Here at My Pet Nutritionist, we see a lot of arthritis cases. There are numerous types of arthritis in existence, some of which can be autoimmune responses. We thought we would put together a short guide on the two most commonly seen types of autoimmune arthritis; Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
What is Autoimmunity?
Autoimmunity is sadly fairly common in both humans and pets and is often overlooked. When an individual has an autoimmune disease, the immune system releases antibodies and T-Killer Cells (cells of the immune system which target and kill cells infected with viruses and cancers) even when they are not in the presence of a necessary target, which causes them to attack normal, previously healthy parts of the body. In layman’s terms, the body attacks itself!
Autoimmunity can be linked to Leaky Gut, and Leaky Gut can be linked with arthritis. Read our blogs on these topics below!
The Connection Between Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity – Part 1
The Connection Between Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity – Part 2
The Link Between Leaky Gut and Arthritis
Immune Mediated Polyarthritis
Immune Mediated Polyarthritis (shortened to IMPA) is a painful degenerative joint disease. The term ‘immune mediated’ refers to a group of conditions which are caused by abnormal immune system activity, often due to upregulation of some immune cells, causing the body to attack itself.
Symptoms of IMPA include:
- Pain and swelling in multiple joints
- General stiffness
- Weight loss
- Difficulty standing for long periods
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
One of the causes of IMPA, is infection of Leishmania. Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease, where the host is infected with Leishmania, which is spread by sand flies. It is not present in the UK, bar in imported dogs, or those who have travelled abroad, and contracted it there. We see many cases in rescued foreign street dogs. The synovial fluid (the fluid located between joints of all mammals) of the dogs affected in a study, was tested, and found to have the inflammatory markers typical of a dog suffering with IMPA. All other pathways of IMPA were ruled out.
Vaccine Induced IMPA is probably one of the biggest risks, and one often overlooked during diagnosis of IMPA. There are various reports of cases whereby dogs have developed IMPA within 3 weeks post vaccination. Minimally vaccinating is essential to reduce this risk!
One study based in Canada, discusses the various clinical abnormalities which accompanied IMPA in various IMPA positive dogs. These clinical signs included leukocytosis (increased white blood cell production), nonregenerative amaemia (lack of red blood cells due to reduced activity by the bone marrow), high alkaline phosphatase (ALP in blood tests), and hypoalbuminemia (disrupted albumin production, resulting in blood vessels drying up). There was no common age range between cases – cases were present from all ages; young to elderly.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (shortened to RA) is an autoimmune related degenerative joint disease. It’s symptoms include:
- Joint pain and stiffness in numerous joints
- Swelling in joints
- Weight loss
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Loss of strength
- Those suffering with RA often do so in a mirrored fashion – the pain will usually be the same on both sides of the body; both knees, both hips etc.
RA can be triggered following infection of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi
, which is transmitted from infected ticks to host; you may be more familiar with the term ‘Lyme Disease’.
During drug trials for this disease, where RA is concerned, a combination of pharmaceuticals were required to have any effect, as opposed to any of the individual options used in the trial.
Part of the immune system contains the Dog Leukocyte Antigen (DLA) Complex – this is a part of the immune system which distinguishes the body’s proteins from foreign proteins, viruses and bacteria. Within this complex, lays numerous alleles (pairs of genes – one from each of the dog’s parents), including the DRB1 allele, which is said to influence the susceptibility of an individual to be subject to developing RA, if it contains a certain amino acid.
A protein called Zonulin plays a part in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). It is synthesised by cells in the liver and intestine, and it’s roll in the body is to regulate the gut permeability, specifically Tight Junction Barrier Cells within the gut wall. When Zonulin is overrepresented, the gut permeability cannot be controlled, and allows useful and harmful substances to enter the blood stream, which are then detected as threats by the immune system. The upregulation of Zonulin, paired with the downregulation of Tight Junction Barrier Cells, causes more leakage of particles into the body, which in turn causes major inflammation throughout the joints in the body, sometimes resulting in Rheumatoid Arthritis. As with other autoimmune conditions, specific strains of good bacteria in the microbiome being leaked and attacked can cause the onset of RA.
Supporting the Body
Due to the relation between autoimmunity and Leaky Gut, its essential to keep the gut in good condition. Supplements such as Marshmallow Root, Slippery Elm or glutamine are great for this, especially paired with a good, clean probiotic to help recolonise the gut.
Ensure you are not feeding any pro-inflammatory foods! High carb, processed diets like dry food are very pro-inflammatory and will add to the body’s inflammatory response. Stick to a fresh diet, whether it’s raw or cooked.
It’s also imperative to keep on top of any allergies – both food and environmental. When we keep on top of allergies, and remove allergens from the diet and environment, we reduce the risk of increase pressure on the immune system, and reduce the chance of overstimulating an immune response, which could result in autoimmune arthritic conditions.
Joint support supplementation may help keep the joints supple. Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Green Lipped Mussel Oil are all great for joints, as well as natural anti-inflammatory supplements like Boswellia.
Our farmed meat is naturally very high in omega 6, which is inflammatory, so it’s very important to counteract this by adding plenty of omega 3 to the diet. EPA is particularly good at keeping inflammation down – this can be found most plentifully in oily fish, fish oils, and algal oils. ALA is great for immune support – this can be found in flaxseed, chia seed and oysters.
Hydrotherapy could be considered for dogs struggling with autoimmune arthritis as it will help strengthen the muscles around the joints.
Red light therapy is excellent for arthritis and general joint health. Handheld devices such as the Photizo are very user friendly, and very effective.
Acupuncture may also relieve pain from the joints. Discuss this option with your dog’s vet, who will be able to refer you to a professional canine acupuncturist.
If you are helping your dog battle an autoimmune condition, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and book in with one of our team!
Team MPN x