The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Feed Your Pet
Plus, our veterinarian explains the benefits of such a diet.
We all know that a simple change in diet can help to improve a variety of conditions, and this is true of our pets, too. "If your pet has chronic skin, gut, or joint problems, an anti-inflammatory diet may help to get these conditions under control. And it's not just what your pet eats, but rather how much of it is consumed that can trigger inflammation. When cells become stressed due to obesity and high calorie consumption, this promotes inflammation," explains Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at Chewy. "Anti-inflammatory diets focus on natural foods that do not produce inflammation in the body, with the guiding theory of avoiding highly processed foods which can change the integrity of natural portions of the food, leading to the body not recognizing the molecules and provoking an inflammatory response."
So, which foods are the best anti-inflammatory foods for cats and dogs?
Start with the Right Ingredients
"Inflammation is a normal process of the body used by the immune system to combat foreign organisms like bacteria, viruses, and irritants. When an 'outsider' is detected in the body, white blood cells release chemicals that cause an influx of blood to the area and leakage of cellular fluid into the surrounding tissues. The physical symptoms of redness, swelling, and heat are direct results of this process," explains Dr. Nelson. The ingredients for an anti-inflammatory diet make the difference, and Dr. Nelson says that a diet with minimally processed ingredients help "to retain integrity of the meats and carb sources," and a mostly wet food diet tends to have "a higher protein to carb ratio"—both of which can offer numerous health benefits for your beloved pets. Foods that are rich in Omega fatty acids, such as fish oil, and that encourage portion control for maintaining proper weight will also aid in the reduction of inflammation.
Once you know what to look in regards to the preparation and quality of the food, you also need to look for pet foods that contain one or more of the following nutrients, minerals, or ingredients that contribute to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Start with glucosamine, which Dr. Nelson says is a compound made up of sugar and an amino acid that is naturally produced by the body. "Glucosamine aids in the production of joint lubricants which provide shock absorption for healthy cartilage and joints," Dr. Nelson adds. "It's often paired with chondroitin sulfate which is another building block of cartilage." For glucosamine, try Spot Farms Chicken Strips with Glucosamine and Chondroitin Dog Treats ($17, chewy.com).
Just like with humans, turmeric can be beneficial for our pets, too. "Turmeric contains circumin along with other anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce pain and stiffness," explains Dr. Nelson. "Curcumin has antioxidant properties that slow cell damage from free radicals and can inhibit inflammatory enzymes." To boost your pet's turmeric intake, try Kin+Kind Organic Hip and Joint Pet Supplement ($19.95, amazon.com).
Then there's ginger, which Dr. Nelson says is in the same family as turmeric and has many of the same health benefits. "It contains gingerol which serves as an anti-inflammatory that can reduce pain and inflammation," says. Dr. Nelson. Try feeding your pup Wet Noses Grain-Free Apple and Ginger Flavor Dog Treats ($9.99, chewy.com).
"Alfalfa is rich in proteins, nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants that prevent cell damage, which can contribute to joint degradation. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling and pain," adds Dr. Nelson. For alfalfa, try Olewo Rootsies Digestive Support Potato, Carrot, Alfalfa Grain-Free Dehydrated Dog Food Topper ($24.90, chewy.com).
Most pups love blueberries, and that's good news when you consider all the health benefits associated with them. "Blueberries are a strong antioxidant fruit and are great for fighting inflammation," says Dr. Nelson. "They are also a good source of vitamin C and contain silicon that helps strengthen bones and the connective tissue in joints." For blueberries, try Martha Stewart's CBD Mobility Chicken and Blueberry Flavor Soft Baked Chews ($24.99, shopcanopy.com) and Farmina N&D Prime Lamb & Blueberry Recipe Adult Cat Dry Food ($54.95, chewy.com).
Mangoes and Papaya
"Mangoes and papaya have antioxidant properties that prevent cell damage, and they're high in vitamin C," adds Dr. Nelson. "They have the added benefit of being lower in citric acid than other fruits that have antioxidants, making them more digestible for our pets." For mangoes and papaya, try Wholesome Pride Pet Mango Slices Dog Treats ($9.99, amazon.com).
"Coconut contains valuable fatty acids which fight viral, bacterial, and fungal infections that can contribute to arthritis pain," explains Dr. Nelson. "Coconut oil can also give your dog a small energy boost to help with exercise to build muscle and fight obesity." For coconut, try Merrick Fresh Kisses Infused with Coconut Oil and Botanicals ($25.84, amazon.com) or Solid Gold Tropical Blendz with Chicken and Coconut Oil Pate Grain-Free Canned Cat Food ($15.92, chewy.com).
"Celery is a low-calorie anti-inflammatory that helps with keeping weight in check which prevents strain on joints. It's also high in antioxidants and fiber, which is important in fighting obesity," she says. "The amino acids, calcium, and vitamins celery contains help keep bones and joints strong. Celery also helps move uric acid out of the body which can aggravate arthritis." For celery, try Herbsmith Smiling Dog Kibble Seasoning Freeze-Dried Beef with Potatoes, Carrots, & Celery Dog Food Topper ($9.41, chewy.com).