Luckily for pet owners, our dogs and cats are living longer and better lives, thanks in part to the excellent veterinary care we seek for our furry family members and the pet insurance which makes it possible to do so! But our pets are not free from the aging processes that affect every cell in every tissue in their bodies (and ours).
Aging is accompanied by chronic low grade inflammation. Simply put, inflammation is the body’s response to tissue injury elicited from trauma or infection. Acute inflammation in the body is an attempt to try to remove the threat and start the healing process.
Classic signs, such as heat, pain, redness, and swelling indicate acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation is prolonged inflammation that arises when the response that led to acute inflammation is not turned off. You can think of chronic inflammation as a slow burning fire that stimulates inflammatory cells, even when they aren’t needed.
Over a lifetime, the activation of inflammatory cells leads to what medical professionals term a “pro-inflammatory” status. In humans, we know that a mild pro-inflammatory state is correlated with major degenerative diseases in the elderly, and it stands to reason that the same logic would apply to our four-legged friends.
Inherent DNA damage that comes with age coupled with years of exposure to inflammatory proteins leads to an exacerbation of the aging process and to age related disease. To make matters worse, aging also causes more inflammation. Thus, inflammation is the cause of AND the result of age related processes.
Chronic inflammation plays a key role in several feline and canine age-related diseases including:
- Chronic renal failure
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Cardiovascular disease
Unfortunately, there is no cure for aging. What you can do, however, is help your pet grow old gracefully by ensuring they live a healthy lifestyle. As you know, diet and exercise play a key role in keeping ourselves and our pets healthy. Feed a high-quality diet and work in 30 minutes of exercise a day, whether it be a walk around the neighborhood or a rousing game of fetch. Also, talk to your veterinarian about supplementing your pet’s diet with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, both of which are known to have anti-inflammatory effects.