Arthritis doesn’t necessarily care if the dog is young or old, but the older ones are the most likely to have the problem and I have a thing for old dogs. They’ve given us their whole lives and now they need us more than ever.
Age is not a disease. Your older dog doesn’t need less protein in the diet – he or she needs more! It’s been proven a number of times, most notably by Purina and let’s face it – there’s no financial benefit to a dog food manufacturer to say that the more expensive ingredient in dog food should be increased. The ideal amount is said to be in the vicinity of 34%, but this is debatable since the quality of that protein matters as does the health status of the dog.
My protein of choice is fish. The fresh variety, not the canned because canned is high in sodium and those that contain bones (think salmon, mackerel, etc) can add more calcium than we want for a certain diet. Mostly though, canned fish can add whopping amounts of vitamin D which may or may not be suitable, or necessary in certain diets and for specific dogs. The bonus of using fish and especially the fattier varieties (salmon, cod, etc) is that they provide omega 3 fatty acids. Important for brain, eyes, skin, heart and kidneys, but also anti-inflammatory which is exactly what we want for dogs with arthritis.
Maintain slim body weight. No, not a skinny dog, but trim down if need be so the joints aren’t burdened with excess weight. Get the dog moving. Easier said than done when joints hurt, but gentle exercise is helpful. A short stroll, even if it’s just in the yard, can be a start.
Antioxidants can be helpful and I aim for a diet that provides them naturally. Brightly colored vegetables and fruits, a little grated lemon or tangerine rind and Antioxidant Booster has helped many a dog. Wild salmon oil (read my earlier post: What’s in Your Fish Oil?), if you don’t feed fish (I’m not talking about commercial diets here), vitamin E, Joint Complex…and believe it or not, digestive enzymes. I’m not sure why that is. Proteolytic enzymes help people with rheumatoid arthritis, but osteoarthritis is a totally different thing. I saw a connection between digestive enzymes and improvement in arthritic dogs about eight years ago. Actually, I probably saw it before, but didn’t put it together. Since then, I’ve used them in combination with diet and joint supportive supplements and the difference can be quite something.