Animal nutritionist and physiology expert, David Southey BSc, highlights how dog nutrition can help battle the effects of dog aging in his latest video for Fish4Dogs, a UK-based dog food company.

Dogs, like humans, suffer wear and tear on their joints as they advance in years, whereas felines generally suffer little decline in mobility. Although there is nothing we can do to prevent the effects of aging in dogs, we can minimize the reduction in joint mobility through good diet, according to Southey.

“Most joints are enclosed capsules where two bones meet,” said Southey in the video. “To prevent the bones from touching, the end of each bone is covered in cartilage and the space between is filled with fluid.”

In younger dogs, the cartilage is white, smooth and flexible — providing excellent shock absorption. However, poor nutrition, ill health, injury or aging can cause cartilage to become brittle, rough and pitted, making it less effective. This gives rise to pain and inflammation as the bones come into contact.

Southey describes cartilage as being like a wall. “The bricks are collagen and proteoglycans and the cement is sulphur-containing substances,” he said. “As we move through life, this wall is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. The problem is, as we age, the rebuilding process becomes much less effective.”

Preventing joint pain and immobility in dogs

Southey recommends glucosamine and chondroitin as they stimulate the production of those ‘bricks’ and slow the breakdown of the ‘cement’. Glucosamine and chondroitin are found within marine sources, which also have high levels of sulphur and promote “cement” production.

Another important aspect of joint pain is inflammation. Infection as well as friction can cause inflammation, which increases pressure around the joints. This can be eased through the consumption of omega 3, prevalent in fish, which has been found to be a natural anti-inflammatory, according to the video.

EPA and DHA in omega 3 found within fish-based pet foods — including treats, complete mix, toppers and rescue remedies such as Fish4Dogs SOS Salmon Oil — are most effective at reducing this inflammation.

The connection between protein and senior dog health

Southey also addresses the importance of providing “balanced protein” within a dog’s diet.

“There are tens of thousands of different proteins in our body and each one consists of a different combination of amino acids,” he said. “Some may only of a few dozen, others, several thousands. We consume protein in our diet, which is then broken down into constituent amino acids and these are reassembled in the body into the protein that it needs. A well-balanced protein such as fish has a combination of amino acids that closely match the body’s needs, while a poorly balanced protein has an imbalance which results in an excess of amino acids and the body has to get rid of the excess. This process generates ammonia which circulates in the blood until removed by the kidneys.”

In older dogs, kidney function is often reduced, leading to crystallization around the joints. Ensuring senior dogs have the right type and level of protein is essential to their overall heath and particularly to joint mobility.