Pet Tips

Joint Care Diets for Dogs – Pet tip 237

Joint care diets are designed to help manage a variety of conditions, and can be a great adjunct to treatment plans that target joint-related injuries and diseases in dogs. These diets are commonly used to manage pre-existing diseases such as osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia, and alternatively, can be used as a preventive tool for large breed dogs at risk of developing joint disease. This last point is often overlooked as a reason for starting a dog on this type of diet, but it has been suggested that at least 20% of dogs less than one year of age will develop some form of musculoskeletal problem, which includes joint disease. These are often large and giant breed dogs, and these breeds are at a higher risk of developing diseases such as canine hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis. For this reason, if you have a puppy that fits into this risk category, it may be a good idea to start him or her on a joint care diet early in life as a way of helping to prevent future joint-related diseases.

What makes a joint care diet better than a regular maintenance diet is the ingredients that are added that specifically target the musculoskeletal system. Here are a few ingredients to keep in mind when comparing diets:

Glucosamine: this is a precursor for molecules called glycosaminoglycans, which are a major component of the cartilage found in joints. It is thought that by adding glucosamine to the diet, the body can use these additional building blocks to help create new cartilage, which can slow or prevent cartilage degeneration and arthritis. Another ingredient that is often added is chondroitin sulphate, which is a glycosaminoglycan itself. There are many studies that debate which of these two substances are more effective, but the general consensus in the pet food industry is to add both to joint care diets as a way of maximizing the availability of these cartilage building blocks.

Omega Fatty Acids: these are added as a way of reducing the inflammation that is a major contributor to arthritis. Inflammation is mediated by substances called prostaglandins, and research suggests that if we can alter the biological pathway through which prostaglandins are used, we can reduce the inflammatory properties of these molecules. In order to do this, pet food companies have been trying to target the building blocks for prostaglandins, which are the omega fatty acids. The most common of these fatty acids is omega-6, which is found in vegetable oils, and omega-3, which is found in fish oils. By altering the ratio of these fatty acids in the diet, researchers have found that they can reduce the amount of prostaglandins being produced, and thus reduce the amount of inflammation. Look for a ratio of omega-6: omega-3 of 5:1 to 10:1, as these ratios are thought to be most effective at reducing prostaglandin levels.

Antioxidants: these are molecules that scavenge free radicals in the body, and this scavenging helps to prevent cell damage and boosts the immune system. Free radicals are the by-product of continuously occurring oxidation reactions throughout the body, and a low level of free radicals is critical for normal body function. However, when these molecules start to accumulate, they can cause damage to cells. Within joint care diets, antioxidants help to reduce damage to cartilage cells as well as helping to prevent inflammation.

For animals already affected by joint disease, these diets can be an excellent supplement to medications that your veterinarian may prescribe. For those animals that are not afflicted by joint disease but are at a higher risk for its development, joint care diets can significantly slow the onset of the clinical signs. Several pet food companies have actually published research papers that claim to improve mobility in dogs in less than a month (for details on these studies, check out the companies’ websites). If you think that your dog may benefit from this type of diet, check out your veterinary clinic to see their selection of joint care food, as most of these diets are sold exclusively through veterinary hospitals.

By Kyla Townsend – writer

© 2010

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