An active dog is a happy dog, but over time their joints take damage just like ours. Fortunately, there are an array of hip and joint supplements for dogs available on the market which can help to reduce pain and even avoid some issues in the first place.
However, for those new to the world of canine supplements, the whole mess can seem confusing and finding the best joint supplement for your dog can be downright painful. So, without further ado let’s hop right in and we’ll show you what to look for when you’re trying to keep your pet active and spry for as long as possible.
Most dogs will benefit over the long term when it comes to supplementation.
However, some dogs are much more prone to joint issues than others. Large breeds, in particular, should be started on a regimen early in their life. Supplementation can begin quite early and should be continued through a dog’s lifespan.
The fact of the matter is that Fido may not be showing signs just yet…but supplementation can keep issues from cropping up in the future. In addition, many joint supplements have some kind of anti-inflammatory agent which will help your dog with pain that occurs alongside their issues.
Ideally, every dog would be introduced to supplements at an early age to maintain joint health throughout their lives.
In practice, anyone with a large breed pup or a purebred which is prone to arthritis, hip dysplasia, or other joint problems should be started off as soon as the dog is done growing… or even earlier if a veterinarian approves.
Just like human supplements, there’s a bewildering array of ingredients and concoctions which people swear by.
For the most part, the only concern you’ll be facing is the ingredients within the supplement and the form it takes.
While there are a ton of different ingredients out there, the one that a pet owner should really pay attention to is glucosamine. This amino acid is used in both humans and animals for its anti-inflammatory action and joint bolstering capabilities.
Simply put: it’s the main active ingredient in most joint supplements.
It’s most often paired with chondroitin, and a glucosamine/chondroitin combination is the go-to method used by vets for osteoarthritis in pets.
The other primary chemical ingredient which can be found in dog hip and joint supplements is methylsufonylmethane, or MSM. MSM is also used in arthritis treatments for humans and has been found to be quite effective.
While these three form the bulk of active ingredients, there are often herbal components included with joint supplements for canines. Turmeric, which has a proven anti-inflammatory effect is quite common.
Along with these proven effective ingredients there are a ton of other things which get thrown into the mix, ranging from CoQ10 to Omega fatty acids. Most of these have a negligible effect compared to the primary ingredient and are just part of the common tactic of “jamming a bunch of stuff in a supplement.”
None of the ingredients contained within the vast majority of dog joint supplements are toxic but for those who are cautious it may be best to stick with a glucosamine/chondroitin mixture and omit any other ingredients.
There are also homeopathic remedies available, but they don’t have any proven effect in blind trials and shouldn’t be the “first line” defense for your pet’s joints.
Dog supplements can be found as pills, soft-chews, gummies, treats, and even liquids.
Canines tend to be pretty good at taking supplements, but picky eaters will often avoid pills. Gummies and other treats are recommended for the most part, most have some kind of meat flavor included making the dog eager to eat them.
Liquids can be added to water or food depending on the dog and are a relatively low effort way to ensure your animal is getting their supplement. On the other hand, dosing is much more difficult to measure than with pre-measured forms so many people use them only as a last resort.
We recommend using treats or soft chews for the most part. Smaller gummies are a great way to make sure that your dog’s joint issues receive the proper attention. The only real problem is that each dog has their own individual taste so you’ll have to hope that a particular brand sits well with them.
Pills are the cheapest form and for dogs who aren’t picky make a great budget solution. Picky eaters will have a hard time taking them, however, so unless you know your pet will wolf down anything put in front of it they’re a dicey option.
Overall, as long as the ingredient formulation is correct in the first place the form the supplement takes is the most important choice you’ll make when looking at supplements.
Reputation and Vet Recommendations
Since glucosamine/chondroitin has a solid place in veterinary recommendations there’s one extra thing to check out: the reputation of the brand in question. Supplements are a notoriously shady business and pets aren’t an exception, unfortunately.
Indeed, in some cases, a supplement doesn’t contain the ingredients on the label at all.
That’s why a solid veterinary recommendation and the overall reputation of the joint supplement one is looking at is extremely important. In an ideal world we’d be able to decide based on just the information given to us, but in practice you don’t want to be an “early adopter” of something as critical to your pet’s long-term health as joint supplements.
Online reviews are a great way to find out if a supplement works for others, but any brand which has veterinary backing is going to show it frequently and proudly. If both look good, then chances are you’re looking at a legitimate supplement.
Pricing isn’t always a good factor to look for in supplements. Instead, a solid reputation and recommendations should give you the best idea of real-world applications.
However, multi-ingredient formulations will cost more regardless since they’re more resource-intensive to manufacture.
For that reason, minimizing the extraneous ingredients in your dog’s supplements is a good idea to keep costs in line. Since anything outside of the glucosamine/chondroitin formula recommended by vets may not be backed by evidence it’s the best way for a pet owner to go unless they’re planning on digging deep into canine medical research.
Remember to calculate the cost per month rather than just looking at the initial price since supplements are sold in varying quantities.
Since dogs vary so wildly in size and nutritional needs, it’s important to make sure that you’re giving them the right dose of the supplement as well.
Most will include dosing information, but the general consensus for glucosamine is roughly 20mg/day per pound of bodyweight. So, a small terrier weighing in at ten pounds needs around 200mg per day, while a hundred pound German Shepherd will need 2000mg per day.
Fortunately, glucosamine and chondroitin are both very safe compounds so a little bit of extra shouldn’t do any harm.
Side effects will vary based on the compounds contained within, but if you stick with glucosamine/chondroitin blends they’re almost always mild.
The most common are diarrhea and nausea, both of which are indications you need to drop the dosage down. Gastrointestinal discomfort for your pup is no good and in some cases, it can happen even at the recommended dose as a dog gets acclimated to the supplement.
For that reason, it’s best to start with about 10mg/pound of bodyweight and bring the dosage up to double that over the course of a few days. This is doubly true for older dogs who are just now getting their supplements.
If you’re looking at a complex supplement, with many ingredients, you should be careful to research each before deciding the best way to go. Simpler is often better, reducing the risk of side effects and interactions with food or medications.
Q: Can joint supplements prevent hip dysplasia?
A: Supplements won’t be able to prevent all cases of hip dysplasia but when fed the right joint mixture from a young age it can reduce the chances of it occurring. They’re not a sure-fire solution, however, and even a properly supplemented pet can still end up with the condition. That’s not a sign to stop supplementation, one of the main effects with hip and joint supplements is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce pain.
Q: If my dog already has arthritis should I use a joint supplement?
A: Yes. Most supplements are anti-inflammatory in addition to helping support the structure of bones and joints and they’ll reduce pain. Since glucosamine is an amino acid it’s also not hard on the body like NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and can be used in conjunction with veterinary recommendations.
Q: What age is it best to start a dog at?
A: Consult with your vet if you have a particularly young puppy, but the generally recommended age is about a year. Dogs which are prone to joint issues as they age, particularly larger dogs, can be started early as long as your veterinary professional approves.
Q: My dog doesn’t have joint issues, should I use a supplement?
A: Dogs aren’t great at letting us know they’re in pain, which is why some kind of anti-inflammatory is used for almost all elderly dogs. Joint supplements, when properly formulated, are used for both prevention and treatment of joint issues. It’s a personal choice, but we’d err on the side of caution as arthritis in elderly dogs is both common and debilitating.
Q: Can I use human joint supplements for my pet?
A: In some cases you can, but be careful of dosage and inactive ingredients. For the most part it’s recommended to stick with those which are designed for dogs since some of the filling and binding agents used in human pills and tablets can be harmful to our canine companions. If you do go down this route do the research on the inactive ingredients and only use those which contain glucosamine on it’s own otherwise you may end up in a a bad spot.
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