(Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM) Pets live longer and healthier lives when given an anti-inflammatory diet, according to research. Only some animals possess several copies of a special gene (CD33rSIGLEC) that helps their body fight effectively against inflammation, i.e. to protect cells from becoming inflammatory collateral damage1.
The researchers found that mice lacking one copy of the CD33rSIGLEC gene lived less than normal mice and had higher levels of inflammation and chemically active molecules.
Pets that do not possess enough copies of this gene are recommended to consume more often diets with an anti-inflammatory or neutral role because these foods do not solicit their bodies to the maximum. Also, these animals are more sensitive to poor-quality food, climate, stress, or diseases.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune response to an infection, irritation, or injury. The cells of the immune system are concentrated at the affected site through the bloodstream. The neighboring blood vessels become permeable, and the damaged area becomes warm and red as a result of the increased blood flow.
In other words, inflammation is part of the body's natural defense system against disease and injury. If it is not treated, it can become chronic. In some cases, the inflammation does not become evident until it spreads throughout the body.
Diseases or conditions in which the inflammation is chronic are:
- Hip dysplasia
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
- Chronic pain, in general
- Periodontal disease
To help reduce the inflammation of your pet, you can give it anti-inflammatory drugs (only on your vet's advice) or anti-inflammatory diets.
Foods that Can Cause Inflammation
Although inflammation is a normal reaction of the body, systemic inflammation is the cause of many ailments that pets can face. Some foods favor the appearance of inflammation in the body, which you should avoid when deciding the diet of your dog or cat. Here are the most common foods that can cause inflammation in your pet3:
- Meat that comes from animals raised in commercial conditions - contains too much omega-6 and too little omega-3
- Egg yolk
- Polyunsaturated vegetable oils (sunflower, corn, and soybean oil)
- Many types of hard cheese
- Refined cereals
For healthy pets that do not suffer from chronic inflammation, these foods need not be completely removed from their diet, but balanced with anti-inflammatory foods for a healthy diet.
For pets suffering from inflammation, you should do everything possible to reduce/exclude these foods from their diet.
What Should an Anti-inflammatory Diet Look Like for Pets?
Inflammation is at the root of chronic disease. Therefore, a diet rich in essential anti-inflammatory nutrients is recommended to maintain a low level of inflammation in the body. In other words, an anti-inflammatory diet can prevent the development of a large number of diseases: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, etc.
These diets should contain omega-3 fatty acids and be low in omega-6 fatty acids, carbohydrates, and fats. Also, dry food should be supplemented with wet food.
1. Give anti-inflammatory diets rich in omega 3 and low in omega 6 fatty acids
According to studies2, the omega-6 fatty acids present in pet food can lead to inflammation of the body in a short time and, in the long term, can even generate cancer. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that these compounds appear sporadically in the diet of pets.
2. Avoid nightshade vegetables
Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants, white potatoes, and peppers, contain glycoalkaloids. If they are consumed in excess, they can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation, muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. For this reason, it is recommended that pets suffering from arthritis consume these foods as little as possible.
The white potato is a very popular ingredient in commercial diets. Therefore, try changing your arthritic pet's diet with one that contains no potatoes.
3. Avoid carbs/fillers
Fillers are unhealthy ingredients that have little or no nutritional value and are not biologically appropriate for your pet. They could be replaced with higher-quality alternatives, but the production costs are too high.
Ingredients commonly considered fillers in pet food are:
It is believed that carbohydrates (fillers) generate strong inflammation in pets' bodies if they are regularly administered in the diet of dogs and cats. This is also one of the reasons why veterinarians recommend feeding dogs and cats diets that do not contain grains, fruits, soybeans, peanuts, cottonseed, rice, or modified cornstarch.
Corn bran is another common ingredient found in dog food. Not only do they have no nutritional value, but they can increase the body's inflammatory response and have a negative impact on the joints of animals suffering from arthritis.
4. Avoid fats
Animal fats can create inflammation in the body of dogs or cats. Pet owners who choose to feed their four-legged friends raw or cooked food should choose meat varieties rich in protein and low in fat (approximately 75% protein for dogs and 88% for cats).
In addition, probiotics for pets, certain enzymes for veterinary use that help the digestion process, as well as some varieties of vegetables and greens, will significantly increase diet quality.
5. Wet food versus dry food
Wet food is beneficial for dogs’ and cats’ diets if it respects the parameters described previously, i.e. if it is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids and low in omega-6 fatty acids. Wet food is also recommended for pets because it contains a high degree of moisture. As a result, it reduces the risk of developing kidney and urinary diseases.
Foods with Anti-inflammatory Effect
Fatty fish is an excellent source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. Although many fish varieties contain Omega-3 fatty acids, fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel are among the best sources. Besides omega-3 fatty acids, these fish are also a great source of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, D, E, and selenium.
This vegetable is extremely nutritious, having a rich content of antioxidants, which fight against inflammation. Broccoli is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
Turmeric is a spice with a strong flavor and color, often used in Indian cooking. It has received more attention recently due to its content of curcumin, a nutrient with strong antioxidant properties.
Turmeric may reduce inflammation associated with certain diseases, including arthritis and diabetes.
Blueberries are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, they contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have an anti-inflammatory effect and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases.
The body produces certain defense cells that maintain the proper functioning of the immune system. Including blueberries in your pet's diet can stimulate the production of these cells.
It is a superfood derived from blue-green algae, which grow naturally in salt lakes in subtropical climates and the ocean. The main active component in spirulina is called phycocyanin. This antioxidant substance gives spirulina its unique green color. It is a rich source of antioxidants and protects the body from oxidative stress at the DNA and cellular levels. Oxidative stress causes chronic inflammation, which contributes to the appearance of some diseases, including cancer. So, the consumption of spirulina has a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
Coconut oil can fight inflammation. Studies prove that the polyphenols contained in coconut have an anti-inflammatory role and reduce the effects of arthritis. Compared to drugs that involve side effects, among which are gastric ailments, coconut oil has no side effects.
Celery is very low in calories and macro-nutrients. It does not contain cholesterol but contains small amounts of almost all vitamins and minerals. The celery stalk is richer in nutrients. It also contains a series of powerful antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and flavonoids.
Also, celery is rich in phthalides, a class of biologically active compounds with numerous beneficial effects on the body. The vegetable also contains other antioxidants and apigenin4, a compound that reduces inflammation.
Dr. Iuliana Mihai, DVM, Masters In Small Animals And Equines Pathology
Iuliana graduated from the University of Agronomical Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in 2012, Romania. She has a Master’s degree in Small Animal and Equines Pathology and a strong affinity for Veterinary Parasitology and Laboratory. In 2013 she started her Ph.D. in epithelial cancer in dogs and cats. She volunteered at the faculty’s clinic in her 3rd year of study, and continued her career in small animal pathology and laboratory. She has one cat and eleven rats. Her interests outside of work include traveling, writing, and crafting