Arthritis is the number-one cause of chronic pain in dogs. A degenerative condition of the joints, arthritis causes stiffness and soreness and typically affects adult or senior dogs (although younger dogs with a genetic predisposition may also develop the disease). If your dog seems to have chronic pain, first consult an experienced veterinarian who can prescribe a treatment plan, if necessary. Then consider choosing to feed natural foods that can help alleviate arthritic symptoms.
What Causes Arthritis?
Arthritic joints are painful and stiff because they are inflamed. That inflammation can be caused by the bones (osteoarthritis), an infection (septic or bacterial), or an immune system that begins to attack the body (rheumatoid arthritis). Your veterinarian may suggest you treat your dog's arthritis with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl and Etogesic, natural supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, a healthy diet, acupuncture or a combination of these to help reduce inflammation.
Symptoms of Arthritis
According to the Arthritis Foundation, common signs of canine arthritis include difficulty sitting, getting up or standing; hesitancy to jump, run, play or climb stairs; weight gain; favoring a limb; sleeping more; appearing to have stiff or sore joints; attitude or behavior changes; and being less alert. If your dog has any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, take him to a veterinarian for an evaluation.
Weight: The Key to Controlling Arthritis
Overweight dogs have a greater tendency to get arthritis because of the pressure extra weight puts on their joints. Bottom line: monitor your dog's weight. You should be able to feel his ribs, but if you can see that his backbones and hip bones protrude then he's actually too thin. If you have to put your dog on a diet, try reducing his intake of starchy carbohydrates and grains, and increase his protein.
Grains—such as wheat, corn and rice—are high in carbohydrates and cause weight gain; they also increase inflammation and worsen arthritis. Sometimes eliminating grains from your dog's diet is all you need to do to manage his arthritic symptoms. Most dry foods contain grains; you will have to feed a homemade diet or find a commercial food consisting mostly of protein. Canned foods typically have fewer carbohydrates and are a good option.
More on Food
Other foods that may aggravate arthritis include plants from the nightshade family: potatoes (not sweet potatoes), tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. On the other hand, some foods have been found to help with arthritis: celery, ginger, alfalfa and tropical fruits, such as papaya and mango. You can add these foods to your dog's diet, but make sure you cook or puree them first to make them easier for your dog to digest.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.