This article is a collaborative effort between W. Jean Dodds, DVM and Adam J. Lassin, DVM.
Like most humans our pets can develop arthritis as they age. All joints can be affected; hips, shoulders, wrists and elbows. Our pets will begin to show signs of arthritis by being less active, lame, trouble getting up, and reluctance in jumping and lethargic. The main treatment offered by conventional veterinary visits includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prescription diets, glucosamine/chondroitin and Adequan injections. However, there are many more holistic/alternative options we have to help decrease inflammation secondary to arthritis, detoxify toxins that promote the inflammatory response, and repair/improve joint health.
Diet alone is one of the most important factors in helping improve our pets’ quality of life when it comes to arthritis. Most veterinarians will prescribe prescription diets that contain grains (glutens) and have joint supplements added to the kibble, along with anti-inflammatory medications. Most of the NSAID medications can cause damage or injury to tissues of the liver, kidneys, and bone marrow with long term use. Many processed grains and omega-6 fatty acids contain pro-inflammatory precursors found in some of these commercial diets. Another common ingredient found in pet food is white potato, which has been shown to promote inflammation, as have other members of the nightshade family of plants, such as peppers and eggplant. The sweet potato surprisingly has anti-inflammatory properties, a fact largely unknown to many people. Please remember that it is a different plant species from the white potato. Nutrigenomics, described below, can be applied to optimize our pets’ diets to help decrease the inflammatory response in the body.
Nutrigenomics is a new emerging science that studies the molecular relations between nutrition and the response of genes in promoting health. Applying nutrigenomic principles has shown that the diet possesses significant health promoting properties including the management of pain, and not that just caused by arthritis. Diet plays an important role which can alter gene expression and protein/metabolite production. Specific nutrients found in the diet change the body’s response in a form defined as a “signature” or “molecular dietary signature”.
There are five basic concepts of Nutrigenomics. The diet can be a serious risk factor for a number of diseases. Ingredients found in certain foods act on the animal’s DNA make-up directly and indirectly to alter gene expression. Nutrigenomics affects every individual differently based on that individual’s genetic makeup. Various foods act upon certain regulated genes in the body that effect the onset, incidence, progression, and/or severity of chronic diseases, such as arthritis. Based on an individual animal’s nutritional requirement and DNA, diet can be used to prevent, treat, or cure chronic disease.
Nutrients, amino acids, vitamins and supplements found in food can be used to balance and strengthen the immune system. Immune function requires many key nutrients that includes zinc, selenium, vitamin E, vitamins B12 and B6, vitamin C, vitamin D, linoleic acid, and carotene (lutein and beta-carotene). Many natural sterols and sterolins found in fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants combine to improve immune system homeostasis. Natural antioxidants include vitamin E and C, citric acid, rosemary, turmeric (curcumin), oregano, and blueberries.
Many alternative supplements are available for our pets which can accomplish the above:
- Glucosamines from shellfish, bones, and some fungi are precursors of the glycosaminoglycans found in joint cartilage.
- Grape Seed Extract is a powerful antioxidant. It also has anti-carcinogenic and strong anti-inflammatory properties.
- Bee Pollen has been used for many different properties including its anti-inflammatory function. More of the health benefits of bee pollen such as anti-cancer and its antibiotic properties, and immune boosting have not been fully explained.
- Royal Jelly is milky substance made from digested pollen, honey, and a chemical secreted from the pharyngeal glands in the heads of worker bees. It is used for its anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties similar to that of Bee Pollen.
- Ginger is used mostly for digestion, but also for arthritis.
- MSM (MethylSulfonylMethane) acts as a natural anti-inflammatory for joints.
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (ALA, EPA, DHA) come from many fish and plant oils of wild salmon, sardines, herring, cod, trout, green lipped mussel, anchovies, krill, algae extract, flax seed, hemp, olive, canola , and soybean. These are used for their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Propolis (resin) is found on the buds, bark and leaves of deciduous trees and some vegetables, and can be used for its analgesic pain controlling properties.
- Deer or Elk Velvet helps alleviate arthritic symptoms by rebuilding cartilage, improving joint fluid, increasing tissue and cellular healing times, and improving circulation. It contains many beneficial ingredients; proteins, amino acids, collagen, lipids, minerals/trace elements; calcium, phosphorus, sulphur, magnesium, potassium, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, cobalt, growth factors, glycosaminoglycans, glucosamine, chondroitin, phospholipids, prostaglandins, and hyaluronic acid. Growth Factor IGF 1 (Insulin growth factor) and IGF 2 are both found naturally in deer and elk velvet. IGF 1 influences cellular growth that involves every cell in the body. Muscle, cartilage, bone, and many other organs in the body are positively affected. IGF 2 works with IGF 1 to promote cellular growth and organ development.
- Green Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus) decreases inflammation by inhibiting enzyme which is responsible for transforming essential fatty acids into inflammatory leukotrienes(mediators of inflammation from white blood cells). Contains important nutrients, proteins, amino acids, glycosaminoglycans, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, and proteoglycan.
- Thymus Glandular enhances, improves, and maintains a strong immune system.
- Green (or Black) Tea Leaf Extract has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which come from the tannis and polyphenols in teas.
- DLPA (D,L Phenylalanine) is an essential amino acid and endorphin stimulant to help control chronic bone and muscle pain.
- Turmeric (curcumin) is a relative of ginger, comes from the middle east; India and Pakistan. It is a potent antioxidant. It also has anti-carcinogenic and strong anti-inflammatory properties.
- Traumeel (by Heel) is a popular homeopathic remedy for aches & pains. The ingredients include Aconitum napellus (wolfsbane), Arnica montana (leopard’s bane), Belladonna (deadly nightshade), Bellis perennis (garden daisy), Calendula officinalis (marigold), Chamomilla (ground apple), Echinacea (purple cone flower), Hamamelis virginiana, Hepar sulphuris calcareum, Mercuris solubilis, Millefolium, Symphytum officinale. (comfrey).
- Other useful supplements include boswellia, andrographis paniculata (King of bitters), hawthorn, licorice, nettle leaf, yucca root, raw apple cider vinegar, and willow bark (relative of aspirin, but do not combine with NSAIDs), and other herbal therapies.
“Wholesome nutrition is a key component for maintaining a healthy immune system and resistance to disease.”