This article has been a long time coming, but as always before we do a blog post here on our website we like to make sure we have researched everything possible so that we are making the best decisions for Sammy,and so you can make even better decisions for your pet.
When Sammy became my Medical Alert and Psychiatric Service Dog in 2014 (he was previously trained for mobility assistance), neither one of us knew how demanding his job would become. Not being able to drive due to a seizure disorder, meant we were walking everywhere. This meant more walking on pavement for him, and more walking in general for the next five years. Because of this I was informed by his vet at the time that he would eventually have arthritis in his back legs. How bad it would be, whether it would affect his front legs, and how long his life would be, was anyone’s guess. What I did for him every day after becoming a working dog was becoming more important. This is when I started to make sure he ate the best, biologically appropriate diet, I could afford to give him. Investing in his health meant less vet visits throughout his life and less problems later in life, Hopefully only having to deal with the arthritis once it came to light.
Fast forward four and half years and he started to develop arthritis in his front right elbow. After reading up on Samoyeds, Golden Retrievers, and GoldenSammy’s (#goldensammy #samriever) I found out that it is common for them to get elbow arthritis, which can be found in many mixed breeds, designer dogs (yorkiepoo, goldendoodle, etc), and more commonly in over bred dogs such as shih tzus, yorkies, dachshunds, poodles, and boxers ~ just to name a few. His vet advised that he begin retirement so we took the next six months to transition him from working dog to pet.
Fast forward again two more years and now we are in the full on back leg arthritis phase.
Since our veterinarian is a Homeopathic and Conventional Vet, we started with supplements (naturopathic and homeopathic), shorter walks more often, daily massages, and a search for a new place to live where no stairs were involved and he didn’t have to walk a mile just to get outside the apartment building (and moving to the first floor was not an option). I wanted him to have a quiet, peaceful place to live out his retirement years with a nice neighborhood to walk in and a yard to call his own.
He truly deserved it, and so much more.
So on our journey we learned a lot about canine arthritis and how, just like with humans, there are many types of arthritis. There are two ways your dog would have arthritis and that they were either born with a predisposition for it (developmental), or they were caused by circumstances (acquired). The most common type of arthritis in dogs and cats is osteoarthritis (OA), also called degenerative joint disease (DJD), which develops secondary to: joint instability, hip dysplasia, CCL rupture, joint incongruity, elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis (a cartilage flap most common in the shoulder and elbow), and trauma (ie. a fracture that involves the joint).
While not as common, dogs can also develop rheumatoid arthritis (destructive/erosive form of arthritis driven by the body’s immune system affecting major joints of the limbs), immune mediated arthritis (similar in symptoms to rheumatoid arthritis, but have 3 different types with other influences including gastrointestinal issues), septic arthritis (caused by an infection), and arthritis due to systemic lupus (affects other systems within the dog’s body too, such as the kidneys, the skin, the nerves and brain. It is uncommon but should be considered in a dog showing significant signs of arthritis plus other disease processes).
I will say, as I always do, that it is up to you as the pawrent of the dog who must be aware of what is going on with them. Dogs are quiet, stoic, and don’t complain. Humans are conversationalists, discussers, and oftentimes complainers. We say when we are truly suffering in pain, even if it is just in passing without anyone else paying attention to us (or us realizing we are doing so). Dogs don’t have that luxury, nor do they think like we do. So be sure to pay attention to how your dog is acting, or not acting, especially as they get older in life. If you didn’t know, dogs do age differently based on their size. Smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs because there is less of a strain on their body throughout their life. Also certain breeds tend to live much longer (poodle, australian cattle, chihuahua, schipperke) and some tend to live much shorter lives (great danes, rottweilers, bernese mountain dogs). However, what a dog eats, drinks, breathes, and how it lives is going to determine the quality of life and the extension added to it.
There are a number of foods that we eat as humans that should not be given to your canine companion: grain, corn, fatty proteins, salt, sugar, and artificial preservatives. They have no way to utilize them, and oftentimes cannot digits them, so they can remain in the gut causing inflammation to their organs. While there are dog foods designed to aid mobility, there is little regulation of what the diet should have in it, or the purity of the ingredients. Claims can be made without the manufacturer having to prove them. So always ask your vet, research canine arthritis (or whatever disease or condition your dog may be suffering from) and remember that whole foods are always best.
So what to feed your dog?
Again, whole foods are best (BARF), but second best is canned dog foods as they have much less grain and carbs in them than kibble foods. This is because kibbles require a large number of carbs – as much as 50% – so they can go through the machinery and be extruded into kibble form. Since this process isn’t necessary for canned food, these typically have more meat protein which is good for your dog (stick to lean proteins for arthritic dogs). Canned dog food also typically has fewer chemical additives than kibble, as well as less artificial flavoring and coloring – which can all contribute to harmful inflammation. Canned foods don’t need the kind of preservatives that kibble does because they are preserved through the canning process. Also, canned food contains more water, often being around 75% liquid, which helps your dog stay hydrated. Proper hydration is key for keeping joints adequately lubricated, allowing them to move and flex as needed. Dehydration can lead to stiff tendons and ligaments, which can cause heightened pain in arthritic dogs and increase the risk of injury. Just like with humans, all the water you drink is not going to help your body if you are constantly giving it dehydrating foods (processed). If your pet is not drinking as much as they should, for whatever reason, please contact your veterinarian right away.
When looking for foods for your dog with arthritis, be sure it includes omega 3 fatty acids (never Omega 6), lean proteins, glucosamine, chondroitin, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), hyaluronic acid (HA), and Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). Unlike humans, dogs’ bodies are able to create their own vitamin C, but dogs with joint problems need more than what their bodies produce naturally. This antioxidant protects against free radicals that accelerate the aging process and aids in the absorption of the other ingredients.
There are also many other effective treatments that will help you and your veterinarian manage your dog’s arthritis for a long time, both surgical and non-surgical. In some cases, surgery might be recommended at initial diagnosis if it may slow the progression of arthritis. This is the case with cruciate ligament tears, which is similar to an ACL tear in a person. However, for dogs with osteoarthritis or hip/elbow dysplasia, your veterinarian will likely recommend a multi-pronged approach to treatment that could include: pain management, weight loss and a nutritional plan, regular, low-impact exercise, omega 3 fatty acids, supplements to protect your dog’s cartilage, physical rehabilitation and therapeutic modalities, intra-articular injections, as well as acupuncture or other complementary therapies.
As for Sammy, we have modified his eastern medicine (Body Sore), implemented supplements (VetriSciencePlus for Joints), increased his turmeric, added bone broth and mussels to his diet, reduced his food intake (so he doesn’t gain weight as his energy has slowed down), and will be trying the Assisi Loop in a few weeks. We’ll be sure to share our experience with it in a future blog post.
I hope that I have shared enough information to help you learn more, or at least just enough to help you research your own dog’s health and wellbeing.
Sammy and I appreciate you stopping by!
Until next time ~