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Structural Joint Problems in Dogs
by Beth Taylor and Steve Brown

Conditions caused by poor joint structure, like hip dysplasia, may be inherited. They may also be strongly influenced by diet and other environmental factors, both before and after birth. If cartilage deteriorates, and bone begins to rub on bone, surgery, drugs or both may be recommended. Sometimes surgery is recommended for young dogs to avoid the development of arthritis later.

A fresh food diet, a good exercise program, chiropractic and other supportive treatments won't eliminate a poorly structured hip, knee, or elbow, but they may eliminate the symptoms and the need for surgery.

We've seen great results from the strategies detailed below, and hope you'll try them before resorting to surgery.

Why Does Your Dog Hurt?
Joints float in soft tissue, which acts as a shock absorber. The stability of joints is determined by the integrity of the muscles and tendons that cross the joint. The brain gets information from every cell of the body. If all is well, the joints send information to the brain and the brain sends back information via the nervous system to tell all parts of the muscular structure what to do. If all the muscles are functioning well, the dog's hip moves as it should.

A poorly formed joint, however, is more likely to malfunction or be injured. If inflammation is present from injury, diet or disease, joint function is affected. Injuries change communication between the brain and the joint too.

When this happens, the information loop with the brain is impaired, and it deteriorates further as incorrect information is circulated. Over time, the muscles no longer support the joint properly. Your dog begins to limp. Cartilage deteriorates. Soon, bone is rubbing against bone, and your dog is in serious pain.

A veterinarian may X-ray the painful area. If a problem is seen, surgery is often recommended, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) or steroids are often prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.

Surgery as well as NSAIDs and steroids can be just as life-threatening to your pet, as they are to you. Eventually, the relief to be gained may outweigh the risks involved, but these are choices to consider only after diet, exercise and non-invasive medical supports have been explored.

A broader view of treatment focuses on healing. The goal is to improve the function of the entire body, allowing the problem area to heal. If the nervous system works properly, stability is restored to the joint. If dietary and functional causes of inflammation are removed, pain may be eliminated. The steps below will help you optimize the function of imperfect joints, and help your dog feel the very best he can.

Diet: The Major Influence on Inflammation
Feed your dog real food! Real food gives the body the raw materials to balance inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals naturally and to produce the fluids that cushion joints.

Dogs who have joint problems are often eating dry food. Dry food has more grain than any other ingredient, even if the first ingredient listed is meat. Dogs are physiologically designed to thrive on a meat-based diet. Even enhanced with glucosamine or omega-3 fatty acids, dry foods promote the production of inflammatory chemicals because the main ingredient is grain.

Inflammation and improper immune function are involved in all of these conditions:

· Irritable bowel syndrome
· Irritable bowel disease
· Leaky gut syndrome
· Arthritis
· Other immune-related conditions

Dogs with these conditions are more at risk for joint inflammation because they already have high levels of inflammatory chemicals circulating in their bodies. Radical improvement is often seen when these dogs are switched to a grain- free, fresh food diet.

Keep your dog lean! A 14-year study by Nestle Purina conclusively proved lean dogs have much less arthritis, live longer and maintain muscle mass longer into old age. (1) Those muscles will help to keep your dog moving well as he ages. If there is a joint problem, removing the stress on joints caused by excess weight is essential.
(See the list of articles at the foot of this column for other articles on food, and read our book, [] See Spot Live Longer, for more information.)

Exercise Improves Everything
Rebuilding and maintaining muscle supports joints and builds a strong nervous system to help all body systems work at their best.

Swimming is an excellent non-weight bearing exercise to build the muscles that support joints without stressing them. Free swimming gets things moving beautifully, and can quickly make a radical change in how a dog feels. When pain doesn't interfere with movement in the supportive environment of the water, the body can move normally. Dogs feel better immediately. Gradually, the communication between brain and joints improves, and muscle starts to rebuild.

When your dog feels better, he'll be ready for more weight-bearing exercise. On land, walking and trotting, use the body in natural ways. Varied terrain (mild inclines, grass in addition to pavement) provides exercise for different muscle groups. As your dog becomes more fit, alternate short bursts of sprinting until he is out of breath with walking slower until he's ready to go again.

· Always remember to build slowly and watch for signs of stress. If your dog isn't keeping up, it's not because he is lazy!
· Panting with a big tongue means, stop for a while.
· Don't exercise in hot weather unless the dog is swimming (dogs don't have efficient cooling methods).
· Support your dog hopping in and especially out of vehicles.
· Avoid overdoing exercise.
· Frequent short sessions are more effective than longer ones.
· It is necessary to push the system a bit to make progress, but if you go too far, muscles are damaged and progress is delayed. It's easy for an old guy with a little too much enthusiasm to hurt himself.
· These are just a few of many ways to improve canine fitness. Even short walks oxygenate the blood, helping the body get rid of the waste products that contribute to a dog feeling sluggish, tired and achy.

Supportive Medical Treatment
Despite the misconception by many that it's only good for moving "stuck" bones, chiropractic treatments can restore function to the nervous system, which drives all movement. When proper communication is restored, joints will be better supported by the muscles and tendons.

Most dogs respond very well to chiropractic, tending to heal and rebuild muscle quickly. Often a few visits make a radical difference in how your dog feels. Visits may be frequent at first, then scheduled further apart. A young, fit dog with a joint problem may do well on quarterly maintenance. Old dogs that have severe, long-term problems may be seen monthly for maintenance, once major issues have been resolved.

Acupuncture is very effective for pain relief, and helps to remove energetic blockages to good health in all areas.

To find a practitioner, visit the sites of the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and the American Holistic Veterinary Association. Personal recommendations may help you locate the most effective practitioner in your area.

Acupressure, Massage and Touch
Although these techniques are practiced by professionals, you can learn to use them yourself. For example, range-of-motion exercises taught in most books are of great benefit for dogs with restricted movement. Books, classes and videos provide a wide range of effective tools.

You don't have to be a medical professional to learn enough to help your animal considerably. The additional benefit is a deeper relationship with your dog!

Help Your Dog Live Longer!
We believe taking these steps may save your dog from surgery. If surgery is needed, they will help to support the fullest possible recovery. Good diet, exercise, chiropractic and acupuncture used as part of an ongoing health care program will enhance the health of any living being.
Follow the guidelines in our book, See Spot Live Longer,
[] and reduce the chance that a dog in your care will have joint problems!

Kealy Richard et al. "Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs," Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 220, No. 9, May 1, 2002. 1315-1320.
Feel free to contact Steve or Beth for more information at

DR. MERCOLA'S COMMENT: There is indeed a special relationship that exists between pets and their owners that goes far beyond the sharing of a home together. Our happy-go-lucky, four-legged friends also provide us with constant unconditional love, devotion, friendship and something else that might not be at the forefront of most people's minds -- health benefits.

If you have a dog, I highly recommend you read their excellent book, See Spot Live Longer. Using philosophies similar to my own regarding the importance of nutrition, See Spot Live Longer presents solid evidence that a good diet is just as important for dogs as it is for us. When fed a proper raw diet appropriate for their body, hundreds of people, including veterinarians, have witnessed vast health improvements in their dogs.

Authors Steve Brown and Beth Taylor, both pet health and nutrition experts, provide an all-inclusive argument for feeding your dog a naturally balanced raw meat, bone and vegetable-based diet that provides much higher quality nutrition than any dry or canned dog or cat food. By convincingly covering all the bases, readers will:

· Review case studies of dogs and cats with chronic illness that improved after fed a healthy diet of fresh food.
· Dispel the myths that are sabotaging your dog's health.
· Learn how the ancestral dog's diet compares to the modern diet dogs eat today.
· Realize the canine anatomical digest process to better understand why and when our animals are at risk from different types of food and potential toxins.
· Find out why dry and canned dog foods may be harming your dog.
· Find out what real fresh foods will protect your dog from cancer and other disease.
· Discover the importance of exercise and how keeping your dog fit will add years to its life.
· Learn practical, cost-effective solutions to feeding your dog better for a longer and healthier life.
Healthy News You Can Use 26th May, 2005
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