Is your dog struggling to jump on the bed, get in and out of the car or generally go about their day?
Difficulty moving could be a symptom of arthritis - a painful and common condition characterized by inflammation of the joints.
While older dogs and certain breeds are more susceptible to arthritis, the condition can affect any dog - so it’s never too early or too late to start thinking about your furry friend’s joint health.
Arthritis can’t be cured, but it can be managed. The right diet (one that reduces inflammation) combined with a healthy lifestyle will strengthen your dog’s joints and help them live a comfortable and happy life. Let’s explore arthritis in dogs, and how diet and lifestyle can help, below.
Signs of arthritis in dogs
Arthritis is a degenerative condition, meaning it slowly gets worse over time. Early warning signs might include:
- Limping - is your dog favoring one or more legs?
- Difficulty moving - are they struggling to run, walk, play or get comfortable?
- Fatigue - are they sleeping more than they used to?
- Irritability - are they snappy, depressed or simply not themselves?
- Licking or biting - are they obsessively licking or biting patches of skin?
The tricky thing with arthritis is that many of the signs above can also indicate other health problems. Because it’s a degenerative condition, it’s important to monitor your dog’s symptoms and take them to the vet for regular checkups.
Breed and age considerations
Arthritis can affect dogs of all breeds and ages, although it’s a significant problem in middle-aged and senior dogs due to the natural aging process which sees joint cartilage (the cushioning between bones) start to break down.
Certain large breeds like the Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, Old English Sheepdog, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, and Samoyed are also predisposed to joint issues like arthritis and hip dysplasia (malformation of the hip joint).
Age and breed aside, arthritis can also be caused by injury, joint trauma (such as dislocation of the knees or shoulders) or obesity.
Support your dog’s joints through diet
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition, and many pet guardians don't realise the kibble diet they’re feeding their pets can actually contribute to inflammation.
Processed commercial kibbles often contain carbohydrates such as wheat, rice, soy, and potatoes, which can cause your dog’s blood sugar levels to fluctuate and increase painful swelling. Dogs struggle to digest carbohydrates, which puts unneeded stress on the digestive system and produces an inflammatory response, which can result in joint issues like arthritis.
Want to reduce your pet’s pain and support their joints? Opt for an anti-inflammatory, high-meat, biologically-appropriate diet instead!
A raw diet, or raw alternative diet like ZIWI Peak, is a great place to start. These diets are highly digestible, which means your dog’s internal system can process them easily without the risk of causing an inflammatory response (like what can happen when they eat kibble).
All ZIWI Peak recipes include the below anti-inflammatory nutrients which are crucial for supporting joint health:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin can help alleviate pain associated with arthritis. These nutrients are abundant in New Zealand Green Mussels - the only species of mussel to contain a bioactive protein that acts as anti-inflammatory and helps repair muscle and increase joint function.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly EPA and DHA) are also found in these mussels and are widely recognized to provide anti-inflammatory properties. Our Mackerel & Lamb recipe contains the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids out of all our recipes.
- Calcium and phosphorus support healthy bone and joint development. Because our whole-prey recipes reflect the raw diet, we include bone in all ZIWI Peak recipes as a source of calcium and phosphorus.
It can be hard to get the balance of nutrients right when preparing your own raw diet at home, so ZIWI Peak takes the guesswork (and the hassle) out of finding and combining the right nutrients in the right quantities. The other added benefit is the additional ingredients, like New Zealand Green Mussel mentioned above, which further supports your dog’s joints.
Exercise and lifestyle tips
They may not be able to run and jump like they once could, but daily exercise is still very important for dogs with arthritis. Even low-impact movements will help to maintain muscle tone, which slows musculoskeletal weakness and prevents weight gain (and the associated pain of excess weight on joints).
Here are some tips to keep in mind when exercising and relaxing with your canine companion:
- Try short, regular, gentle walks on a leash or harness. Avoid long walks on asphalt or hard surfaces.
- Stick to smooth, even surfaces (like grass fields) rather than uneven terrain, which will make it harder for your dog to remain stable.
- Swimming reduces pressure on joints, so it’s a great exercise option. Look up dog-friendly pools or lakes in your area.
- If your dog is prone to getting excited by other dogs, keep them on a leash. Excitement can temporarily numb pain, but if your dog has a vigorous play session with a friend they'll likely feel very sore later!
- Make your dog comfortable at home by ensuring they have a well-padded bed in a warm, dry location.
- To stop your dog jumping or slipping over, try to minimize slippery surfaces and provide ramps where necessary.
Small adjustments to your furry friend’s diet, exercise regime, and home life can make a big difference when it comes to managing arthritis. If your dog is in chronic pain, your vet will be able to provide recommendations for living a more comfortable life.
If you’d like to learn more about how switching to a raw alternative diet like ZIWI Peak can help, please get in touch with our team.