The Microbiome & Joint Disease
Author: DVM cVMA Dana Hogg
Did you know taking your pet for a walk isn’t just for dogs? All animals can benefit from taking additional steps as part of their daily routine. Not only does it help burn calories and improve metabolism, but it also helps with overall joint health!
Speaking of joint health, one common orthopedic issue that all species of animals can develop is arthritis. Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints which can result in pain and stiffness over time. While several factors contribute to the development of arthritis, it is suspected that low-grade chronic inflammation plays a large role (1). Unlike humans, animals tend to develop arthritis at a much younger age (2). Animals often adapt their posture and mobility to compensate for the discomfort, making detection more challenging. Signs of arthritis can include decreased mobility, lameness, change in general attitude, change in urination or defecation, poor grooming habits, and decreased enthusiasm or participation during activities that they used to enjoy.
Studies indicate the gastrointestinal microbiome can influence joint and bone health, as well as other distant organs through a few different mechanisms. The gut microbiota produces important vitamins for the body. Disruption of the gut microbiome can lead to inflammation in the gut lining resulting in compromised nutrient absorption and negative impacts on metabolism. The microbiome also has immune-modulating effects. These occur when alterations in the microbiome stimulate the immune cells residing in the gut lining, which results in the production of pro or anti-inflammatory factors in the body. Lastly, translocation of molecules across the gut lining can occur and enter circulation which can cause inflammatory responses in distant organs (3).
How does this relate to the management of arthritis?
There are several modalities to consider when devising a plan for the management of arthritis and preserving overall joint health. The biggest components are weight management and exercise. (2) Exercise and proper diet are the keys to maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise coupled with appropriate weight can help maintain proper muscle mass and reduce pain secondary to arthritis. So, let’s get our pets moving! Other factors to consider in the management of arthritis include pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and integrative therapies.
A study set out to examine the effects of undenatured type II collagen supplementation on dogs with arthritis in comparison to a common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) used in arthritis management (1). The undenatured form of type II collagen is a nutritional supplement derived from chicken sternum cartilage and is a powdered, glycosylated, and shelf-resistant component (17). NSAIDs are a common medication used by veterinarians to help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
The mechanism behind this is known as oral tolerance in which the small intestine absorbs the administered undenatured type II collagen over time and then initiates an immune modulatory response. Immune cells are released into systemic circulation and target the type II collagen antigen in the joints. Once recognized, a cascade is initiated to inhibit certain immune cells responsible for producing inflammation and collagen degradation in joints. The study concluded that in mild to moderate cases of arthritis, the administration of undenatured type II collagen improved overall mobility in dogs affected by arthritis at a similar rate compared to the NSAID. However, in more severe cases of arthritis, the dogs receiving the NSAID had more response to therapy (1). Many other animal studies demonstrate that oral administration of undenatured Type II collagen reduced pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
While there are currently not a lot of studies out there that consider the microbiome when managing cases of early osteoarthritis, supporting the microbiome during other methods of treatment may prove to be very beneficial. Of course, weight management and exercise still prove to be some of the simplest ways to help maintain overall joint health. So, this month, let’s continue January’s trend and get our pets (and ourselves) out walking!
- Stabile, Marzia et al., “Evaluation of the Effects of Undenatured Type II Collagen (UC-II) as Compared to Robenacoxib on the Mobility Impairment Induced by Osteoarthritis in Dogs.” Veterinary Sciences, vol. 6, no. 3, 2019. Pubmed, https://doi.org/10.3390/vetsci6030072.
- “Getting Ahead of Osteoarthritis in Pets.” American Veterinary Medical Association, 1 Jan. 2021, www.avma.org/javma-news/2021-01-01/getting-ahead-osteoarthritis-pets.
- Hernandez, Christopher J. “The Microbiome and Bone and Joint Disease.” Current Rheumatology Reports, vol. 19, no. 12, 2017. pubmed, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11926-017-0705-1.
- Bagi C.M., Berryman E.R., Teo S., Lane N.E. Oral administration of undenatured native chicken type II collagen (UC-II) diminished deterioration of articular cartilage in a rat model of osteoarthritis (OA) Osteoarthr. Cartil. 2017;25:2080–2090. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2017.08.013.
Dr. Dana Hogg graduated in 2015 from North Carolina State University. She grew up in Wilson, North Carolina. Growing up with several animals, Dr. Hogg was drawn to the field of veterinary medicine at a young age. She completed her undergraduate degree at NCSU in 2009 and her master's degree in 2011.
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