With arthritis (osteoarthritis) identified as one of the most common diseases seen and treated in veterinary practice, it is often asked whether specialised food and nutritional supplements can really make a difference to our pet’s wellbeing.
So firstly, what is arthritis? Arthritis involves the ongoing breakdown of the joint cartilage (a tough, elastic tissue that protects the underlying bone). It is quite common, particularly in our ageing pets and affects one in four dogs and one in five cats (all ages combined).
Arthritis is also seen more often in medium to large breed dogs; but it can occur in pets of any age and breed. Certain situations can cause wearing or damage to the joints, increasing the risk of arthritis developing.
Risk Factors for Arthritis in Pets
Here are some common risk factors for arthritis in pets:
- Age: More common in middle aged and geriatric pets. (Small breed dogs over 8 years of age; medium breed dogs over 7 years of age; large breed dogs over 5 years of age).
- Size: Large and giant breed dogs. Approximately 45% of large breed dogs have osteoarthritis.
- Obesity: Causes overloading of the joints.
- Injury or Trauma: Cruciate ligament rupture, joint dislocation, developmental disease such as hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis, growth abnormalities, inflammatory or infectious joint disease.
- Ilness or Infection: Illness or infection can sometimes cause septic arthritius, which is a bacterial infection of the joint leading to significant and often permanent damage to the joint cartilage.
- Anatomical Structure: Poor physical structure of a joint can result in uneven wearing of the joint cartilage (due to an imbalance of weight bearing).
- Nutritional Disorders or Metabolic Disease: Resulting in instability or deformity of the joint.
- Intense Activity: Increases the stresses on some joints.
- Genetic Predisposition: Particular breeds including Labradors and German Shepherds.
Signs of Arthritis
Some of the signs of arthritis include:
- Stiffness after exercise
- Difficulty getting up after rest or climbing the stairs
- Lower activity levels
- Lameness or limping
- Reluctance to jump up or down (e.g. into or out of the car)
- Swollen joints
- Difficulty grooming (particularly in cats)
- Less interaction with owners or other pets.
There is no known cure for arthritis but you can help to improve the quality of life for your pet through a combination of therapies of which weight management and nutrition play an integral part.
Specific nutrients that can provide health or medical benefits ( called neutraceuticals) have been identified to significantly improve your pet’s mobility. Nutraceuticals can be used in the prevention and treatment of disease, ultimately helping to reduce or eliminate the need for conventional drugs. Nutrients that specifically benefit joints and arthritis include:
- Long chain omega 3 fatty acids (particularly EPA & DHA)
- Green-lipped mussel powder.
About Green-Lipped Mussel
Along the coastal areas of New Zealand, Green-Lipped Mussels have been a natural component of traditional Maori people’s diet for centuries. New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel contains a combination of nutrients that can be beneficial for joint health including:
- Glutamine (a precursor of glucosamine)
- Omega 3 fatty acids, including ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid) which is unique to the Green Lipped Mussel
Glucosamine is found in the cartilage of numerous animals. It helps to stimulate the formation of new cartilage, and can have a minor anti-inflammatory effect. Chondroitin helps to inhibit the effect of the enzymes that cause destruction of cartilage. It is found in the cartilage of various species of animal including fish, shellfish, pigs and fowl.
So, in answer to the question, ‘can diet make a difference?’ the answer is ‘yes’! Specifically formulated diets and nutritional supplements are scientifically proven to help improve the health of joints and ultimately the mobility of our pets.
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- Bierer, T L & Bui, LM. The Influence of Green Lipped Mussels (Perna canaliculus) on Alleviating Arthritic Signs in Dogs, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, Leicestershire, UK, 2006.
- Curtis, C L et al. Effects of n-3 fatty acids on cartilage metabolism, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 61, 381-389, 2002.
- Nelson, RW and Couto, CG. Small Animal Internal Medicine. Mosby, St Louis Missouri, USA. 2003
- Hand, Thatcher, Remillard & Roudebush. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 4th Edition. Mark Morris Institute, Topeka, Kansas, USA. 2000
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- Pibot, P, Biourge, V, Elliot D. Encyclopedia of Canine Clinical Nutrition. Royal Canin, Paris, France. 2010