If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis or has an orthopedic disease or injury, he may benefit from using a joint supplement.
Like in human medicine, joint supplements can provide many health boosts with minimal adverse side effects. Even if your veterinarian has not prescribed a specific type, your pup may have a lot to gain from taking a daily joint supplement.
In this article our vets briefly explain joint disease, how supplements can help dog’s suffering from joint disease and also give an overview of some of the ingredients found in common supplements.
What is joint disease in dogs?
The ingredients that make up joint supplements contribute to the overall health of your dog’s joints. A joint is the space between two bones in the body. The ends of the bone are either lined with cartilage or protected with a cushion like the discs in between the vertebrae in the spinal column. Cartilage and intervertebral discs are meant to act as shock absorbers and prevent painful bone-on-bone contact. There are also ligaments that span the joints to help stabilize them.
Whenever there is inflammation due to infection, injury, or orthopedic disease such as degenerative joint disease, the joint can become swollen and very painful. Wear-and-tear also occurs with age, and eventually, this can lead to bone-on-bone contact in the joints. In the case of intervertebral discs, they can herniate and put pressure on the spinal cord.
Regardless of the cause for your dog’s arthritis, it is important to address the pain and inflammation so that he can go back to having a good quality of life. Many veterinarians can prescribe medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or sometimes steroids to relieve inflammation. Physical therapy, cold laser therapy, and acupuncture are also useful.
How can joint supplements help dogs?
As well as pain medications, joint supplements can help to mitigate pain and promote overall joint health in dogs. A joint supplement usually contains multiple ingredients that are combined into one chew or tablet, for once a day consumption. If chewable treats or tablets are difficult to administer, some ingredients for joint supplements may be available in oil form. Because the bioavailability of these ingredients can vary, it may take four to six weeks of joint supplement usage before maximum efficacy is achieved.
Sometimes the sole use of a joint supplement can make a huge difference in your dog’s mobility. However, with severe arthritis or orthopedic disease, your dog may also need medical intervention. It is important that you talk to your veterinarian if your canine companion is experiencing pain. Even subtle signs like favoring one leg over another can indicate that your dog is in pain.
Joint supplement ingredients
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements
Glucosamine and chondroitin are the most common ingredients found in joint supplements. They are complex sugars called glycosaminoglycans and are part of the building blocks for cartilage in the body. Glycosaminoglycans can help produce new cartilage, inhibit cartilage-destroying enzymes, minimize inflammation, and promote wound healing. They can also create a protective layer inside the intestines and urinary bladder to block toxin absorption and infection.
Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan that has a larger overall molecular size. It is the main component for synovial fluid, a viscous liquid that lubricates the joint spaces, thus reducing friction across the surfaces of the joints. It is also useful for wound-healing and protects cartilage from wear-and-tear.
An injectable glycosaminoglycan called Adequan is also commercially available. Its exact mechanism of action is unknown, but it has been FDA-approved for its use in canine patients with arthritis. Adequan can inhibit cartilage loss, relieve inflammation, and lubricate joints. It is given as an intramuscular injection twice a week for four weeks, and it can be given every three to four weeks after that or as needed.
Turmeric or curcumin supplements
Turmeric or curcumin is derived from a root that is related to ginger. It is popular in human medicine for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. It has also been evaluated in human cancer studies as a means of relieving pain and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. While there are no studies that look for its use in dogs with cancer, there are studies showing that turmeric had an anti-inflammatory effect when used in dogs with arthritis-associated pain.
Omega 3 supplements
Omega 3 fatty acids are also important building blocks for cells in your dog’s body, and they are provided via his diet and supplements. Omega 3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are known for their naturally anti-inflammatory effects. They can reduce inflammation for soft tissues such as the intestines and urinary bladder, and they can promote heart health. Most commercial diets already contain omega 3s, but these are typically low in amount so supplementing is safe to do.
CBD oil supplements
CBD oil is becoming increasingly popular. It is seen as an alternative medicine for dogs with anxiety and pain. It is also reported to have fewer side effects than anti-inflammatory medications and is considered safe for dogs because it does not contain THC, the toxic ingredient found in Cannabis. There is little scientific evidence to prove its benefits, but active research is underway, and there is abundant anecdotal evidence to support its use in pups with arthritis pain.
A mix of ingredients is usually more effective
Joint supplements often combine different ingredients to make a more effective product. They are typically available in oral formulations but liquid or oil supplements can be easier to administer for some pups. It can take several weeks for the ingredients to reach maximum availability within your dog’s joint spaces and soft tissues.
Talk to your vet about safe joint supplements for our dog
Joint supplements have minimal side effects and may be safe for many dogs to use. If you’re still sure about overall safety and if a joint supplement is right for your pup, make sure to talk to your veterinarian. They can discuss your options and may even have a preferred joint supplement that will work best for your dog!