Can Diet Prevent Hip Dysplasia

There’s quite a bit of controversy about the proper diet for largebreed puppies. Should these puppies receive a standard high-protein, high-fat puppy formula? Or will that cause the puppy to grow too fast, resulting in bone

The basic answer is that we don’t have enough scientific evidence to give good advice.

Let’s look at the three major joint diseases, and what we know about how diet affects them. These diseases are panosteitis, osteochondritis dissecans, and hip dysplasia. The first two are uncommon, while hip dysplasia is seen much more frequently.

Panosteitis is an inflammation of all of the bones. Usually a dog with panosteitis will have a lameness which shifts from leg to leg. When you massage the long bones of the leg with your hand, the dog will cry in pain, yet there won’t be any pain in the joints.

Panosteitis is best diagnosed through X-rays, although they are not always necessary. The dog’s bones are painful, and that’s enough to make a diagnosis.

Panosteitis usually strikes before two years of age. It is frequently caused by the owner, who gives the dog supplemental protein or calcium, which interferes with the interrelationship between vitamins and minerals.

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) usually shows itself as lameness in the shoulder or stifle. It’s most painful when you stretch the joint fully.

With OCD, a section of cartilage and bone stops developing and dies. This leaves a dead flap of semi-calcified tissue, which irritates the joint. Surgery to remove the dead flap is sometimes necessary.

The most common hip disease is hip dysplasia. Almost all breeds are at risk of getting hip dysplasia, but it most commonly affects large, heavy dogs.

Hip dysplasia is the faulty development of the hip joint. Early in life, it is seen as a loose hip joint. As the ball at the end of the thigh bone rattles around in the hip socket, parts wear down and osteoarthritis develops.

Hip dysplasia is diagnosed using historical information, physical examination, and X-rays. A dysplastic dog is likely to have lameness in the hind legs, especially after exercise. The dog might try to limit the motion of the hips while walking, and may even “bunny hop” while running. Your vet may be able to feel the looseness in the hip, and the dog may feel pain during an exam. As the limb is extended, a click may be heard as the ball slips in the socket.

What causes hip dysplasia? The veterinary establishment generally accepts that hip dysplasia is a genetic problem, passed from generation to generation. In the last few years, scientists have shown that, as with many diseases, environment plays a part, too. It is now thought that 70% of the development of hip dysplasia is influenced by genetics, while there is a 30% contribution from environment.

Dr. Marvin L. Olmstead, a veterinary orthopedist at Ohio State University, explains how hip dysplasia develops, and where environment fits in:

“Changes in cartilage, supporting connecting tissue, and muscles cause the alterations in bone architecture. Joint instability occurs as muscle development and maturation lag behind the rate of skeletal growth. The first 60 days of life are the most critical period for the developing soft tissue structures.

When the stress and weight exerted at the hip joint exceed the strength limits of the supporting soft tissues, joint instability will result. The severity of the condition will be dependent on the degree of weight overloading and stress placed on the hip in its early development. If soft tissue development and skeletal development can be biomechanically balanced during the first six months of life, the chances of the dog developing hip dysplasia are minimal.” (Management of Canine Hip Dysplasia, Veterinary Proceedings, Eastern States Veterinary Conference, 1991.)

So, hip dysplasia is 70% due to the breeding of the dog (genetic history), and 30% due to environmental factors such as stress placed on the hip in its early development. Where do diet and nutrition come in?

There’s not a lot of agreement on diet and hip dysplasia. Some experts believe that puppy foods provide more of every nutrient than the average puppy needs, and debate whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage. Other experts boldly state that high calorie, high-protein, high-calcium diets predispose dogs to bone growth problems. They flatly refuse to recommend this kind of diet for large and giant breed dogs.

Another line of thinking is that this kind of diet is good if it will bring forward those dogs with a genetic disposition to-ward bone problems. And then there’s the group that sees no connection whatsoever between diet and hip dysplasia.

In 1992, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) established new standards for the nutrients required in dog food. These included revisions to the basic requirements for the growth stage of a dog’s life. These requirements are based on many studies by scientists and dog food company researchers. They are accepted by the regulators of pet food in all 50 states of the U.S., by the pet food industry, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, and by the Canadian government as the best standards based on current scientific knowledge. They reflect some significant changes from the 1985 National Research Council standards for dog food, which are no longer considered adequate in light of recent scientific research.

Feeding a growth diet which meets the AAFCO nutrient profiles is still the best way to insure that your puppy is getting all of the nutrients he needs. Look for a statement on the bag which says that your puppy food is complete and balanced for the growth stage, based on feeding studies using AAFCO protocols.

A source of information is the breeder of your dog. A knowledgeable breeder who has worked many years with a particular line of dogs will have a good idea of the proper speed of growth for dogs in that line. This knowledge is based on experience and experimentation. Follow the feeding recommendations of your breeder.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t mess up a complete and balanced commercial diet by supplementing it. You don’t have to add calcium – that will throw off the delicate interrelationships of vitamins and minerals. If you must give a supplement of some sort, give a balanced pet vitamin. This will increase the total intake of vitamins and minerals without throwing off the balance between nutrients.

Starving cancer before it starves your dog

The idea of starving cancer before it starves your dog is an intriguing one, and the subject of much research in the last few years. These studies in dogs have led to breakthroughs in the nutritional treatment of both human and canine cancer patients.

Dr. Gregory Ogilvie, DVM is a professor at the Colorado State Univer-sity College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. His research into how cancer affects nutritional needs is continuing, but has already led to some important discoveries.

Dr. Ogilvie says, “We have shown that dogs with cancer have dramatic changes in their ability to use nutrients for energy.” His early studies have determined that the energy requirements for dogs with cancer are not higher than in healthy dogs. The difference is that cancer alters the way the body uses nutrients, in effect shutting down the body so it can’t utilize its food. Those body changes continue even after the cancer is sent into remission. “Cancer changes the body and the body doesn’t recover from it even after the cancer is eliminated from the body,” Dr. Ogilvie says.

“Cancer in the body causes significant alterations in carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism,” he continues. “These alterations result in decreased quality of life and decreased response to therapy. The need to reduce the lactate and insulin levels in dogs with cancer is of paramount concern to allow the body’s metabolic processes to work more efficiently to the host’s benefit.”

Glucose is the sugar the body makes from food. It’s incredibly important to the body, as it is the only nutrient which can cross the blood/brain barrier to feed the brain. Because supplying energy to the brain is the single most important function for the rest of the body, glucose production takes priority over nearly every other body function. Protein is broken down by the body into amino acids, some of which are used to make glucose. Fat gets stored for later use instead of being used for glucose production. But most of the glucose made by the body comes from digesting carbohydrates.

Cereal grains, such as corn, wheat, and barley, contain carbohydrates in the forms of sugar and starch. Digestion breaks these down to make glucose.

Immediately after a meal, high levels of glucose in the blood cause the rapid secretion of insulin, which causes the rapid uptake, storage and use of glucose by almost all tissues of the body.

That’s how things are supposed to work. With cancer patients, though, it’s different. The glucose isn’t put to work, but is instead converted to lactate. The body attempts to convert lactate back to glucose, and that requires energy. Instead of the glucose being used by the body for energy, it is diverted into this energy-draining lactate loop. Now you know why fatigue and “starvation” are major cancer symptoms.

Dr. Ogilvie’s team has determined that it’s critical to reduce the lactate and insulin levels so the dog can use the energy in the form of glucose.

Insulin levels can be controlled by feeding a food that’s relatively low in simple carbohydrates. As for protein, Dr. Ogilvie says, “Because cancer competes with the host for specific amino acids (from protein), we recommend that highly biodegradable yet modest amounts of proteins be provided to the cancer patient.”

For adequate calories, fat may be the best bet, according to Dr. Ogilvie, because there is some evidence that cancer cannot utilize fat.

He also recommends a diet containing omega-3 fatty acids, which have been demonstrated to be of value for the cancer patient. A number of studies in rodents and people have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce lactate and insulin levels. The omega-3 fatty acids also have anticancer properties, including the ability to reduce or eliminate metastatic disease.

Dr. Ogilvie says that there is no commercially-available diet which is ideally suited for the cancer patient. He also says that it’s difficult to create a homemade diet which fills the bill.

Some foods that meet many of the requirements for dogs with cancer are the Eukanuba Veterinary Diets® Nutritional Recovery Formulas®. Made by The Iams Company, these have excellent flavor and are packed with energy, which encourages the sick dog to eat. But more importantly, the foods have a different composition than most, with an emphasis on protein and fat rather than carbohydrate, and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Dr. Glenna E. Mauldin, DVM, MS, DACVIM and Staff Veterinarian at The Donaldson-Atwood Cancer Clinic of The Animal Medical Center of New York has also written about the best diet to feed the cancer patient. She says that “Weight loss has been shown repeatedly to be an independent determinant of prognosis in the human cancer patient. Severe debilitation and eventual death from malnourishment may result in affected individuals.”

Dr. Mauldin, in a paper titled “Feeding the Cancer Patient,” concurs with Dr. Ogilvie that it’s possible to take advantage of the differences in metabolic style that set tumor cells apart from normal tissue.

Dr. Mauldin says,“A diet high in fat and protein but relatively low in carbohydrates should selectively supply energy to the host and meet potentially increased protein requirements, while denying tumor cells the readily available carbohydrate required for continued growth. Beneficial effects have been documented in human cancer patients fed such diets, including improved weight gain, improved energy and nitrogen balance, improved preservation of body adipose stores, and decreased glucose intolerance.”

Dr. Mauldin is currently conducting a study at The Animal Medical Center with the Eukanuba Veterinary Diet Nutritional Recovery Formula to see whether it, in fact, can starve the tumor, yet feed the dog.

Mauldin, G. E. Feeding the Cancer Patient, Recent Advances in Canine and Feline Nutritional Research: Proceedings of the 1996 Iams International Nutrition Sym-posium: The Iams Company, Dayton, OH.

Ogilvie, G.K. and Moore, A.S. Managing the Veterinary Cancer Patient: A Practice Manual. Published by Veterinary Learning Systems.

Additional material supplied by Morris Animal Foundation, Englewood, CO., including January, 1997 letter from Dr. Gregory Ogilvie.

Disease and Nutrition

What your dog eats is a major factor in keeping him healthy. The immune system, the body’s mechanism for fighting infections, relies on good nutrition to keep it in shape for top performance.

A dog who receives adequate nutrition will have more resistance to some types of infections and disease, and will recover more quickly if he does become ill. Good nutrition has also been shown to boost resistance to bacterial and parasitic infections such as streptococcus and hookworm.

Preventive nutrition begins at puppyhood. In the first hours after birth, a puppy receives passive immunity from maternal antibodies in the colostrum, or first mothers’ milk. After that, a series of timely vaccinations helps protect against common puppyhood diseases.

In the first six months of life, the immune system develops and begins functioning on its own. A complete and balanced diet provided by a commercial puppy food helps insure that the necessary nutrients are provided. In most cases, it is not necessary to supplement a top-quality puppy food.

As the dog gets older, complete nutrition remains vital to the maintenance of a strong immune system. Vitamins A, E and C, plus minerals such as zinc, selenium and iodine are essential for a strong immune system. A premium dog food will have balanced amounts of each of these elements so that they work together to provide optimum nutrition.

High protein foods provide another group of key elements: the amino acids. These building blocks of proteins include two groups: essential amino acids, which are not provided by the body and must be supplied in the diet, and non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids are just as important, however, the body will manufacture them if adequate nutrition is provided. The amino acids are critical for the body to deal with stress conditions such as healing of wounds, lactation and disease.

Dogs who are ill should be encouraged to eat their regular diet. When sick, the body needs calories and nutrients to replace those lost during illness. Fevers can increase the body’s energy demands by 5 to 7 percent for every degree above normal body temperature. Many infections make the dog not want to eat. This can lead to malnutrition, which increases the likelihood of getting another infection. If the dog does not eat, or cannot properly utilize the nutrients, he will get sicker.

Digestive system illness can also cause the loss of nutrients. Diarrhea can cause loss of proteins, vitamins and water-soluble electrolytes before the dog can utilize them. Getting the dog its proper nutrition, in whatever manner possible, becomes important.

If your dog is sick with an infection, consult a veterinarian. To encourage the dog to eat, try warming canned food, moistening dry food or feeding small meals of fresh foods.