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Leicester 2002 Monday, 9 September, 2002, 05:14 GMT 06:14 UK
Mussel power for arthritic pets
Puppies
A diet with mussels could avoid problems later in life

A new type of pet food has been developed to help dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.

Researchers announced at the British Association's science festival in Leicester that a diet that includes green lip mussels can relieve the swelling associated with the common joint disease.

The scientists came upon the medicinal powers of these sea creatures after it was noted that the Maoris of New Zealand ate them raw in large quantities and rarely suffered pain in the limbs.

In tests done at the Waltham Centre for Pet Care in Leicestershire, arthritic dogs fed extracts from the mussels gained considerable benefit - with half of the animals in the study showing at least a 50% improvement.

The extracts can be found in some health supplements for humans.

Now, the estimated one million dogs in the UK suffering from osteoarthritis look set to be offered the same treatment as well.

Useful drug

"It is two years now since Waltham scientists in the United States started to look for alternative therapies other than for instance aspirin which can actually cause damage to dogs long term," Dr Karyl Hurley from the centre told the BBC.

"These mussels have a strong anti-inflammatory action."

Osteoarthritis results when cartilage around the joints degenerates, resulting in lameness.

It means many dogs are confined to a sedentary life and a daily regime of pills.

But it is claimed that a diet including green lip mussels can change this.

Scientists believe that the combination of fatty acids and anti-oxidants in the mussels can significantly reduce the symptoms of the disease.

However, it has taken several years to develop a usable drug.

The usual forms of processing that involve heat treatment were found to denature, or destroy, the useful proteins in the mussels.

Dr Hurley said: "Now, there is a patented process that allows you to take the flesh of the mussel and freeze-dry it and stabilise it, so you can add it to a product. And this is what we've used for these pet foods."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
"Early attempts to create a drug have failed"
BA science festival at Leicester University.

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24 Jul 02 | England
16 Aug 02 | Americas
14 Aug 02 | England
01 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
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