that reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain related to joint issues. This helps speed up tissue repair and improve circulation, all things that can help to alleviate arthritis pain.
And finally, FERMENTED FISH STOCK is yet another great source to boost the diet of a dog with joint concerns. It Contains glycoaminoglycans (GAGs), a major component of joint cartilage, glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid to name a few benefits.
This is just my list, it might be a bit much but if you’re looking to maintain these are key words to look for. If you’re treating pain however it’s paramount to look at the levels. An ingredient with no percentage or milligram is not enough. Treating arthritis this way is so much more effective than chemicals because it solves the problem rather than masks it while the damage continues! Obviously if the level of pain is too great this does not hold true but real healing is always best and thankfully nature really helps us do that!
* I should add here that I am 100% a free blogger, it would be nice to be paid by any of these above mentioned companies but I can assure you I am not.
Here is my favorite fish oil by Dr. Dobias (all of his supplements are but this one especially)