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Pedro Mejia, PhD.

Pedro Mejia, Ph.D.

My Zone Blue founder and blog author.

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Chronic inflammation is a silent killer that slowly develops in your dog’s body without you noticing.


Multiple factors can trigger it but the key to a long and healthy life is prevention with natural anti-inflammatory strategies.


Learn what chronic inflammation in dogs is, how it can affect their overall health and lifespan, and the natural alternatives to slow it down or even prevent it all together.

What is chronic inflammation and how it can affect your dog’s lifespan?

Have you noticed that a lot of diseases rhyme?


Arthritis – dermatitis

Hepatitis – pancreatitis


and so on…


Why is that?


The dictionary can offer an explanation:


itis: Suffix denotating diseases characterized by inflammation.”


What the dictionary is not telling us (because that it’s not its job), is that these diseases are not only characterized by inflammation, but also in most cases, are caused by inflammation.


When looking for information about inflammation you’ll learn that there are two kinds: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.


Both are mediated by the immune system.


Although in rare cases it can get out of control, in general, acute inflammation is considered a good thing because it’s what protects your dog from infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.


It also helps repair tissue damaged by injury.


Acute inflammation is almost immediately perceived because it causes redness, swelling, pain, and even fever, and resolves and disappears quickly.


Chronic inflammation on the other hand is less noticeable and can last a lifetime.


In fact, it’s so unnoticeable that it’s often called low grade chronic inflammation.


Chronic inflammation in dogs happens when their immune system thinks there’s a threat to the body even though the threat is gone, or it was never there in the first place.


As a result, your dog’s immune system slowly starts to attack its own tissues, organs, and even its DNA.


This “bad inflammation” lingers in your dog’s system silently. 


You might not know about it until your dog develops an inflammation-related disease like diabetes, arthritis, dermatitis, or cancer.


Chronic inflammation is so dangerous that in people, 50% of all deaths worldwide are attributed to it. 

What causes chronic inflammation in dogs?

Chronic inflammation can be triggered and sustained by multiple factors.


Some, like air pollution can be difficult to avoid.


Other factors leading to chronic inflammation in dogs include industrial chemicals, excessive exercise, and even your own emotional stress


Food can cause inflammation not only in the gut but also at the organism level.


The diet that your dog eats is one of the major factors that can lead to chronic inflammation and shorten your dog’s lifespan.


Ultra-processed foods (think kibbles) are known to be highly pro-inflammatory for your dog.


Those treats that look like people cookies (except maybe for their bone shape) are usually loaded with refined sugars that make your dog more prone to developing chronic inflammation.


Refined grains, often present in commercial dog treats and foods, have their bran and germ removed, stripping away the nutrition and fiber, becoming no more than quickly digested starch.


Fat spraying at the surface of ultra-processed foods is a common manufacturing step to increase palatability of dog food.


After days, weeks, months, and years of exposure to air, these fats become oxidized or rancid and a powerful inflammatory agent.


Not exactly food, but resulting from excess of it, body fat has historically been overlooked in the chronic inflammatory process.


However, it’s known now that excess body fat in over-weight and obese dogs releases a myriad of pro-inflammatory molecules that, in the long term, have a huge impact on their health and on how long they live.


Finally, for reasons that are not yet well understood, there’s and age-related increase in the levels of inflammatory markers that is considered a strong risk factor for multiple diseases and premature death. 


There’s even a term for it: “inflammaging”.

How do you treat chronic inflammation in dogs?

When dealing with inflammatory problems, vets commonly prescribe corticosteroid shots or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).


While these treatments can transitorily control pain and inflammation and offer a temporary relief for your dog, one must keep in mind that these interventions do not address the source of the problem. 


Moreover, long-term use of corticosteroids and NSAIDs is associated with serious health risks.


NSAIDs for example are known to produce gastrointestinal irritation, and kidney and liver toxicity, with limited benefits on longevity and quality of life in the long-term.


Luckily there’re natural alternatives for the prevention and management of chronic inflammation in dogs.

Natural anti-inflammatory for dogs.



Below you will find other effective and natural ways to slow down or even prevent chronic inflammation in your dog. 

Dog relaxing at the pool.
Image from Adobe Stock​​

Anti-inflammatory foods for dogs.

Ironically, the food you feed your dog can cause inflammation or beat it.


It all depends on the choices you make.


Start by avoiding PRO-inflammatory foods like the ones mentioned above and include as many ANTI-inflammatory ones as possible.


Anti-inflammatory foods for dogs include green leafy and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and kale.


This kind of veggies contain sulforaphane which is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent shown to reduce chronic inflammation and alleviate arthritis, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and other chronic diseases.


Blueberries are a great example of fruits that can beat inflammation mainly due to their high content of anthocyanins.


Multiple scientific studies have shown that blueberries protect dogs from inflammation, oxidative damage, and mental ability decline.

Oily fishes rich in omega-3-fatty acids like sardines, mackerels, herring, and anchovies. 


These polyunsaturated fatty acids are natural inhibitors of molecules that trigger inflammation.


Plant-based sources of omega-3 that are anti-inflammatory for dogs include chia seeds, hemp seeds. and flaxseeds.


Fish oil used as a supplement offers the highest amounts of omega-3s.



Exercise has long been known for its anti-inflammatory effects. 


These effects may be mediated by both a reduction in body fat, specifically visceral fat, and the production of anti-inflammatory mediators upon physical effort.

Intermittent fasting for dogs.

As you might have read before in my blog, intermittent fasting may be the most potent intervention to reduce inflammation and extend the healthy years of your dog.


Simply by pausing the intake of food for a little while, your dog can lose body fat and lower chronic inflammation or prevent it all together, slowing the development of chronic diseases.

Given the silent and slow progression of chronic inflammation and the diseases it mediates, it makes sense to take a preventive approach and not wait for a diagnosis to start treating a given condition.

Natural anti-inflammatory foods, exercise, and fasting offer the opportunity to act before your dog gets sick. These preventive measures have the advantage of being effective and safe to use in the long run with virtually no side effects.


I'm not a veterinarian. I'm a scientist and I make every effort to provide science-based evidence in my articles and links to reliable sources. The content of these articles is for educational purposes only. You should discuss with your veterinarian before making any decision regarding the health of your pet.

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