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Osteoarthritis - a nutritional disease

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Osteoarthritis - a nutritional disease

As our pets go about their day to day adventures their body undergoes a certain amount of wear and tear. Joints and soft tissues endure a variety of stresses and impacts which relies on the body’s healing response to repair any damage. When the wear and tear in the joints exceeds the body’s ability to repair the damage then degeneration occurs. The degenerative disease affecting joints is named osteoarthritis, it’s when the wear and tear on the joints causes the cartilage covering the ends of the bones to break down, the membrane responsible for producing joint fluid thickens and the joint fluid lubricating the joint is reduced. Without the protection of healthy cartilage and lubricating joint fluid the bones are able to rub together which causes significant pain and inflammation for the pet. As the body ages the healing capability lessens and the rate of degeneration and discomfort experienced increases [1]. Without intervention the pet becomes reluctant to exercise and participate in previously enjoyed activities with general health declining and muscle mass lost. Weight gain often occurs and general nutritional deficiencies worsen, essentially the pet ‘gets old’ regardless of their calendar age.

Anything which increases the wear and tear on the body or decreases the body’s healing capabilities will undoubtedly contribute to degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis. Obesity substantially increases wear and tear on every joint within the body and is often accompanied by a lack of muscle tone due to poor activity levels, both of which contribute to the onset and progression of osteoarthritis[1].

Any nutritional deficiencies will impede the body’s ability to heal. If the pet is on a commercially processed diet, there are likely to be various nutrient deficiencies which are undermining their health in some way. This is due to the commercial product containing a high degree of inappropriate foods such as complex carbohydrates and being processed at high temperatures chemically altering the food into new, foreign, less digestible foods which leads to an assortment of nutrient deficiencies. Add to this the inclusion of dangerous, some even carcinogenic, additives and preservatives and you have a recipe for premature degeneration. The commercial diet, with it’s inappropriate and inflammatory foods, ordinarily challenging the pet’s immune system on a daily basis, the pet will not only be lacking the nutrients required to heal sufficiently but will also lack the immunological capability to do so[2].

Just as a poor diet can contribute to premature ageing and degenerative disease, a raw, balanced, species appropriate diet can support a healthy body and slow any premature ageing and degeneration. When constructing the diet additional supplementation to rectify any nutritional deficiencies present should be included. A number of foods support healthy bones, joints and cartilage which make excellent dietary additions such as Shark cartilage, Dolomite and Green lipped mussel. In addition, providing some support for a healthy immune system is always warranted with some good vitamin C rich foods and an Omega 3 supplement such as Flaxseed oil. There are a number of drugs available to assist with pain and inflammation, but this should ideally be done naturally via an optimised diet to avoid any unwanted side effects that medications often present. There are a number of plants which have pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties such as Devils claw and ginger, both of which are useful additions to the arthritic pet’s diet [1].

Exercise is very important for arthritic pet with gentle walking or swimming recommended, this will also assist with maintaining, or restoring, a healthy weight for the pet.


[1] Syme, B. 2011. Scientific Guide to Natural Nutrition. Southbank, Australia: Vets All Natural Pty Ltd. [2] Billinghurst, I. 1993. Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing.

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