Joint Supplements and Your Dog
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
When should my pet start taking joint supplements?
Certain dogs are more at risk of developing joint problems because of their breed, size, activity level, or previous illness or injury. Yes, some dogs begin to have joint issues before they are fully grown. If you have a dog predisposed to joint issues like hip dysplasia or osteoarthritis, it would be to your dog’s advantage to begin a regular joint supplement early in life. Therefore, joint care should be part of your pup’s overall routine wellness care, like annual veterinary visits and vaccinations. Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s activity, diet, and overall risk level.
Osteoarthritis – a degenerative joint disease, is a common progressive arthritis that affects one in four dogs. It is the most common cause of joint pain in dogs. Osteoarthritis causes the cushioning between joints to break down, leading to pain, inflammation, and loss of movement.
If your dog is experiencing pain and mobility issues, damage to the joints and cartilage has probably already occurred. Joint supplements may help manage existing symptoms and prevent further deterioration. However, many dogs start developing joint problems long before they show signs. Talk to your vet about joint health and arthritis as early as possible. Many supplements are safe for dogs to take, beginning at age one.
Risk factors for arthritis and joint problems
Although all dogs can develop osteoarthritis, some dogs are at higher risk than others. Some risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
Are there dog breeds that are more prone to joint problems?
Studies show that certain breeds are more prone to joint problems caused by the following:
What are the most effective joint supplements for dogs?
Each dog’s needs vary. Therefore, the most effective joint supplement depends on your dog’s:
Glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl) - is used to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with joint damage and arthritis. Studies have found that once glucosamine levels build up in a dog’s body, some dogs with arthritis experience less pain and an increased ability to bear weight.
Chondroitin - many joint supplements include both glucosamine and chondroitin. Evidence supports that glucosamine and chondroitin may work best when given together. Experts believe that the substances are absorbed faster when taken in combination.
Studies on glucosamine and chondroitin in dogs with arthritis found that the supplements reduced inflammation, helped with pain, and slowed joint damage. But these were only effective when the compounds reached therapeutic levels. It means that the amount of the supplement must reach and remain at a specific level in your dog’s blood. If the compound is not at the desired level, the dog may not experience the potential benefits or could be at risk of adverse effects.
CBD (cannabidiol) - is a substance found in the cannabis plant. CBD may help increase movement and decrease pain in dogs with osteoarthritis. Some scientists also believe CBD has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which helps fight the underlying causes of arthritis and osteoarthritis. More research is needed to understand CBD’s benefits for dogs. But early signs indicate that CBD may offer additional health benefits, such as:
Green-lipped mussel (GLM) - is an ingredient in many joint supplements. It has various nutrients that support joint health, including:
Other popular joint supplements for dogs
You may have heard of other joint supplements that have emerged into the spotlight. Most of these do not appear to be harmful if taken in appropriate doses. But scientific evidence does not indicate that they help with canine arthritis. A lot of the evidence is based on humans, not dogs. If you see the following supplements marketed for joint pain in dogs, be cautious before leaping. Ask your veterinarian for guidance first.
Turmeric - the spice known for giving curry its bright yellow color, has been used in Indian and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries due to its healing properties. In recent years, turmeric has become one of the most talked about and widely debated nutritional supplements to hit the market. Despite its popularity, there is limited veterinary research. And though some studies indicate that turmeric does prevent inflammation and illness, the studies are inconsistent. Available evidence does not justify using turmeric as a joint supplement in dogs and cats.
Boswellia - is an extract made from the bark of a tree. It is listed as an ingredient in several commercial dog supplements because of its anti-inflammatory properties. But there is insufficient evidence to support its use in dogs. Studies of active boswellia on arthritic pets did indicate a reduction in pain. But this research also highlighted issues with the clinical use of boswellia. The amount of active boswellia in consumer products differed too much to determine the appropriate dosage. Researchers also found differences between the active ingredient amounts stated on product labels and the amount detected in the product, making it challenging to ensure the supplements have enough boswellia to have any benefit.
What to look for in dog joint supplements
Dog supplements, like human vitamins and supplements, are not regulated or tested for safety and effectiveness. As a consumer, the research is left to you. You can start by knowing which ingredients and signs of quality to look for in joint supplements.
NASC quality seal - make sure to purchase supplements that display the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Quality Seal. Companies that display the NASC quality seal on products go through extra steps to show that they make reliable products. It includes:
Always consult your vet to ensure supplements do not interfere with your dog's medications. Also, get a recommendation from your veterinarian to avoid spending money on unnecessary supplements. In some cases, over-the-counter supplements may not be the best way to get your dog the joint support they need.
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