Arthritis is either joint deterioration (osteoarthritis) or joint inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis). Deterioration is caused when the joint’s cartilage is worn down without being built up – this usually takes a long time, developing later in life, but can also be caused by severe injuries, or even minor injuries that go untreated. Inflammation is caused by an immune system response to the “joint capsule”, which essentially is a casing around your joints. The immune system will attack the lining of this joint capsule, called synovial membrane, which is responsible for the lubrication of the joint, allowing for smooth, painless motion. This inflammation will eventually destroy not only the synovial membrane, but also the bone and cartilage.

Osteoarthritis (deterioration) is much more common in dogs and cats, but rheumatoid is not unheard of. With both types of arthritis, it is important to build up the immune system and support the growth of new cartilage. These steps are important for all dogs and cats, but are particularly important for large and giant breed dogs – according to several vet clinics, both types of arthritis have displayed in large breed dogs as early as 6 months old.

As with any health problem, prevention is much better than solution, so we will start there. It is important to build a foundation of proper nutrition from a very early age in order to have long-term joint support. People like to talk about calcium and phosphorous for bone development, especially for large breed puppies, and while these minerals are important, they are not the only necessary component of puppy health. What also must be considered are the sources of these minerals and the state in which they are delivered, which will impact bioavailability. When they exist as part of a vitamin pack (powder added to kibble), they are simply incomplete fractions of the system necessary for actual bone development. Science shows that when vitamins and minerals are delivered to the body outside of their natural states, they are registered as unknown toxins and filtered out of the body uselessly. While calcium and phosphorous are critical for bone development, they are best delivered as part of whole, raw foods such as raw bones, organ meat, and raw milk, which are foods that can be fed throughout your animal’s life. Introducing them when your animals are young is the best way to prevent arthritis.

As was mentioned previously, another excellent way to prevent arthritis is to strengthen the immune system. Studies show that at least 84% of the immune system is based in the gut, therefore, a healthy microbiome is crucial, both in terms of arthritis and other prevalent diseases. Foods like dark leafy greens, mushrooms, raw milk, raw eggs, and fermented foods like kefir and kombucha, will go a long way towards enhancing the immune system, and should be fed at all stages of life.

Once arthritis has been diagnosed, we can still focus on rebuilding cartilage along with the immune system. To rebuild cartilage, feed foods like bone broth and raw bones, which are rich in collagen and chondroitin, and also anti-inflammatory foods like phytoplankton, fermented fish stock, and fermented raw goat milk. Doing this will take some time, but the alternative is consistent degeneration, leading to issues with the spine and nervous system, typically resulting in death. The idea that an animal can (and many do) die because of something so easily preventable and treatable is astounding.