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How common is arthritis?
Arthritis affects up to 20% of dogs over 1 year of age. While arthritis tends to be more common in large and giant dog breeds, it can occur in dogs of any size. Many other factors also increase the risk of developing arthritis, such as increasing age, being overweight or obese, and damage to joints from trauma.
What is arthritis?
Inside joints, the ends of the bones have a protective covering called cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion to protect the bones and stop them from rubbing directly against each other. When cartilage wears away faster than it can be replaced, bone and nerve endings are exposed, causing pain, inflammation, swelling and reduced mobility. Signs of arthritis include lameness, difficulty rising and jumping into the car, unwillingness to run and play, and tenderness in the affected area.
What to do if you suspect arthritis
Only veterinarians have the knowledge, skills and equipment to diagnose and treat arthritis. If arthritis is diagnosed, most vets will suggest implementing a multimodal approach to its management.
Exercise can be beneficial as long as it’s the right type of exercise. Retrieving balls and sticks and jumping into cars should be avoided, but gentle, short leash walks are encouraged. It’s great for your pet’s mental wellbeing, helps to preserve muscle, and keep that weight down!
Reduce body weight
Extra weight places strain on joints and can hasten the progression of arthritis. Arthritic dogs are in some discomfort and therefore may not want to exercise, which can exacerbate weight gain, so effective weight loss should always be part of arthritis management in overweight dogs.
Diet or joint supplements?
It’s important to question whether there is evidence that nutritional and diet supplements actually work! When evaluating evidence, consider: does it come from a reputable source; does it relate to dogs; and how was improvement measured? Advice from trained professionals is more valuable than the opinions of other dog owners, social media influencers, or self-styled nutrition “experts”.
For example, a 2012 study published in a scientific journal found that only one dietary supplement, the omega 3 fatty acid EPA, had genuine evidence of effectiveness for relieving arthritis signs in dogs.
EPA is the key nutrient in Hill’s Prescription Diets j/d and Metabolic Plus Mobility, and 82% of dogs with arthritis showed improvement in mobility and weight bearing when fed j/d.
What about glucosamine and chondroitin? The jury is out on their true benefits as the results of studies have been contradictory. Hill’s has incorporated both ingredients into j/d and Metabolic Plus Mobility, but EPA and high omega 3 levels are why the Hill’s diets work so well.
Injectables and oral medications
Pentosan polysulfate (PPS) is used by many veterinarians to manage arthritic patients. Many dogs improve on it and most owners see a positive benefit. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically prescribed for arthritis pain management. Both these medications can only be prescribed by vets.
Consult your vet if your dog shows signs of arthritis. A multimodal approach usually works best, including diets with high levels of EPA, maintaining ideal body weight, appropriate exercise, and anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications.
Queries? Contact the Hill’s Helpline - 1800 679 932 or hillshelplineANZ@hillspet.com