Hip dysplasia is a very distressing disease for both you and your dog. Because of their stoic nature and desire to keep up with their “pack,” subtle symptoms may go unnoticed. But early detection and diagnosis is key for hip dysplasia, so if your dog is of a breed prone to this disease, make sure you stay vigilant for signs like stiffness when getting up, tiring on walks, wobbly gait in the rear, reluctance to jump, and other indications of pain.
Factors that cause or aggravate hip dysplasia include genetics, excessive nutrition, and extreme activity in puppies.
Genetics is considered the primary factor, but dysplasia can develop in dogs from healthy lines, or not develop even in lines with poor hip conformation. There certainly are things we can do to reduce the risk for our dogs.
The first rule: keep your dog lean. Feeding large breed puppies high-calorie food, extra mineral supplements, or allowing free-choice access to food, can lead to too-rapid growth and skeletal problems. In adults, excess food or treats–will lead to obesity, which stresses the joints and virtually guarantees arthritis. A well-balanced, species-specific diet like the Paleo Dog diet will help prevent obesity and consequent joint damage.
There is some evidence that, for puppies, excessive activity like running up and down stairs many times a day, or doing a lot of jumping (for balls, Frisbees, etc.), may also contribute to later hip problems. Moderate exercise that develops healthy musculature, such as running and swimming, are more beneficial, and may help stabilize a weak joint. Restricting strenuous activity for a large-breed puppy’s first 6-10 months may help prevent future problems.
Many nutritional interventions have been tried for hip dysplasia. There is some thought that giving puppies extra Vitamin C helps reduce the risk of dysplasia. This hasn’t been proven, but it makes sense. Even though dogs produce their own Vitamin C, in a modern world full of pollution and stressors, their native supply may be inadequate. It’s likely that antioxidant supplementation in general would be equally beneficial.
Another common recommendation is for glucosamine and chondroitin. These are components of joint cartilage, and so can help rebuild it to the extent possible. Cartilage has no blood supply of its own, and has to get nutrients from the fluid within the joint; so it takes several weeks of supplementation for these to build up to sufficient levels in that fluid. Studies have not been conclusive as to the benefit of these supplements, but many people feel that they have helped their dogs a great deal. And there is some evidence that supplementing glucosamine beginning around age 1 or 2 may help reduce the risk of arthritic hips down the road.
The one nutrient that has been proven to help dogs with arthritis is Omega-3 fatty acids. There are many Omega-3s, but the important ones in this regard are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The best source for carnivores is, of course, the most natural source… animals! But while prey animals eating their natural diet would provide those Omega-3s to the hunter, the high-grain diet of modern livestock and poultry means our meat supply is nearly devoid of the healthy Omega-3s and overloaded with inflammatory Omega-6s. Since most commercial pet food is made from the leftovers of human food processing, our pets also tend to be seriously deficient.
So where can we get good, natural Omega-3s for our dogs? The best source is marine animals, like fish and shellfish such as mussels.
Omega-3s are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. They specifically inhibit pro-inflammatory cellular messengers that would otherwise stimulate an excessive immune response, thereby minimizing inflammation and pain.
There are many Omega-3 products available today. Flaxseed and other plant oils contain the Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, but dogs and cats can’t convert it to EPA and DHA. Ocean pollution may contaminate oils extracted from fish and fish liver. Salmon oil comes mostly from farmed fish, who are fed all manner of toxic fungicides, antibiotics, and other drugs; they do have Omega-3s, but they also contain a large amount of unhealthy fats that our pets don’t need.
We believe that the best source of Omega-3s for our dogs is the New Zealand greenlip mussel (Perna canaliculus). These mussels are grown in the beautiful, pristine waters of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sound, far from the polluted waters of the north Pacific. These small but mighty mussels contain an array of 18 Omega-3 fatty acids including EPA and DHA, but also the little-known Eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA). According to research, ETA may be even better than EPA or DHA as an anti-inflammatory.
The best greenlip mussel oil we have found is called MOXXOR. Along with greenlip mussel oil are powerful antioxidants from sauvignon blanc grape seeds and kiwifruit seeds (which contain all 8 members of the Vitamin E family) to maintain freshness, and kick the anti-inflammatory capabilities of the combination into high gear. (Click here to learn more about MOXXOR.)
Greenlip mussel oil is a whole food derived product, so the fatty acids remain in their most bioavailable state. It only takes a little greenlip mussel oil to produce great benefits for our dogs (not to mention humans, and even cats!).