Obesity and poor diet (lacking the correct nutritional elements) can contribute to the onset of arthritis in cats and dogs. Because poor nutrition affects all the cells in the body it has a detrimental effect on bone development and wear and tear which, in turn, causes arthritis.
The Pet Arthritis Resource Centre explains it this way: “Some of the most common are: Genetic malformation of bone structure that creates a misalignment of joint structures, trauma or infection to joint surfaces, torn supporting ligaments or, poor nutrition, overweight puppy during the growth process, and auto-immune disturbances”.
What this site fails to say is that many of these problems can be traced back to poor nutrition in the first place. To get a little bit technical – and discussing this on a more cellular level - Prostaglandins and Leukotrienes (in fact, an inbalance of them) contribute to arthritis. And this in turn comes back to diet, for example, via not ensuring there are EFAs in the animal’s diet.
“Bad prostaglandins are capable of attracting large numbers of leukocytes (white blood cells) to the site of inflammation, causing pain and tissue damage,” says website arthrix.com. Meanwhile, “Beneficial prostaglandins play an important role in reducing inflammation by improving cell permeability and blood flow, thereby reducing pain, tenderness and stiffness. Long-term daily intake of Essential Fatty Acids will regulate the arachidonic acid metabolism, supporting the formation of good prostaglandins and inhibiting the formation of bad prostaglandins.”
Hence, dogs and cats fed on commercially prepared foods will not receive the nutritional benefits of their cousins fed on a raw food diet which pays particular attention to the beneficial qualities of adding EFAs (among other things).
KIDNEY DISEASE & FAILURE:
Known as Chronic Renal Failure in cats and Canine Kidney Failure in dogs, it results when the kidneys are no longer able to function to their upmost ability in filtering and excreting toxins.
Healthy Pet Journal suggests an inappropriate diet is a major contributing factor to kidney disease and that dry processed foods is not recommended for those diagnosed.
As a small animal nutritionist, I recommend dry processed foods not be provided ever – diagnosis or not!
Providing plenty of fresh water is important too. According to the Healthy Pet Journal: “A low-protein, low-phosphorus and low-sodium diet may be recommended for a cat or dog with kidney disease. Some studies suggest that feeding a diet low in phosphorus may help slow the progression of kidney failure by reducing mineral deposits in the kidneys. Low-protein diets are a bit more controversial. Low-protein diets generate fewer nitrogenous wastes - high levels of which can cause nausea and vomiting. However, the diet for each cat or dog with kidney disease should be tailored to their own specific needs as indicated by the stage of the disease and the blood and urinalysis test results”.
It is important to provide a diet that is “scientifically prepared and properly balanced. Good quality commercial dry food diets are designed to reduce many diseases, including renal disease,” says website PetHealth.com.au. What this site does not bother to mention, unfortunately, is that many of these so-called ‘good quality commercial dry food diets’ are actually contributors in the first place to diseases such as kidney failure.
On a more scientific level, a cellular structure within the kidney, known as glomeruli, keep “normal blood proteins and cells in the bloodstream, while allowing extra fluid and wastes to pass through to end up in the pet’s urine … in chronic kidney disease these glomeruli are scarred and lost, or plugged up with proteins and inflammatory cells”. (Hines, 2011)
He goes on to add that once these glomeruli age and die they cannot be replaced. In other words, thanks to advances in medicine and therefore the prolonged life span of our pets, they may succumb to the disease simply because their glomeruli numbers are limited. Diet, however, still plays an important role in the contraction of this disease and having a nutritionally sound one will go a long way as a preventative measure. To finish, Billinghurst, 1998, asserts commercially produced foods with excesses of “protein, phosphorous, sodium and calcium” will eventually result in damaged kidneys.
Caroline Levin, author of the book Dogs, Diet, and Disease: An Owner’s Guide to Diabetes Mellitus, Pancreatitis, Cushing’s Disease and More, has written a fascinating article on the prevalence of autoimmune disease and how it is created.
Here is a snippet: “The phrase itself might be trite, but scientists continue to find intricate and amazing connections between diet, immune system and endocrine (hormone) function. Commercial pet food, completely processed and laden with grains and chemicals, is a chronic irritant to many dogs. In response, the body secretes cortisol – the stress hormone. Cortisol is secreted from the adrenal glands. It normally soothes inflammation and keeps the immune system in check. When irritation is excessive, however, so is cortisol release”.
She goes on to state that when the cortisol is released it causes major upset with the immune system. This can lead to a number of horrid symptoms and conditions including “increased thirst and appetite, incontinence, confusion, insomnia, seizures and chronic infection”.
She also states it can mean small animals predisposed to conditions such as cancer or autoimmune disease (where the body attacks its own tissue caused by production of auto-antibodies) will actually contract such diseases.
Levin suggests to ward off such diseases, or at least minimise their development, a raw food diet is best, and to avoid commercially processed foods. While autoimmune disease can be hereditary, other factors can include “side effects of medications, pollutants, food preservatives and pesticides” (buzzle.com) meaning society’s, in a sense, chemically toxic environment can play a significant role in its contraction. In addition, “Once a dog is affected with autoimmune disease, the susceptibility of the pet towards other dog health problems increases. For example, dog liver disease commonly occurs if the pet's immune responses are weakened. Hence, multiple autoimmune disease is often observed”. The same applies to cats who may present with more than one disease when their immune system is compromised.
Arthrix.com, 2010, What Causes Arthritis (www.arthrix.com)
Bilinghurst, Dr Ian 1993, Give Your Dog A Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs For A Long Healthy Life, Warrigal Publishing, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
Healthy Pet Journal, 2007, Dealing with Kidney Failure in Cats and Dogs (www.healthypetjournal.com)
Hines, Ronald, 2011, Kidney Disease In Dogs And Cats: Chronic Renal Problems - Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), Chronic Renal Insufficiency (CRI) (www.2ndchance.info/kidney)
Levin, Caroline, 2002, Dogs, Disease and Diet, viewed November 20, 2011 (www.b-naturals.com)
PetHealth.com.au, 2010, Kidney Disease in Dogs and Cats (www.PetHealth.com.au)
The Pet Arthritis Resource Centre, Arthritis, 2001, Arthritis in Dogs, Treatment and Causes (www.arthritis-cats-dogs.com)