The body's defense system - the immune system - triggers an inflammatory response to heal the damaged zone (with arthritis this means, the joint, joint fluid and cartilage). Inflammation caused by osteoarthritis can be milder than that caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis, but there are flare-ups. These flare-ups can add to pain and discomfort, can cause tenderness and swelling, and tremendous stiffness. So on certain days, you might see the signs quite evidently and some days the signs might not be there all together. We tend to put it out of our minds thinking, it's all ok now. But the thing with chronic pain is that we learn to live with it and adjust to it being a constant companion. Only on days that it gets severe, we might notice it in our dogs. Without being able to observe the subtle signs of pain in our dogs - signs that are so different from the ones we humans show - our dogs might suffer in silence. So do not ignore them. Inflammation is a vital part of healing. It is required to draw our attention to the body part that needs attention.
We have to learn how to recognize the signs to be able to help our dogs.
All the signs discussed in the previous article start small- as minor shifts in behaviour, habits, standing or sitting postures, walking/ gait, sensitivity to being touched or petted in certain parts - that we often forget when they started. It becomes “normal”. We need to pay close attention because our dogs are simply not going to say to us... "Oh I have such a bad back pain today, can we skip the "sit" and "stay" or "come here" X 20 times a day please?" The thing about dogs that we love so much is that they love to please us. So they will do everything they are told even when in chronic pain. When do we notice something's not right? When they start refusing to get up or start to move minimally. But by then, most times, the pain is very severe.
Obesity or being even slightly overweight can start a chain reaction of inflammation in the body that can cause many serious diseases and make existing Arthritis worse. A holistic approach with a detailed and progressive nutritional plan is the ONLY way to go. A good way to check if your dog is overweight is to look at the Body Condition Score chart which will give you a detailed understanding of your dog’s weight. Any diet that remains static through the weight loss will eventually fail to achieve its goals. Excessive exercise is a human concept which does not work well for humans anyway, but certainly doesn't with dogs and makes matters much worse. Dogs who are already suffering from cellular inflammation can have extremely adverse physical, mental and behavioural problems when made to over-exercise. The definition of "over-exercising" is so subjective, that I prefer focusing on functional movements and adequate exercise instead. It gets doubly confusing when parents are often recommended by their medical practitioner to do longer walks and runs to shed the undesirable weight and to "help" Arthritis. Nothing could be further from the scientific truth of the matter!
Obesity in dogs has been declared the No. 1 avoidable chronic lifestyle disease. We have gotten accustomed to looking at cute, fluffy and chubby dogs and perceive it as the new “normal” so much so that we do not remember what a healthy weighing dog looks like in certain breeds. If your dog is overweight, the time to act is NOW.
It is extremely important to make sure your dog is of the right weight to prevent and heal inflammation and pain. The "right weight" is not marked by a number on a chart, or determined for a breed in general. A "Body Condition Score" is required to determine your dog’s correct weight, and take the necessary steps to achieve it. It is important to deal with this issue in a gradual and steady way, with the help of the right nutrition. Gradual weight loss, when done correctly, not only reduces inflammation but also rebuilds immunity and reduces the risk of cancer, cardiac, kidney and liver dysfunctions. Cutting the food in half (A popular social media advise given) is not just going to set you up for failure, it is down right cruel to do that to a living being. It is most likely NOT the dog's fault that he is overweight, and it is just NOT right to punish them in this manner in order to loose weight! Worst of all, this will NOT reduce weight anyway...
When treating arthritic dogs holistically, the first factor to examine is the dog’s lifestyle, especially weight and exercise patterns. Obese and even mildly overweight dogs have more mobility problems than their lean counterparts. Often, weight loss and reduction of stress on the joints are sufficient to help these dogs regain proper functioning. A species-appropriate diet is important to help dogs reduce weight and remain healthy. As with humans, 90% of weight loss is achieved in the kitchen, 5% is attributed to the right kind of physical movement, and 5% is attributed to reducing stress. It is NO DIFFERENT for our dogs. It is important to remember that some foods like certain fats, carbs and dairy products may worsen inflammation and harm joint functions.
As Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine". Consuming the right nutrients in the right proportion is important in maintaining good health and well being. Dogs need to be on a diet most appropriate to their species and health condition. Therefore, it is important to customize meal plans for dogs. Groundbreaking research has been conducted on functional foods and nutrients to help dogs gain optimum health and vitality. All of them point towards the same thing:
WE MUST FEED FRESH.
WE MUST FEED SPECIES SPECIFIC.
WE MUST FEED CHEMICAL FREE & UNPROCESSED FOOD.