Signs of joint and bone degeneration, most commonly, osteoarthritis include: stiffness, limping, discomfort during exercise, a reluctance to jump or climb and general reduced activity; osteoarthritis can also be a direct consequence of an injury, causing considerable pain. Many of our group members ask me if there is anything they can do for a dog with bone degeneration such as osteoarthritis. The answer is yes. There are many nutrients / foods that can support bone and the health of connective tissue and cartilage.
Connective tissue is the stuff that supports and connects the body including our cartilage, joints, ligaments and tendons. Connective tissue is made up of collagen and elastin, collagen holds everything together providing a scaffold for strength and structure while elastin helps tissues to resume their shape after contraction. Cartilage is a smooth, flexible tissue that provides protection to the ends of bones acting as a shock absorber. Chondroitin is a structural component of cartilage which provides a resistance to compression and creates ‘bounce’; glucosamine protect cells called chondrocytes, which help maintain cartilage structure. Damage to the cartilage can lead to pain and inflammation. Nourishing connective tissue and cartilage can help to prevent or reduce excessive degeneration.
My Top Foodie Tips for Supporting Bone Health:
A range of organic, grass-fed proteins are vital as the tissues in our body are made from single units of proteins called amino-acids which are used to repair damaged tissue and maintenance of the body. Grass-fed meat contains more omega 3 compared to grain-fed animals which is anti-inflammatory; plus reduced toxins which can cause inflammation (the very thing you are wanting to reduce).
Bone broth contains collagen but also gelatine, glucosamine, glycosaminoglycans, and glycine which help to repair connective tissue thanks to their anti-inflammatory amino-acids. Bone broth could be homemade as commercial broths often have high levels of added sugar and salt which isn’t suitable for your dog and also the quality of the bones will vary. Ideally, use organic bones as the marrow which you are extracting stores fat soluble toxins, which are best avoided.
Oily fish - most diets I analyse for customers are inflammatory - high in omega 6 and low in omega 3 which is ‘anti-inflammatory’ (that’s very simplistic and it is far more complicated that that) but oily fish is a great source of omega 3 which can help to reduce inflammation. I love mackerel, sardines, salmon, herring and spratz and studies have shown omega 3 have been shown improve movement.
Green Lipped Mussels, perhaps one or two as a weekly treat. I say as a treat because they are high in sodium (too much sodium and the body will pull calcium for the bone to maintain pH, something you wish to avoid), however, GLM’s contain mucopolysaccharides, the building blocks of tissue and an important component of cartilage. Good quality seafood also contains mucopolysaccharides, such as mussels, shrimp, prawns and oily fish. The red pigment called astaxanthin which is a powerful antioxidant (reduces inflammation and stops damage so a great win). In some cases you may wish to consider a GLM powder.
Purple foods as they contain anthocyanidins (the compounds which make foods purple); these compounds link collagen fibres together and strengthening connective tissue. Purple broccoli, purple sweet potato, beetroot and red cabbage are some of my favourites. It is important to make vegetables digestible whilst retaining nutrients, steaming and then chopping fine, mashing or blending increases digestibility.
Beef and beef liver as they are the most rich in zinc (often lacking in home-prepared diets). Zinc is required for repair and production of connective tissue. I usually feed a small amount of beef mince in every meal. Beef liver contains high levels of copper; required for the maturation of collagen. Be very moderate with beef liver as copper should be balanced with Zinc. A ice cube’s worth each day should supply copper needs for a small dog.
A lick of raw milk. Sulphur (MSM) is reduced by processing so raw milk from pastured cows / goats is the key here. Sulphate must combine with chondroitin to make cartilage and why sulphur is valuable. It is also found in meats with a lot of collagen, such as bones, trachea and connective tissue. This may not suit all dogs and opinions vary.
Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates which provide sulphur. In the process of sulfation, sulphur is used to produce Glucosamine chondroitin facilitating cartilage repair and collagen production. Cauliflower, broccoli, box choy and sprouts are some of my favourites. Vegetables should be made digestible for dogs due to their shorter digestive tract and therefore a shorter time to absorb the valuable nutrients; I chop finely, steam and then mash to aid digestibility. For the humans out there artichokes, onion and garlic are great choices too.
A piece of apple or pineapple as they contain quercetin and bromelain, respectively. Feed as a treat as they are high in sugar but valuable as they contain vitamin C which is needed for collagen production; the compounds bromelain and quercetin are also anti-inflammatory!
Not a foodie tip but some important, if not obvious ones: If your dog is suffering with osteoarthritis it is a good idea to minimise impact, such as stairs and jumping which can exacerbate degeneration. The cold and rain can impact the condition so keeping your dog off cold floors and away from drafts and in a warm bed at night can help. Short and frequent is the key when it comes to exercise and why not follow with a massage of a little warmed coconut oil can be beneficial and relaxing.
I see lots of supplements on the market, most commonly, Glucosamine / Chondroitin which are often formulated into expensive supplements. The most comprehensive long-term study has been the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) and a 2016 study called the MOVES trial which showed effectiveness but with mixed results. I often find the supplements have little effect as clients still come to me for help despite paying hundreds of pounds on supplements. Why? Most likely because other nutrients are lacking in the diet, the ones that are required to get these compounds to where they need to be ( … Vitamin C, sulphur, vitamin E, A, D, Manganese, Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Magnesium, B vitamins, the list goes on) and why aiding health is much more than a supplement or a single food. For me, it is most prudent to assess the diet rather than give supplements for long-term support.
Perhaps the three main issues I see in the clinic when analysing diets are dehydration from feeding a dry food, imbalanced calcium to phosphorus ratio and/or an imbalanced essential fatty-acid profile. If you are feeding a meat only diet and not providing calcium or If you see white stools it would be prudent to get in touch for advice; excessive calcium or deficiency can create weak or excessive bone growth. Imbalanced EFA profiles in inflammatory diets cause excessive inflammation in the body which damages the connective tissue; fixing these problems at the root cause is the very best and most effective option.
For severe arthritis, food supplements and herbs are incredibly effective but I only give our this information under consultation for safety of all concerned. If you would like a consultation please visit www.naturopathiccanine.com to find out more, it will be a pleasure to help you and I also offer a free 20 minute initial consultation to assess how I could support you and your dog best.
It is important to understand a few things: Nutrients never work alone nor do they have a single function; a complete and balanced diet is vital to make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need for optimal health long-term. This food list below should be considered as short-term help and as an addition to a current diet. Single foods should not be relied upon for any lengthy period of time as each food has a varying nutrient profile, potentially leading to imbalances within their given diet. Further, the foods mentioned will not suit all dogs as they vary in tolerance so always introduce new foods slowly. If your dog suffers from a pre-existing condition it is prudent to get in touch and ask for some advice, e.g. pancreatitis (where a low-fat diet is required and therefore oily fish is not ideal) or kidney issues (where low-protein is required) etc. The recommendations are for a healthy dog suffering from from mild symptoms of bone and joint disorders only. For additional help please visit: www.naturopathiccanine.com