Chronic inflammation is the reason for most chronic health problems that dogs are experiencing today. Processed pet food diets and over-medicating are only 2 of the factors that lead to disease by stressing your dog’s body and his immune system.
Anti-inflammatory foods for dogs can go a long way toward preventing many chronic inflammatory diseases. The foods listed below are loaded with natural phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Here’s a list of anti-inflammatory foods you can include in your dog’s diet … and your own too!
15 Anti-Inflammatory Foods For Dogs
Valuable, natural flavonoids and antioxidants are high in anti-inflammatory properties (1). There are also good levels in herbs and spices, but in this post we’ll focus on foods alone. They’re easy to find in vegetables, fruits and other foods as you’ll see.
Most berries like blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries and blackberries, are high in anthocyanidins, which create the red and blue pigment in many fruits and vegetables. It’s been determined that anthocyanins have antioxidant, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Berries also contain resveratrol which is anti-inflammatory and helps fight cancer (2). Blackberries are the berry with the highest level of antioxidants. Berries are also low in sugar compared to other fruits.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, bok choy, cabbage,cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Broccoli is especially potent, thanks to its high levels of sulforaphane, which has been shown to inhibit cancer cells. It also has a high content of the antioxidant vitamin C as well as the flavonoid kaempferol (3), which can prevent bone loss. Research has shown when broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are added to the diet, they lead to the prevention of metabolic disorders, reduction of Type II diabetes, and prevention of inflammation-associated respiratory disorders. These foods also reduce oxidative stress and may slow cognitive decline (4).
Red cabbage contains anthocyanins, as found in berries, giving it more than 4 times the amount of antioxidants as in green cooked cabbage. And red cabbage is also higher in vitamin C.
Apples have the flavonoid catechin, which inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Plus they’ve got a high amount of vitamin C. Make sure your dog eats the apple skin too (as long as your apples are organic) … it’s high in the flavonoid quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects (5).
4. Dark Leafy Greens
Kale, spinach, Swiss chard and collard greens are high in the antioxidants vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Plus they’re low in calories. And red varieties of kale can contain almost twice the amount of antioxidants.
Portobello, shiitake, enoki and oyster are edible mushrooms that are rich sources of selenium. And lion’s mane mushrooms are reported to reduce inflammation related to obesity. But when feeding them to your dog, they need to be cooked, as raw mushrooms can be indigestible … though this may reduce the anti-inflammatory effects (6).
Caution: You can also feed mushrooms in supplement form … but make sure the product contains full fruiting mushroom bodies, not just mycelium, which is only part of the mushroom. Mycelium is much lower in medicinal benefits than the whole mushroom.
6. Bell Peppers
Whether red, orange or yellow, peppers are high in vitamin C and beta-carotene. But these are members of the nightshade family and contain solanine. It can be toxic in large amounts, and may aggravate arthritis … so limit the amount you feed your dog and watch for any signs of sensitivity.
Beets are high in antioxidants including betalins. They’ve shown to lower the risk of cancer in the colon and the gastrointestinal tract. Research also shows that betalin from beets has reduced osteoarthritis pain and inflammation (7).
8. Orange Vegetables
Carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes are high in the antioxidant beta-carotene. But these are starchier foods and should be fed to your dog in moderation. It’s best to feed them with some healthy fats to help nutrient absorption.
These fruits are high in the antioxidant vitamin C (and most are higher in vitamin C than oranges!) along with other nutrients:
- Kiwi fruit
- Papaya (includes lycopene)
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries
- Watermelon (includes lycopene)
But remember that fruit has a higher sugar content so use moderation … and don’t give them to diabetic dogs..
10. Goji Berries
Goji berries are often given superfood status because they’re so high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (8). And they’ve been shown to reduce heart disease and cancer. They’re higher priced than traditional berries so add them as a beneficial treat.
11. Nuts and Seeds
Almonds and sunflower seeds are huge sources of vitamin E. Plus they have selenium (9), as do most other nuts and seeds including sesame, chia and pumpkin seeds, pistachios and pecans. Brazil nuts are the highest of any nut but they’re also highest in fat so you don’t want to give them to small dogs. Just remember all nuts and seeds are higher in fat and calories so use moderation, especially for small dogs. Don’t give macadamia nuts or black walnuts, as they’re toxic for dogs.
The vitamin E content in eggs makes them a good source of this antioxidant as well as selenium, lutein and zeaxanthin, along with vitamin D, K, B6, calcium and zinc. Pastured hens produce eggs with higher levels of antioxidants than those raised in commercial operations.
Feed fish and you’ll be feeding your dog omega-3 fatty acids known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. And you can avoid fish oil which isn’t sustainable and can easily go rancid. Fish and seafood are also sources of vitamin E and selenium. When you feed your dog Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, crayfish or snails, you’re also giving him a good serving of vitamin E. Your dog will get selenium from yellowfin tuna, sardines, oysters, shrimp and salmon. Always opt for wild sources rather than farmed seafood.
Processed tomatoes have the highest levels of lycopene, a carotenoid with anti-cancer properties (10). Plus they are loaded with vitamin C. Fresh tomatoes have lots of lycopene, too, and the riper the tomato, the higher its lycopene content. In a 2017 study (11), researchers showed that lycopene had anti-inflammatory effects and in cases of colorectal cancer where chemotherapy wasn’t effective.
But tomatoes are also a nightshade and contain solanine. Some dogs may be sensitive to large amounts so use moderation when feeding tomatoes.
15. Meat and Poultry
Selenium in beef, pork and poultry can easily supply your dog’s daily needs. It’s best to opt for pasture-raised meats, turkey and chicken whenever possible. When cows eat grasses from pastures, the phytonutrients will be contained in the meat. Poor feeding practices in factory-farmed meats and poultry are a major cause of inflammation in dogs today.
How To Give Your Dog Anti-inflammatory Foods
To get the best results from these foods, follow these guidelines when you can …
- Shop for organic produce to you avoid toxic herbicides like glyphosate.
- When feeding vegetables, mulch/purée them for digestibility – or feed them lightly steamed.
- Buy pasture-raised eggs.
- Choose meat from free range, pastured animals when you can.
- Buy wild-caught, not farmed fish. But avoid Pacific fish which may be contaminated with radiation from Fukushima. Smaller fish have fewer toxins as they’re lower on the food chain.
- Nuts and seeds are best fed ground or made into nut butter for digestibility.
The Importance of Anti-inflammatory Foods For Dogs
You can prevent and lower the risk of chronic diseases in your dog by adding anti-inflammatory foods to his diet on a regular basis. Then you’ll minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, obesity, metabolic disorders, bone, muscular and skeletal diseases and cancers.
Research shows there are 5,000 naturally occurring flavonoids in food that fight inflammation in the body (3). There are a growing number of studies that show how flavonoids improve health and fight chronic diseases.
Antioxidants are another main line of defense in the fight against free radical damage and inflammation (12). Free radicals are damaged molecules that try to repair themselves by stealing from healthy cells. Free radical damage leads to oxidative stress in your dog’s body and that leads to inflammation and many chronic health problems … including diseases like cancer.
Your dog should always get antioxidants from his food, not synthetic nutrients. A 2010 study on antioxidants and functional foods reported that synthetic antioxidants are actually dangerous to human health (13). You’ll find them often used as preservatives. So only natural food sources of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and selenium, and carotenoids including beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin will do the job.
The Problem With Chronic Inflammation In Dogs
Inflammation can be a good thing when it comes to healing wounds and injuries. But when it becomes chronic, it can cause long-term disease in your dog. Chronic inflammation is responsible for pretty much every chronic health problem in dogs. It’s linked to:
- Kidney failure
- Arthritis/joint disease
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune disease
- Gum disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Overall chronic pain
- Shortened lifespan
Maintaining your dog’s long-term health requires a multi-pronged approach so here are other things to keep in mind.
More Ways To Reduce Inflammation
Keep your dog healthy by doing these things …
- Feed a whole food, raw meat diet, low in carbohydrates. Eliminate or minimize highly processed foods with synthetic additives or preservatives.
- Keep your dog at a healthy (lean) weight.
- Provide plenty of fresh air and exercise.
- Balance the gut. Add probiotics to balance your dog’s microbiome in his gut. You need to support the healthy bacteria that fight the pathogenic bacteria that can lead to inflammation and disease.
- Include anti-iinflammatory herbs and supplements such as … omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, green-lipped mussels, ginger, turmeric (or its main constituent, curcumin), herbs like oregano, basil, parsley
By including anti-inflammatory foods in your dog’s diet today, you’ll help prevent chronic inflammation from taking hold and leading to a serious illness later.
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11. Cha JH, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of lycopene in SW480 human colorectal cancer cells. Nutr Res Pract. 2017 Apr;11(2):90-96.
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