Food for Thought on Dogs with Arthritis

In dog training, Dogs, pet care professional, Pet Food Industry, Pet Industry, Pet Safety, senior pets, vet tech, veterinarian by Cara Armour

For Pro Pet Hero
Blog post by Arden Moore, Pro Pet Hero Instructor Director and Master Pet First Aid/CPR Instructor

While you can’t reverse the age clock ticking inside your dog, you can take steps to slow down the aging process and ease achy joints by making smart food choices and modifying walks and other activities.

Like many of you, I’ve done my best to make the golden years truly golden for my recent senior pets, Chipper and Cleo, who lived to be 14 and 18, respectively. But I also realize that arthritis does not discriminate. It can strike any person and any dog.

By definition, arthritis (technically called osteoarthritis) is a degenerative joint disease. “That means that the lubricating surfaces between the bones aren’t effective,” says Gary Weitzman, DVM, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society. “This causes instability in the joint and erosion of the cartilage between the bones. In time, the erosion causes bone to
run on bone, causing pain. In dogs, the most commonly affected joints are the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip and knee.”

Dr. Weitzman shares his home with Betty Crocker, a 16-year-old pit bull mix who isn’t letting her stiff joints stop her from enjoying sofa time with him. I recently had the chance to see both of them during a trip to San Diego.

“Arthritis is seen a lot in large- and giant-breed dogs, including Bernese Mountain dogs, German Shepherds, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers and Saint Bernards,” says Dr. Weitzman, the author of National Geographic’s Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior and Happiness (2019). “But we know today that our feline friends, rabbits, rodents and even reptiles
can suffer from joint degeneration and arthritis.”

In fact, research conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention discovered that more than 1 in two adult dogs in the United States are overweight. A dog who carries extra pounds is at greater risk for not only arthritis, but also diabetes and heart disease. Extra fat tissue impairs mobility but these tissues also secrete hormones that propel pain in dogs.

Don’t Stop Exercising Your Dog

What can you do to prevent arthritis in your dog – or, at least, provide pain relief? Pick the right exercise and select healthy foods and supplements that can ease the aches and pains. Keep your older dog from morphing into a canine couch potato by modifying his daily exercise routine. He may no longer be able to fly after that ball you tossed across the backyard. Still get
him up and moving by rolling a ball a shorter distance in the yard or inside your home. Don’t give up daily walks – just modify them. Most dogs love getting the chance to leash up and sniff, smell and explore the outdoors. When your dog was young, he may have easily walked for an hour at a fast clip on all type of terrain. Now that he is older, he may benefit by 20-minute
daily walks at a slower pace on a level terrain, such as sidewalks.

dog swimming
If your dog likes water, consider treating him to swimming in a pool or walking on a water treadmill. Both are non-joint-jarring exercises. For dogs who are too fat or too weak, other options include access to a bathtub or hot tub. What you put in your dog’s food bowl and dole out as treats can also aid your arthritic dog. “Keeping your dog at a lean, healthy weight is absolutely crucial in preventing or alleviating arthritis symptoms,” says Karen Becker, DVM, an integrative wellness veterinarian and co-
founder of the Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute. “If I could drive home one major point to pet parents, it is this: food heals or food harms.”

anti-inflammatory foods

Here is a rundown of some arthritis-fighting foods that help ease some of the joint pain and reduce inflammation:
1. Green-lipped mussels. They contain glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Wild-caught salmon (not from fish farms), herring and sardines. All these are packed with omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Apples, blueberries and cranberries. These fruits are low in fructose (sugar) and loaded with anti-inflammatory agents and fiber.
4. Leafy green veggies, especially kale and spinach. These greens contain antioxidants.
5. Lean proteins, including chicken breast, turkey and grass-fed meats minus any seasoning or
skin. These proteins support muscles while protecting aging joints.

Work with your veterinarian on selecting supplements to benefit your dog’s specific health condition and needs to reduce inflammation and ease arthritic pain. Some popular supplements include:
* Chondroprotective agents (CPAs), such as glucosamine sulfate, MSM, eggshell membrane and
adequan (intramuscular injection). “These CPAs slow the rate of cartilage degeneration,” says Dr. Becker. “Start your active dog on these now while his joints appear to be healthy and pain free.”
* Turmeric root powder. This spice has shown in studies to reduce arthritic inflammation.
* Cinnamon, ginger and yucca. All three are packed with antioxidants, but a little goes a long way. Do not give your dog too much of any of these.

Parting message: “Letting a dog just sleep all day is the worst thing to do for achy joints,” says Dr. Becker. “Dogs need t move their bodies more, not less, as they age, but in a purposeful, controlled manner.”

Learn Pet First Aid

Learn more on ways to keep your cats and dogs safe by visiting Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR–ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home
page for more details.