First a Case Story About Meg, a Dog With Chronic Hip Dysplasia by 7 Years of Age…
I don’t normally do this but to set the scene for the cause and solution to arthritis in dogs let me begin with a little anecdotal story of my old girl Meg. A shepherd/rough collie cross, Meg did not evade the poor hind quarters that commonly curse poor inbred shepherds. By the age of seven she had started to go lame and was diagnosed with chronic hip dysplasia.
Within a few months Meg was on shots of anti-inflammatory Cartrophen for her stiffening limbs, Synoquin tablets (consisting of Glucosamine and Chondroitin), highly expensive special dry food for mobility prescribed by the vet which contained “green lipid muscle with cartilage precursors” and a reduced exercise plan. These were on top of her usual quarterly chemical flea treatment, quarterly chemical worm treatments, 7 in 1 annual boosters and kennel cough. This was perhaps one of the most medicated dogs in Ireland…and she was declining, quickly.
Soon we were only walking her for 20 minutes on the lead. Gone was her beloved beach, ball and muddy cliffs. She looked and walked like a geriatric.
After doing some research on everything from that constitutes a good diet and a few more natural minded ways of looking at things I decided to experiment on my own dog. I could see that all this expensive, synthetic crap wasn’t helping so I thought I’d see what happened if I removed it all.
I started by cutting out all the useless chemicals – parasite control (she didn’t have fleas and worms, more on fleas on dogs and chemical worm control here), all the boosters (see Canine Vaccinations for more here), cut out the useless kennel cough “vaccine”. I then changed her diet. I stopped the dry stuff in favour of fresh meat protein and fats, I included my own green lipid muscle as well as some cod liver oil and a few other cool natural bits. I made sure she was no longer fed cheap stale cereal or poor quality fats.
By cutting out the carbs, I leaned her up slowly on her new high protein diet. To my surprise, within days, Meg was moving easier. I stopped the Synoquin (glucosamine and chondroitin are sugars that are involved in the building of cartilage, as I was now feeding lots of fresh cartilage I no longer needed to add the cartilage in tablet form, not to mention that glucosamine and chondroitin is not only pretty ineffective, certainly under scientific scrutiny but the human version is the EXACT SAME and one tenth of the price). I never went back for another cartrophen injection until Meg was 14 years old. Meg was back running up the cliffs within a week and continued to do so before old age caught up with her.
You have nothing to lose trying the tips below. Give it two weeks and then tell us we’re wrong!
6 Steps To Relieving Arthritis in Dogs
Take Out Factors That Inflame and Thus Aggravate Arthritis
Everyone wants the quick fix of “what can I put in to stop this happening”. Initially though, what is more important is what you stop putting in. For example, consider someone with a shrimp allergy. If they eat shrimp every day, then they will continually need steroids and anti-inflammatories to deal with all the inflammation (for more on food sensitivity in dogs please read our popular article Food Allergy in Dogs). So, we need to look at the cause first, not the symptoms that result from it. Once the culprits have been identified, cut them out completely.
The most common antigens that cause inflammation and arthritis in dogs are:
- Wheat: Most dry food, dental sticks, many dog treats, bread, pasta.
- Cooked meat: Most dry dog foods and dog treats.
- Unnecessary chemicals: Flea and worm control, annual boosters.
Feed a Diet That Will Fuel Strong Joints
The dog needs to be stopped being fed dry food. Cut out all that joint rotting wheat gluten, stale fats and high salt. Dogs need to be fed a fresh diet containing meat, (and more importantly) cartilage and fresh bone. Fresh bone is packed with calcium and other vital minerals, which dogs joints are starving for, this will reduce their requirement for glucosamine and chondroitin being added to their diet. A premade raw dog food is one option. Here’s how to make their meals at home for a more affordable option (How To Make Raw Dog Food). You can even make up a fish based meal based on lovely oily salmon or sprat either!
Lean Them Up Considerably but NOT by Feeding Them Less Food!
Almost all dogs are meant to be lean. They are long distance running machines, not sprinters and not fatty little couch potatoes. If a dog is suffering inflammation in their joints then they REALLY need to made lean. Forget “you should be able to feel the ribs but not see them”. Personally I’d be looking to see a feint outline of the ribs. Meg was really, really lean. She still had really big meals only they were lower calorie. I used white meats (chicken, turkey, fish) over red meats (beef, lamb, pork) and I included 30% cooked vegetables instead of 10-15%. They don’t need to eat less just to eat smarter. This needs to be the focus. If you feel your dog is a bit heavy please check out the article on obesity in dogs which will help you get it under control.
Include Natural Anti-Inflammatory Additions
- Cod liver oil: Add to home-made raw dog feed, and dose according to body size. It is much better than fish oil.
- Green lipid muscle: Find this online. Prices vary greatly. Definitely start with amazon.co.uk
- Golden Turmeric Paste: Is possibly the strongest natural anti-inflammatory out there and easy to make at home!
Make Sure Their Bed is Really Comfy
This sounds quite obvious but many people neglect the fact that many things affect the fluidity of joints during the day. A dog with inflamed limbs needs to be rested regularly with a really good bed, not on an old bit of carpet but comfortable and warm dog bedding. Maybe even a hot water bottle at night time (the heat does wonders). Good rest is vital, don’t underestimate it!
Suitable Exercise, Swimming, Hydrotherapy and Acupuncture
Watch out for guilt laden exercise. That’s the type that is done when a dog has been at home all day, on his own, for ten hours. Put the runners on, get the throwing arm ready and run them until they puke in the park. This is a mega strain on the joints. Take it easy. They have a condition, so treat it accordingly.
The above steps will be enough to renew a dog and the idea of taking them for hydrotherapy or acupuncture will slip from the mind. However, there will come a time when something else is needed and first up is weekly swimming. When a dog gets inflamed and sore they compensate by shifting their weight elsewhere, usually putting the spine under strain. The muscles and joints around the affected area begin to weaken and waste. It’s vital to keep normal exercise applied to these joints. The swimming movement will free up the joints, loosening the tension around them, maybe even rebuilding a little muscle.
Acupuncture works on the same basis. The affects of this on horses and dogs is incredible. Acupuncture works on getting the energy and blood flowing to areas where it may have been restricted from. What happens is the muscles around the sore joint tighten, constricting blood vessels in the affected area, starving it of vital nutrition, further weakening it. The hair above these joints is usually thin and dry and scraggly looking as it to is starved of the good stuff. Acupuncture convinces these muscles to relax allowing the blood and energy to flow back into the area.