Gene diet helps arthritic dogs

Tired of taking your old dog for a drag rather than a walk? Genetic science has come to the rescue of the one in five dogs that suffer from osteoarthritis.

A new dog food literally blocks off the genes that produce cartilage-destroying enzymes and protects the joints from further damage. It reduces the pain and slows down the disease, keeping your dog on the move. The increased mobility in itself improves the condition, as the joints themselves receive fluids as a result of movement.

"This new, revolutionary dog food has been clinically proven to improve mobility and reduce pain in as little as three weeks," according to Dr Guy Fyvie, Hill's Pet Nutrition's consultant veterinarian. He called this application of nutrigenomic (as in nutrients and genes) technology "pioneering and very exciting."

Why dogs first?
Millions of people suffer from osteoarthritis. Why was this treatment developed for dogs and not for people?

"Ultimately research dollars overwhelmingly go for research on medical matters concerning people, and this particular study was no exception. Treatment of human osteoarthritis is the ultimate goal, but it has simply been easier to develop the treatment for dogs along the way, as they respond better to the ingredients needed for this treatment than people do,"says Fyvie.

How this treatment works
The main ingredients of this new type of dog food, are Omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and and chondroitin sulphate. The fatty acids reduce the inflammation in the dog's joints, which not only minimise the discomfort, but also delay the need for, or the dosage of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medication.

Omega-3 fatty acids, when taken in large quantities by people, can lead to blood-clotting problems. But, according to Fyvie, dogs are more carnivorous than people, and are able to use fat as an energy source, without resultant health problems. Unless the ratio between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is exactly right, the diet could lead to inflammation, rather than relieving it.

Increase in canine osteoarthritis
The main reason why there is an increase in osteoarthritis among dogs, is because they are now getting much older than they used to, according to Dr Eugene Buffa, an authority on canine osteoarthritis.

"Osteoarthritis is a disease of domestication and a normal degenerative disease of old age. As in people, it is a wear-and-tear disease. In the wilds, an animal that is slowed down, because of mobility problems, will quickly become part of the food chain. Wild dogs for instance, seldom live beyond the age of seven years, while many domestic dogs easily reach double that age."

There is no cure for osteoarthritis in people or in dogs. "But," says Buffa, "the disease can be managed with a combination of weight management, exercise and pain relieving medication, says Buffa. That is apart from eating the right diet."

- (Susan Erasmus/Health24, December 2008)

- Last updated: June 2010

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