Cody has a bad case of arthritis in his hips. Over the past couple of years it’s changed the way he walks and tries to lie down. He moves his twelve year-old body slower and more deliberate when he walks and quite honestly he uses a technique to lie down that I’ve never seen before. He tucks his back legs under his stomach and gradually plops down to the ground. It’s heartbreaking to watch him change from a high energy guy to a senior dog.
To help relieve some of Cody’s stiffness and inflammation I’ve started a quest to find the best supplements for older dogs. Today I’m sharing two important supplements for aging dogs because the chances are very good that your senior dog will one day suffer from arthritis too.
Arthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints. Dogs are affected most often in their elbows and hips. Veterinarians often prescribe NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Rimadyl and Etogesic) to stop the pain, but there are also natural supplements that can improve the condition.
Glucosamine supplements protect a dog’s joints by rebuilding cartilage and restoring joint fluid. They come in a tablet, liquid and even an injectable form that is best given at a separate time from a meal. Glucosamine supplements do not show immediate signs of working. Dogs are given a “full load” dose at first and then taper down to a maintenance level. This takes about three to four weeks. After that time there should be visual signs of improvement. If not, it might be necessary to change to a different brand of the supplement.
There are lots of commercial brands of glucosamine on the market, but it is extremely important to purchase a quality brand with a proven track record. Make sure it also includes manganese for high absorption. The Whole Dog Journal recommends these brands of glucosamine which are backed by science: Arthroplex, Syn-Flex, Synovi-G3, Flexile-Plus and K-9 Glucosamine.
Some pet parents also add hy-aluronic acid to their glucosamine supplement. HA was originally injected into arthritic horses, but now there are oral forms that work for dogs. Brands that have a proven record are: Synthovial 7, Hyaflex, Trixsyn and K-9 Liquid Heath Glucosamine and HA.
Another important supplement for aging dogs is the family of omega-3 fatty acids. These are the good polyunsaturated fats that reduce inflammation and improve overall health by feeding every cell in your dog’s body. They are called essential because they are nutrients which cannot be produced by the body and must be consumed through food or a supplement. Without the proper balance of omega-3s dogs can suffer from a wide variety of health problems.
Omega-3s are primarily found in cold water fish oil. They are made from two fatty acids called EPA and DHA. Together they form a hormone-like compound that supports a healthy immune system.
Omega-3s work in conjunction with omega-6 fatty acids that come from animal fats and vegetable oils. Nature intended these two fatty acids to work together best when they are kept in a specific ratio of 5:1 of omega-6s to omega-3s.
The Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids
When the ratio is kept in check they benefit the health of a dog in these ways:
- Immune system health
- Skin and coat health
- Joint health
- Heart health
- Brain development and maintenance
Commercial Dog Food
Commercial pet food manufacturers rely heavily on using animal fats in their food. This has thrown off the delicate balance between the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids causing chronic health issues in senior dogs. While a young dog might remain healthy even with the higher levels of omega-6s, the health of older dogs is being impacted so the addition of a supplement can help.
Like glucosamine it is equally important to select a high quality brand of omega-3 supplements. Be sure to consider the source of the ingredients, the concentration of fish oils and the quality control involved in processing. Two supplements that have been recommended to me are: Bonnie & Clyde Fish Oil and Nordic Naturals.
There are two things you need to remember about omega-3s. They must be stored in the refrigerator to prevent the product from becoming rancid. Light, heat and air can oxidize the fatty acids, causing free radicals to form. And fatty acids have been known to increase bleeding times, so let your veterinarian know that you are considering this supplement for your dog.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian so please be sure to discuss these supplements with your personal veterinarian before adding them to your dog’s diet. Every dog is different and the state of their health may not warrant a specific supplement.
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