What Are Joint Supplements?

Joint supplements are supplements that can be purchased over-the-counter or are prescribed by your dog’s veterinarian. The supplements help support and protect the cartilage and aid in slowing down the process of arthritis. Arthritis is inflammation in one or multiple joints and is also referred to as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) or Osteoarthritis (OA). This is a common condition dogs can develop as they age. Arthritis can cause pain and swelling in the affected joints which can lead to lameness, mobility issues, stiff and sore joints, and a general decrease in activity. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Joint Supplements?

Joint supplements are key to protecting the cartilage, keeping a joint lubricated, and help to keep the joints healthy despite normal or excessive wear and tear, injuries, diseases, and aging. Many joint supplements also offer support for other organs. In addition to bone and joint health, some promote heart health, skin and haircoat support, strengthen the immune system, and improve energy.

How Should I Choose a Joint Supplement for My Dog?

  • First and foremost, talk to your veterinarian about what joint supplement(s) he or she would recommend for your dog. 
  • Take into consideration if your dog would prefer a chew, tablet, capsule, or powder. Many joint supplements come flavored and in various forms to ensure that your dog enjoys taking them. 
  • Quality is important when looking for a joint supplement for your dog. You can find many kinds of joint supplements online and in pet stores, but that doesn’t mean it is the best for your dog. Many joint supplements have added ingredients that aren’t needed. Purchase from companies that perform research, have quality control procedures, and data to back their supplements, ensuring that they are effective. Avoid products from companies that do not do research or studies on their products. 
  • Safety is very important when deciding what supplements to offer your dog. Follow the same quality and safety studies guidance as mentioned above.  
  • Consider the cost of the supplements. You will find that supplements vary considerably in price. In general, higher quality products are going to be found exclusively through your veterinarian. As with many things in life, the higher the quality, the higher the price tag. That being said, there are many decent joint supplements that can be purchased over-the-counter. 
  • Think about where you will get the joint supplements. Joint supplements can be found at your veterinarian’s office, through your veterinarian’s online pharmacy, pet online pharmacies, pet stores, big box stores, and even grocery stores. 
  • The efficacy of the supplement should be considered. Remember that supplements can work differently for different dogs. One supplement may work great for one dog but not another. You just need to find the one (or several) that work for you and your dog.  
  • You don’t have to use just one. A multi-modal approach is best. Choose a variety of supplements and even therapies to help keep a dog with arthritis comfortable. 
  • The quantity of supplements should also be considered. Some lower-quality supplements, especially, require a large number of tablets or chews in order to achieve the appropriate amount of the key ingredient. 

What Are Key Ingredients?

There are many different ingredients that are helpful in joint supplements. Here are some common ones: 

  • Glucosamine hydrochloride – This is a building block of the cartilage which helps cartilage cells grow. Glucosamine is an amino sugar involved in building up the cartilage and stimulating growth of new cartilage. 
  • Chondroitin sulfate – This supplement works by blocking enzymes that break down cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin are often given together due to their synergistic effects. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fish oils. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to help relieve pain. This supplement is known to help the body in many ways including boosting the immune system and supporting heart, kidney, and joint health. Dogs can’t produce these fatty acids on their own, so they need to be supplemented in their diet. The two specific omega-3 fatty acids responsible for helping to decrease inflammation in osteoarthritis are EPA and DHA which are found in fresh caught cold-water fish. 
  • Boswellia serrata – A tree extract with anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting effects. 
  • Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) – Protects the cartilage and promotes new cartilage growth. 
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) – Helps build healthy bones and joints. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and helps support the immune system. 
  • Green tea extract – This has anti-inflammatory effects and is especially helpful in cases of chronic inflammation. 
  • Eggshell membrane – This supplement contains natural compounds that aid in maintaining healthy joints and joint fluid. 
  • Green-lipped mussels – This supplement works as an anti-inflammatory and includes EPA and DHA fatty acids. 
  • Manganese ascorbate – This compound supports bone development and maintenance. 
  • Other supplement ingredients include collagen, hyaluronic acid, SAM-e, turmeric, and sodium hyaluronate.

What Are Ingredients to Avoid?

Avoid fillers, preservatives, artificial food coloring, and artificial flavors. If the ingredient list is long, it is best to avoid the product, research the ingredients, or ask your veterinarian. 

How Do I Understand Common Marketing Phrases?

Watch out for phrases that seem too “salesy” or offer a quick, easy, and/or cheap fix. 

What Indicates a High-Quality Supplement?

Look for joint supplements that are certified with the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) or other regulatory bodies. Typically, supplements that your veterinarian recommends are of the highest quality. 

As always, make sure to consult your veterinarian when choosing the best joint supplement for your dog.