Arthritis in Dogs: What You Can Do at Home

Caring for your arthritic dog involves paying attention to his comfort.

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Senior DogHome-Prepared Meals
If you have the time, energy, and ability to feed your pet freshly prepared meals that meet your veterinarians specifications each day, it is the best way to provide your pet with the exact nutrients he needs without introducing any harmful chemicals or synthetic food preservatives. Preparing a meal of meat, raw vegetables, bonemeal, vitamins, digestive enzymes, and dietary supplements every day, however, is not easy. This type of food preparation demands planning, commitment, and patience in order to create a meal that is beneficial to your pet. If you have a busy schedule, preparing home meals for your pet may not be a viable option.

For those of you who are game to the idea, you will need to work closely with your veterinarian to establish a healthful diet for your arthritic pet. For background information, read The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog by Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown, D.V.M., or Its for the Animals Cookbook by Helen McKinnon. If you are a cat owner, keep in mind that a cats protein requirements are quite different from a dogs, so following a recipe for a dog will not suffice for your cat. For example, cats require some animal-origin supplements such as vitamin A and fish oil, not beta-carotene and flax oil as are commonly used in dog meals. Also, realize that the recipes are designed to provide for your pets needs. Never leave out any ingredients or change their proportions, unless you're absolutely sure its okay for your pet. If you have questions, always consult with your veterinarian.

If your pet is allergic to some meatsor you want to create a vegetarian mealproceed with great caution and under the strict supervision of your veterinarian. Cats require higher levels of protein (than dogs do) with a vitamin and amino acid mix found in meatsnot plants. Creating the correct mix through a nonmeat diet can be extremely difficult and usually is not recommended (without extensive supplementation with animal-origin foods). Dogs are carnivorous mammals (who happen to include some plant material in their diet) and in a natural environment would eat a meat-based diet along with herbs such as dandelion, Saint-Johns-wort, and others. Everything about a cats and a dogs metabolism is structured around eating meat. If your pet is allergic to one type of meat, you may want to try different kinds before feeding him a strictly nonmeat diet.

While on the subject of allergies, some practitioners believe that allergens can antagonize arthritis. If your pet has a sensitivity to a known allergen, avoid it in the pets diet. Though not necessarily allergens, food from plants in the nightshade family, such as potatoes and tomatoes, can make arthritis worse.

If you choose to purchase your pets foods, avoid products containing ethoxyquin preservatives, as well as BHA, BHT, nitrates, and nitrites. Feeding foods with these chemicals over a long period may be harmful. Keep in mind that if you feed foods without these preservatives, the food will have a much shorter shelf life. Check expiration or recommended purchase dates before purchasing foods. Also, keep store-bought food in a truly airtight container to maintain freshness. Do not feed your pet rancid or rank-smelling foodsthrow them out or return them.

Next step: Monitoring Weight and Exercise

Reprinted from The Essential Guide to Natural Pet Care for Dogs & Cats: Arthritis © 1999. Permission granted by BowTie Press.

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