Science has recognized that chronic, low-level inflammation in humans is a contributing factor to essentially all of the major, chronic disorders, including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, allergies, cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and arthritis. So, perhaps, it’s not so surprising that dogs also suffer from issues related to chronic inflammation. The nerds amongst you can check out the following canine-related examples in the science literature, including oral inflammation, inflammatory bowel diseases, and chronic allergies.
What exactly is inflammation?
It is a process mediated by the immune system in normal response to tissue damage from injury, infection, toxins, extreme heat or cold, or other influences. The acute inflammation triggered by such injuries is a protective response for the person (or dog) involved, and includes swelling, redness, heat, pain and possible loss of function. This normally is a self-limiting process that is initially signaled by chemicals released from the damaged tissues and/or by immune cells residing in the area.
Inflammation becomes a problem when it becomes long-term. This may be in a particular part of the body or can become systemic, in part because those pesky inflammatory chemicals that are secreted don’t necessarily stay put. A common trigger of chronic inflammation in people and pups is food (1). Yes, food can be injurious! No worries, though, because not all food is. The main culprits are highly processed foods. These are products made with refined oils; refined flour; refined sugars; processed, poor quality meats, processed dairy products, processed vegetable proteins and other dubious ingredients.
So, if there are pro-inflammatory foods, are there anti-inflammatory foods?
Yes! Examples include vegetables, fruits (especially dark-colored berries), and cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, cod, halibut, trout and herring that contain anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
How does this translate to my dog?
Look for dog foods and treats that contain real food as ingredients, such as berries , apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, broccoli, and other flavonoid-rich foods, salmon, grass-fed beef, etc. Avoid dog foods and treats that contain wheat flour, artificial colors, artificial flavors, sugar, and corn syrup. Small amounts of good quality herbs and spices are a good addition (2), for example turmeric, rosemary, parsley, sage and other of the “spaghetti spices” (not the purified essential oils!).
Finally, no pudgy pooches! Obesity increases systemic inflammation, and is also a result of chronic inflammation, so it turns into a vicious cycle (1). Make sure that your dog gets exercise every day. And, do not overfeed your dog, as tempting as it may be when looking into those soulful eyes!
1) Muñoz, A and M Costa (2013) Nutritionally Mediated Oxidative Stress and Inflammation. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 610950.
2) Nilius, B and G Appendino (2013) Spices: the savory and beneficial science of pungency. Rev Phusiol Biochem Pharmacol. 164: 1-76.