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What do orthopaedic issues in our dogs have to do with the food we are feeding them?

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

Skeletal diseases can happen at any stage of our pet’s life and are not always the result of an accident or injury. In fact, most cases of debilitation in the muscles, bones and soft tissues start long before we can see the signs and symptoms. They all have to do with the inability of bone tissue and cartilage to grow or repair itself properly and ossify due to inappropriate nutrition. “Endochondral ossification” requires the right amount of nutrients and exercise to produce a healthy bone or grow cartilage back e.g. after trauma to heal to a satisfactory result. Sadly, many breeding dogs that are fed a commercial diet produce puppies that are born with or develop issues that don’t show until later in life e.g. oestochondrosis (OCD) which can lead to different types of skeletal diseases such as hip or elbow dysplasia. Many pet owners realise that feeding supplements can help alleviate some of the symptoms and pain and can increase the quality of life. However, hardly any dog or cat parents understand that their pet’s everyday diet is critical in an overall attempt to prevent skeletal diseases or eliminate them.

First of all, we need to recognise that pain, disease and an “abnormality” to good health is a stressful event and therefore we need to increase the animal’s Vitamin C intake. Diane Stein explains: “A deficiency in vitamin C is a deficiency in the healing, glandular, circulatory, immune and regenerative abilities of the body. It is a major factor in the formation and maintenance of bones and tissues…” (1993, pg. 62). For arthritis and hip dysplasia, she also recommends maintaining an appropriate level or supplement with Vitamin D, E and A, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium and Vitamin B complex.

Another vital micronutrient for bone health is Boron as it is responsible for calcium to be bound to the bone structure. This is what gives the bones their strength as the minerals calcify most of which is calcium. Boron is found in bones that the dog or cat would eat raw in the wild but can also be derived from vegetables. It is important to note that the levels of Boron are dependent on the soil quality of where the food comes from or the prey animal has been feeding so it is recommended to source organic produce and meat.

When placing a dog or cat that suffers from any of the skeletal diseases on a raw diet, one major benefit straight away is, that they will most likely drop a kilo or so, meaning that they will gain a closer result to their appropriate weight. This alone can eliminate a lot of tension in the joints and better their mobility. Plus, a species-specific diet is naturally anti-inflammatory. Many of the above mentioned minerals and vitamins are included in a balanced and varied raw diet consisting of meaty bones, offal, greens, vegetables, fruits and especially berries for anti-oxidants, apple cider vinegar with live cultures as well as limited amounts of dairy, eggs, grains and legumes should make a huge improvement in the affected dog or cat but we can take additional considerations on board when it comes to joint care, bones and tissue growth. One of them is avoiding any foods that could “feed” inflammation in the body e.g. spices or fruits. Adding EFA’s (essential fatty acids) as well as glucosamine can be part of the normal diet from different types of food like green lipped mussels, chicken feet, bones, trachea or added as oils e.g. krill, hempseed, cod, salmon or in supplements such as Antinol rapid or Adequan. These foods plus pumpkin seeds and oysters also provide natural zinc which is important for normal skeletal development and collagen synthesis.

An easy natural and nutrient packed food for skeletal health is homemade bone broth. This can be used to transition the dog or cat from commercial to raw foods and will not only help with digestive issues but the glucosamine and chondroitin in it will be beneficial for collagen production which is essential to restore cells in the tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones. It is also full of minerals and vitamins that come out of the bones that have been used to make the broth.

So, you see, what you feed your dog is super-important in order to help improve their overall health and to support animals that show signs of arthritis, hip / elbow dysplasia, ligament damage, luxating patella, Wobbler’s syndrome, and many other musculo-skeletal issues.


· Stein, Diane, 1993, Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats, The Crossing Press Inc. Freedom, USA

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