Arthritis is a frustrating condition that decreases the quality and quantity of a dog’s life, and can affect both young and old dogs. In the past, arthritis used to be difficult to manage, but fortunately, medical and surgical advancements in veterinary medicine give pet parents more options than ever to manage canine arthritis.
The most important thing any pet parent can do for a dog diagnosed with arthritis is to make sure that dog is thin. Fat cells are very bad behaviored cells: the bigger they get, the more of a bad hormone they give off, causing increased appetite, decreased metabolism, and the release of a painful enzyme into the joints causing the joints to become painful. As fat cells shrink, all of this reverses.
An overweight dog is not a healthy dog: he or she has a lowered immunity, tires more quickly, and has a lowered immunity. Being overweight is the primary factor in making the signs of arthritis worse AND causing arthritis to progress faster, and the more a dog weighs, the more medication costs.
A 2001 report by the Pet Nutrition Department of Nestle Purina completed a 15 year longevity study in Labrador Retrievers, and guess what they found? The dogs that were fed a low-calorie diet and were fed 25% less than the control group lived, on average, 22 months longer and had a lower incidence and later onset of chronic diseases, including arthritis.
How do you know if your dog is overweight? Your veterinarian can help you with this: he or she will use a chart called a body condition score (BCS – see the next page), which is a scale of 1 to 9 (or 1 to 5 depending on the chart they utilize) that is used to judge the amount of fat on a dog’s body. A BCS of 1 is a severely underweight dog, a BCS of 9 is a severely obese dog, and a BCS of 4-5 is just right. You can tell if your dog has a BCS of 4-5 at home by feeling their ribs when they are standing: if you can feel ribs but not see them, that is the right body condition. Another guide is the back of your hand: if your dog’s feel like the back of your hand, that is ideal, if they feel like the palm of your hand, that is too heavy.
Ask your veterinary team for assistance in determining your dog’s BCS, a healthy weight, and a total daily calorie count for your dog. If your dog is overweight, it is also a good idea to get your veterinarian involved before you start a weight loss program in order to eliminate the possibility that your dog has concurrent problems. For example, hypothyroidism or cushings syndrome are common hormonal conditions that can make it difficulty, if not impossible, for your dog to lose weight without treatment.
If your dog is overweight, utilizing a high quality weight loss diet like Life’s Abundance Weight Loss can help facility healthy weight loss.
Sarah J. Wooten, DVM
Paving new roads to wellness… every day.