Combating inflammation in dogs with micronutrients
Inflammation has become one of the hottest health topics in recent years, and for good reason. Inflammation is the basis of any disease that ends in “-itis” — which, unfortunately, accounts for a large percentage of presenting medical conditions.
What is inflammation?
In and of itself, acute inflammation is not a bad thing. Inflammation is the body’s way of responding to any type of foreign invader or event. The immune system initiates an inflammatory response in order to handle anything and everything, from a wound or infection to bacteria and viruses.
There are five cardinal signs of inflammation:
- Loss of function
All of these signs indicate that the body is working to repair any damaged tissues and remove the potential danger.
Inflammation goes wrong when it becomes chronic, meaning that it is a longer-term issue in which the immune system responds inappropriately. In this case, the body is often on a loop of constant low-level inflammation that involves excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines and other proteins that can cause cellular damage at a microscopic level. This chronic inflammation is what puts us and our dogs at a higher risk of developing serious health conditions, ranging from immune diseases in dogs (such as inflammatory bowel disease, hypothyroidism, etc.) to skin and coat issues to heart disease and osteoarthritis. In many cases, chronic inflammation is a common cause of premature aging and a shorter lifespan because of its impact at the cellular level.
What causes chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation in dogs can be caused by environmental toxins or irritants, obesity and, perhaps most notably, an unhealthy diet. While it can be difficult to control or remove every inflammatory agent in today’s world, the good news is that science has made strong links between digestive tract health and inflammation — and nutrition is something that we definitely have the power to change.
In both human and animal medicine, the case for using natural, anti-inflammatory ingredients as a means to combat chronic inflammation is growing quickly. In the animal industry, this field of science is often referred to as immunonutrition, or the study of how specific nutrients can impact the immune system.
For example, any food that your dog may be allergic or sensitive to can cause inflammation, as can synthetics, toxins and other chemicals. In contrast, some anti-inflammatory ingredients in pet food diets include omega-3 fatty acids, pro- and prebiotics and other functional nutrients, such as antioxidants.
What are the signs of chronic inflammation in dogs?
A chronic immune response in dogs can manifest as:
- Low energy and fatigue
- Unwillingness to walk, play or exercise
- Weight management issues (i.e., dogs becoming overweight or obese or suddenly losing weight)
- Itchy, flaky or dry skin, which may lead to infection
- Pain and discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting, diarrhea or gastrointestinal (GI) distress
The link between the gut microbiome and inflammation
A dog’s gut microbiome is immediately affected by its diet, as food acts as the fuel for the living organisms in the digestive tract.
As such, our responsibility as pet lovers is to provide our furry companions with nutrients that play a long-term role in their health. In senior pets, especially, inflammation and the buildup of oxidative stress can negatively impact the aging process and can even lead to premature aging.
The ability to prevent premature aging — or “inflammaging,” as it has been coined — through the diet is key to canine longevity.
For dogs, science has learned that the smallest ingredients, or micronutrients, often make the biggest difference. One example of the micronutrients that are gaining attention from both scientists and consumers is pro- and prebiotics for senior pets. A 2019 study in senior beagles looked at the microbiome-related effects of a control diet versus a diet that included NVGEN, a proprietary blend from Alltech that includes prebiotics and other gut health promoters.
The dogs that were fed NVGEN showed higher levels of the bacteria that are associated with a healthy digestive tract, while the dogs fed a control diet had higher levels of the bacteria associated with inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Additionally, the dogs that were fed the diet that included NVGEN displayed significantly lower levels of C-reactive protein, a standard measurement of inflammation in the body. Feeding a diet that contained NVGEN resulted in a decrease of the amount of C-reactive protein to a normal level — which is a big deal for promoting healthy aging in dogs!
The anti-inflammatory pet plan
Inflammation is one of the most insidious symptoms of many chronic health conditions in pets. Inflammation can begin to manifest in pets in their younger years and can negatively affect the aging process as they become seniors.
An anti-inflammatory lifestyle is important for dogs at every life stage and includes:
- Managing the dog’s weight
- Feeding an age-appropriate, high-quality diet
- Regular exercise and activity
- Proper levels of mental stimulation (without creating excessive stress)
- Protecting and supporting the microbiome
The bottom line is that promoting a healthy inflammatory response and immune system in pets starts in the gut. Protecting the GI tract with ingredients such as the Alltech NVGEN pack is a critical step in improving pet food diets and, as a result, boosting the longevity of our beloved dogs.