Dogs are among the earliest animals to be domesticated by humans, so there is a deep understanding between the two and interestingly, both are prone to inflammatory conditions.
Dog inflammation results from a biological response to harmful stimuli like disease-causing microbes (pathogens), irritants, or damaged cells. Essentially, inflammation is part of the body's protective mechanism and typically involves blood vessels, immune cells, and molecular compounds that repair the body.
Inflammation in dogs can also be caused by autoimmune disorders. This is where the body's immune system attacks healthy body cells by mistaking them for invaders.
Usually, when the body is infected, the immune system sends white blood cells to the affected area to get rid of the infection. This is accompanied by increased blood flow to the infected part. The blood vessels become more permeable, allowing antibodies and other body-repairing compounds to leak into the affected tissue and surrounding areas.
So while inflammation is ordinarily a good thing, it has its downsides. For example, the affected area becomes red and swollen. The swelling increases pressure while healing chemicals like histamine and bradykinin stimulate the nerves causing pain. So any time your dog has an inflammatory condition, it is most likely in pain.
Although not much is known about the effects of inflammation on dogs, experts believe it may have similar effects as it does on humans. What is known is that inflammation is the leading cause of pain in dogs.
Let's look at the signs of inflammation in dogs.
- Inflammation is a key part of the body's way of protecting itself
- Chronic inflammation can lead to the development and proliferation of diseases
- The symptoms of inflammation vary with the affected part, but fatigue, loss of appetite, and disinterest are common.
- Inflammation in dogs can be treated using various methods, including natural anti-inflammatories, acupuncture, medicinal herbs (e.g., CBD and yucca), and physical therapy.
Signs of inflammation in dogs
Even though inflammation helps keep pets safe and healthy, it can be harmful when chronic. This exposes the dog to other diseases besides creating debilitating pain. Unfortunately, many instances of inflammation tend to go unnoticed, especially in the early stages. Most pet owners find out about it when the dog has been overly affected.
So, what should you look out for?
Generally, the signs and symptoms of a dog with inflammation depend on the affected part. Skin inflammation makes the affected area warm to the touch, red, and swollen. This type of inflammation can also present as skin thickening, hives, or a rash.
When the ear is inflamed, it may emit a foul odor. The dog may also flinch when you touch an area with inflammation.
It might be harder to notice when muscles and joints are inflamed until your dog moves. That's because the pain forces the dog to limp to avoid placing more pressure on the affected limb. Inflammation in places like the back can make it difficult for a dog to stand.
Regardless of the body part affected by inflammation, this condition makes a dog fatigued, lose appetite, less interested in playing, and generally act unlike themselves. When the digestive tract is inflamed, a dog may avoid eating. Diarrhea and vomiting may also be observed.
Key areas of inflammation in dogs
Some of the major areas likely to be affected by inflammation include:
Skin and tissue inflammation
Allergies are a common cause of skin and ear inflammation in dogs. This often leads to yeast or bacterial infections that may require medication to resolve. As noted earlier, inflammation affects every body tissue differently. The eyes, for example, become puffy when affected.
Tissue inflammation may be characterized by lumps or nodules under the skin directly above the affected area. Skin inflammation can present in the form of itchy skin rashes or balding spots.
Inflammation of the digestive tract
On a good day, the digestive tract of dogs can handle disease-causing pathogens like bacteria and viruses. However, it can also be affected by inflammatory conditions.
There are many possible causes of inflammation in the digestive tract, including bacteria, viruses, allergens, and certain medications.
Joint inflammation is common in elderly dogs. It happens when the cartilaginous tissue that protects joint bones becomes damaged. As dogs age, the cartilage in the joints deteriorates, providing less cushioning to the joint bones.
This affects the joint and surrounding connective tissues that attach muscles to bones. However, several interventions may help with the pain and improve your dog's quality of life.
What helps dogs with inflammation
Generally, animal inflammation is accompanied by several symptoms, including pain, stiffness, swelling, tenderness, and, sometimes, reduced mobility. So, as a dog owner, it is natural that you'd want to learn about ways to reduce inflammation in dogs.
Herbs like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cardamom are natural anti-inflammatories. They promote anti-inflammatory responses in the body and are also largely safe for pets. Other compounds that can help with inflammation include fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids), olive oil, zinc, S-adenosylmethionine, and capsaicin.
Even though there are human foods that are anti-inflammatory, not all should be fed to dogs. The digestive system of dogs works differently from ours, so caution and a consultation with a vet are necessary.
Yucca schidigera is a medicinal herb considered to have anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects. These are attributed to its array of powerful chemical substances, e.g., saponins and polyphenolics, that may help soothe pain and reduce symptoms.
Animal experts recommend adding yucca roots to your dog's diet to help minimize inflammation, swelling, and pain. Moreover, yucca is a rich source of vitamins A, B, and C in addition to vital minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and copper. These can help soothe the intestines when dealing with gut inflammation in dogs.
Essential fatty acids
The only essential fatty acids (EFAs) for dogs are linoleic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) and alpha-linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid).
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered anti-inflammatory, while omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. However, it is not as simple as that; some omega-6 fatty acids (e.g., gamma-linoleic acid) are anti-inflammatory. Arachidonic acid, also an omega-6, can suppress and promote inflammation.
The general rule with these EFAs is that in high amounts, omega-6s are likely to trigger inflammation compared to omega-3s. Consequently, researchers think balance is key to having these EFAs work for your dog.
That is to say, the ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in dog food should be 1:2.6 or 1:26. When these are off-balance, they create a conducive environment for chronic low-grade inflammation associated with diseases.
It’s always a good idea to consult with a vet when considering your dog’s ideal diet.
Inflammation, especially of the joints, can be worsened by weight. Indeed, losing weight can sometimes help reduce pain without supplementing with medication. Research indicates that losing just 6% of their total body weight can significantly reduce symptoms in dogs.
Low-intensity activities like swimming and leash-walking can also help. They help burn fat cells, stimulate the flow of nutrients and blood to the joints, help build muscles, and improve flexibility.
Dog allergies can be severe, causing significant inflammatory responses. So it is crucial to know the types of foods that trigger allergic reactions in your dog and avoid such foods. Watch out for symptoms like facial swelling or hives, as these often signal an allergic response.
Fortunately, allergies are seldom fatal and can be easily treated by your vet.
CBD Oil & Hemp Oil
CBD research may be in its early stages, but a growing body of compelling evidence suggests that this cannabinoid has many health benefits besides its potent anti-inflammatory effects. It exerts its anti-inflammatory properties through various yet-to-be-fully-understood pathways, such as inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and inducing T-cell apoptosis.
One of CBD's strong selling points is it is non-psychoactive, so there is little chance it will induce this effect in your dog. This is true if your pet's CBD oil is THC-free, hence the importance of buying CBD from credible manufacturers.
The effects of good quality CBD oil can be felt in 30 minutes to an hour. So, this is an option worth trying out.
However, CBD therapy is not a one-off cure-all solution. It is most effective when administered for the long term as this allows cannabinoid levels to build up sufficiently in an animal’s system.