As dogs age inflammation and regular wear/tear eventually form changes to joints which can lead to conditions like arthritis in dogs. Probably the most interesting thing about arthritis (in my opinion) is that even though most people associate arthritis with being a senior or old age – about 20% of dogs over the age of one have arthritic changes.
This suggests that starting joint supplementation, or joint support sooner rather than later may be advised. For large and giant breed dogs starting some type of joint support even in “puppy-hood” may be advised by your veterinarian.
We don’t really have research that supports that the use of joint supplementation early prevents joint disease later in life, nor do we really have long-term research on the incidence or onset of arthritis in relation to starting joint supplementation.
What we do know is that keeping your pet at a healthy weight both helps with pain management and slows the progression of arthritic changes, AND it delays the onset of joint conditions (and severe symptoms) for up to 2 years in large breed dogs. Thus the BIGGEST preventative we have right now is feeding a complete and balanced diet (with the appropriate calcium to phosphorus ratio), and keeping your pup at a healthy weight for their lifetime.
Today what we are going to do is go through the most popular joint supplements for dogs with arthritis to see which ones have research supporting their use, which ones don’t (along with common issues or concerns associated with their use!). At the end, we will be mentioning brands who have gone that extra mile and done clinical trials on their supplements to prove that they work!
Supplements we will be touching on are:
- Glucosamine / Chrondroitin
- Fish Oil / Omega 3s
- Hyluronic Acid
- Green-Lipped Mussels
- Egg Shell Membrane
- Elk Velvet Antler
But supplementation is only half the puzzle - you can implement dietary changes to help your pup if they suffer from arthritis as well. Read more about the Nutritional Management of Arthritis in Dogs here.
CBD – cannabidiol
What is CBD?
CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, and by law has to contain less than 0.3% THC. Cannabidiol does not make your dog “high”, and is not marijuana.
How does CBD work to help dogs with Arthritis?
CBD works as an anti-inflammatory by using the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and interacting with certain receptors called CBD1 and CBD2. The ECS is known through research to regular pain receptors and inflammatory response.
Do we have research on the use of CBD for arthritis in dogs?
Yes – at this time we have two published studies in dogs that support the use of CBD for joint disease and pain management. One was done in 2018 and showed positive results as far as pain management in dogs with the dose of 2mg/kg – however, studies have noted that dogs given CBD also had elevated ALP values during treatment. Another research paper on the use o CBD for arthritis in dogs looked at a comparative model between mice, humans, and dogs and found positive results with the administration of CBD within a 30 day period with no changes to blood values (dosing was 50mg per day to dogs between 60 to 100 lbs).
CAUTION: Hemp Oil & Certificate of Analysis When choosing a CBD Oil or CBD Product it is important to note that Hemp Oils are not CBD Oils. Hemp Oil is just plant-based oil that is high in ALA and is extracted from Hemp Seeds. CBD Oil is a nutraceutical extracted from the leaves, flowers to stalks of the plant. When comparing CBD products it is extremely important to ask for a certificate of analysis - so that you can know what types of CBD are within the product, the amount or concentration of the CBD product and the amount of THC within the product. According to a research study done in 2019 - only 18 or 29 CBD products actually met current FDA guidelines for supplements, and 4 of the products contained high amounts of heavy metals.
Supplements Containing CBD with Clinical Trials in Dogs:
Glucosamine & Chrondroitin
What is it?
There are several forms of glucosamine – glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl), and glucosamine sulfate, and crystalline glucosamine sulfate – which are usually combined with chrondriotin. Crystalline glucosamine sulfate has the best bioavailability when given orally (at 25-44%), in comparison to a 12% bioavailability for dogs given glucosamine hydrochloride.
How does Glucosamine and Chrondroitin work to help dogs with Arthritis?
Glucosamine and chondroitin work in combination to help stimulate the synthesis of collagen, glycosaminoglycans, and proteoglycans – which are the building blocks of cartilage within the joint, and inhibit enzymes that break down joint fluid and cartilage.
Do we have research on the use of Glucosamine and Chrondriotin for Arthritis in Dogs?
Yes – but research is mixed. According to a 2017 review paper “Veterinarians commonly recommend glucosamine and chondroitin for treating osteoarthritis in canines despite the lack of compelling scientific evidence demonstrating clinical benefit.” Research papers in the past have had mixed results – with a paper published in 2003 comparing a placebo and a supplement composed of glucosamine HCl and chrondroitin finding no significant difference between movement or pain. Other research published in 2007 stating there was significant difference between placebo and glucosamine HCl & chrondroitin use in dogs to help improve movement and pain scores in dogs.
Though research on this topic is mixed, most veterinarians will still recommend this product based on personal experience, and tend to stick to brands with clinical trials to prove efficacy as processing can influence bioavailability of the supplement.
Products with Clinical Trials that contain Glucosamine & Chrondrotin:
What is it?
Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM is found in a variety of plants in different levels (which obtain MSM from the sulfur cycle), or it can be synthetically produced in a laboratory.
How does MSM work to help dogs with Arthritis?
In humans research has shown that MSM works to inhibit the breakdown of cartilage, and reduce inflammation in the joint.
Do we have research on the use of MSM for Arthritis in Dogs?
At this time we have no research in dogs on the use of MSM by itself, however it has been included in several joint supplements that have gone through clinical trials that have been found to be effective – probably the most well-known is Cosequin.
What is ASU?
Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables is a combination of ⅓ avocado oil and ⅔ soybean oil extracts which is given by mouth.
How does Avocado-soybean unsaponibiables work to help dogs with Arthritis?
Works to inhibit two factors (inducible nitric oxide synthase and MMP-13) that induce structural changes in dogs with arthritis.
Do we have research on the use of ASU for Arthritis in Dogs?
Yes, we have research which found that avocado-soybean unsaponifiables can reduce early changes to the cartilage that can occur after knee injury in dogs. ASU has also been included in many products in combination with glucosamine and chrondroitin.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Fish Oil
What exactly is an Omega 3?
Omega 3s are a type of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid for dogs. When we speak about omega 3s and their benefits for dogs we are in particular speaking about EPA and DHA are found in high amounts in certain marine sources: such as oily fish (sardines, herrings, salmon). ALA – another omega 3 fatty acid for dogs, has not been shown to have these same effects. Sources of ALA are nuts and seeds such as flax, hemp, walnut, etc.
How does Fish Oil work to help dogs with Arthritis?
On a very basic level – EPA and DHA cause the body to go into a more “anti-inflammatory” state by outcompeting omega 6 fatty acids which have a more “pro-inflammatory” pathway.
Do we have research on the use of Fish Oil for Arthritis in Dogs?
Yes – we have multiple research studies that support the use of omega 3s in large doses for the management of arthritis in dogs. According to a double-blinded, controlled research study published in 2016, it can take up to 80 days to see significant results from fish oil supplementation alone, however, after 80 days – a significant difference can be seen to mobility, pain, and overall well-being.
Dosing: 75-100mg EPA+DHA per kg body weight
Speak to your veterinarian about additional vitamin E supplementation as well - depending on the fish oil supplement you use, it may be required in order to prevent vitamin E deficiency.
Many dogs are unable to tolerate this additional fat onto an already complete diet without having weight gain due to extra calories or loose stools due to higher levels of fat per day. Instead, most dogs will benefit from a diet specifically formulated for dogs with joint disease that contains higher levels of omega 3s, while keeping overall dietary fat lower.
|Supplement Name||Strength||Dosing for 50 lb dog|
|Kirkland Fish Oil||1000mg omega 3 with 250mg EPA + DHA per capsule||9 capsules per day|
|Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Pet||1242 EPA + DHA per tsp||2 tsp per day|
|Zesty Paws Salmon Oil||765mg EPA + DHA per tsp||3 tsp per day|
CAUTION: Flax Oil Omega 3 fatty acids (ALA) from flax seeds do not work for joint disease in dogs. This is because the conversion from ALA to DHA, and then EPA is poor (only 1-10%), making it near impossible to reach the ideal dosing needed for the condition while using nut/seed-based omega 3 supplementation.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a key component within the synovial fluid within the joint of a dog.
How does oral Hyaluronic Acid work to help dogs with Arthritis?
On a very basic level hyaluronic acid helps with the production of synovial fluid within the joint, which in turn provides lubrication and cushioning to help prevent further arthritic changes.
Do we have research on the use of oral Hyaluronic Acid for Arthritis in Dogs?
We have very limited research for oral use of hyaluronic acid in dogs with joint disease. One research study published in 2014 which looked at hyaluronic acid used in conjunction with glucosamine, chondroitin and collagen did help delay clinical signs of joint disease in a group of labrador puppies by 20 months of age. Puppies with hip dysplasia within the test group did not display visual signs of pain, or discomfort despite having malformed joints, whereas puppies with hip dysplasia who did not receive supplementation did display signs of pain by 20 months.
Another study published in 2021 found that use of Hyluronic acid alone after cranial cruciate ligament injury (a dog ACL injury) caused higher amount of synovial fluid to be produced, and lead to a decrease in the development of osteoarthritic biomarkers.
Supplements Containing Hyluronic Acid with Clinical Trials in Dogs:
- Hyaoral (2014 research study)
- Mobilee (2021 research study)
What is Collagen?
Collagen type two is one of the pain proteins within the cartilage of the joint.
How does Collagen-II work to help dogs with Arthritis?
It is believed that Collagen type 2 stimulates the production and repair of joint cartilage, however, we do not have research that has fully evaluated the mode of action of collagen II.
Do we have research on the use of Collagen-II for Arthritis in Dogs?
We have some research on the use of Collagen-II orally in dogs. A 2007 research study found that the use of collagen II in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin saw a 50% greater reduction in pain scores, and increase in mobility than using glucosamine and chondroitin alone. A further study published in 2012 found that the use of Collagen-II reduced pain scores in dogs in comparison to placebo, and dogs treated with glucosamine and chondroitin. And a recent study published in 2019 (unblinded, controlled) found that Collagen-II improved mobility scores of dogs with osteoarthritis similar to Robenacoxib – an NSAID pain medication for dogs.
Supplements containing Collagen-II for Dogs with Clinical Trials:
- Flexadin UC-II – 2019 research study above was clinical trial from this product.
What is Boswellia?
Boswellia extract is composed of a resin or extract from a type of tree which grows in northern India
How does Boswellia work to help dogs with Arthritis?
We don’t really know, but it’s believed that Boswellia helps to decrease inflammation and support the immune system.
Do we have research on the use of Boswellia for Arthritis in Dogs?
We do have some limited research on the use of Boswellia in dogs with arthritis. A 2004 research study showed a 71% reduction in pain and improved movement in just two weeks. It should be noted that this study was not double-blinded, nor was there a placebo control. A further study published in 2019 found similar results between the use of glucosamine chondroitin supplement and the addition of curcumin and Boswellia – all showed improvement to pain and mobility, but did not work significantly better than the other.
Conclusion: results are mixed and limited to if Boswellia is effective.
What is Tumeric?
Tumeric is the root of a plant that has a yellow-orange color which contains a powerful compound called curcumin.
How does Tumeric work to help dogs with Arthritis?
Research has shown that Curcumin works to inhibit inflammation and changes the expression of inflammatory markers in dogs similar to pain mediation.
Do we have research on the use of Tumeric for Arthritis in Dogs?
Not on turmeric, but on it’s purified extract Curcumin. In a 2003 double-blinded, placebo controlled study they found that curcumin supplementation did show significantly improved lameness scores in comparison to the placebo, however, no significant differences were noted by owners within treatment groups. Further research from 2019 regarding combination products containing curcumin, glucosamine, and chondroitin has been shown to be effective for the management of pain – HOWEVER – this was no different than the same product without the addition of curcumin. More extensive research done in people has shown advantages to the use of Curcumin for the management of joint disease, however, research is rather limited in dogs.
Conclusion: Results are mixed and limited to if Curcumin is effective.
CAUTION: Turmeric and Golden Paste Current research suggests that a 75lb dog would need around 450mg Curcumin in order to see benefits for joint disease. As Tumeric contains about 100-200mg per tsp - that would mean a large breed dog would need at least 2 tsp of Tumeric per day. Turmeric can be extremely bitter and irritating to the stomach in large doses and cause gastrointestinal distress in some dogs. Mega-doses of turmeric have also been associated with iron deficiency, anemia, and bleeding disorders in humans - so more is not necessarily better. The bioavailability of the curcumin within Tumeric is also fairly poor, thus most often it is recommended to give it in combination with both a fat, such as coconut oil, and black pepper to create “Golden Paste”.
Supplements containing Curcumin with Clinical Trials in Dogs:
What is Green-Lipped Mussel?
Green-lipped mussel is a specific variety of shellfish found in the waters of New Zealand
How do Green-Lipped Mussels work to help dogs with Arthritis?
Green-lipped mussels contain a variety of different types of fats – including EPA and DHA which we commonly see is other marine oils, along with furan fatty acids, sphingolipids, phytosterols, diacylglycerols, diterpenes, sesquiterpense and saponins.
Do we have research on the use of Green-Lipped Mussels for Arthritis in Dogs?
We have several different research studies done on dogs looking at the use of green-lipped mussels (GLM) for arthritis in dogs. Early research on GLM used for arthritis in dogs was mixed, however in recent years, with changes to processing and manufacturing since 2006 the outlook on GLM as a joint suppplement as improved.
A 2006 research study found that supplementation with green-lipped mussels improved signs of pain, discomfort, and mobility after about 60 days. And further research published in 2013 found that diets supplemented with green-lipped mussels showed improvement to clinical signs over base diet. Further research reviews on the use of GLM in dogs has been positive, concluding “studies conducted on dogs provide evidence on the beneficial effects of GLM extracts for alleviating symptoms of osteoarthritis”
Conclusion: research though limited, seems supportive that green-lipped mussel is an effective joint supplement.
Supplements containing Green-Lipped Mussel with clinical trials in Dogs:
Egg Shell Membrane
What is Egg Shell Membrane?
Egg Shell Membrane is the thin layer between the egg shell and the white/yoke of the egg.
How does Egg Shell Membrane work to help dogs with Arthritis?
According to research studies on in the lab, Egg Shell Membane on inhibit proinflammatory cytokines. They also containing collagen, hyluronic acid, glucosamine and chrondroitin – along with other glycosaminoglycans. But full mechanisms of action is unknown.
Do we have research on the use of Egg Shell Membrane for Arthritis in Dogs?
We have limited research for the use of Egg Shell Membrane in Dogs. A double-blinded, placebo controlled research study from 2016 in dogs found that Egg Shell Membrane did significantly reduce some types of joint pain and improve mobility but not others after a 6 week trial (a reduction of symptoms by around 25%). The research study also saw blood values of joint-supportive biochemicals increase suggesting joint-protective properties – but this was not assessed by this study.
Supplements containing Egg Shell Membrane with Clinical Trials in Dogs:
What is Microlactin?
Microlactin is actually a milk protein of hyperimmunized cows – also called “hyperimmune milk factor” or HIMF.
How does Microlactin work to help dogs with Arthritis?
Microlactin works by blocking inflammatory cytokines which lead to inflammation
Do we have research on the use of Microlactin for Arthritis in Dogs?
We have very limited research on it’s use in dogs. Clinical trials from the manufacturer Duralactin showed significant improvement to movement and pain scores when compared to placebo. However most other research has either been on in vitro or in other species like horses.
CAUTION: Milk Protein & Lactose Intolerance
It is important to note that as Microlactin is a milk protein, dogs with lactose intolerance may not be able to tolerate it well.
Elk Velvet Antler
What is Elk Velvet Antler?
The velvet or “new growth” of an elk antler, harvested about 8 weeks after the start of antler growth.
How does Elk Velvet Antler work to help dogs with Arthritis?
A particular type of peptile called pilose antler peptide have been shown to help with inflammation in mice (though mechanism is unknown). The antler velvet also contains chondroitin along with many other minerals that have been suggested to be useful for dogs with joint disease.
Do we have research on the use of Elk Velvet Antler for Arthritis in Dogs?
We do have limited research that supports the use of Elk Velvet Antler for joint disease in dogs. A research study published in 2004 found that dogs supplemented with Elk Vevet Antler did show improvement to clinical signs associated with joint disease in comparison to placebo.
CAUTION: Ethical Concerns
There are some ethical concerns with the “harvesting” of elk velvet antler as the velvet has to be harvested in the beginning on the antler growth cycle, not after the antlers are shed naturally. Depending on company practices the removal of the antler tips may or may not be performed with a local anesthetic using training/socialization to help with stress and pain. The antler itself is full of nerve endings, and cutting off the tip is not unpainful at this stage of growth.
What is Fortetropin?
Fortetropin is a is a proteo-lipid complex made from fertilized egg yolk.
How does Fortetropin work to help dogs with Arthritis?
Fortetrophin works to inhibit the breakdown of muscles from disuse or abnormal use in relation to joint disease. Loss of muscle mass surrounding joints can make them unstable and unable to properly support normal use.
Do we have research on the use of Fortetropin for Arthritis in Dogs?
We do have limited research on the use of Fortetropin in dogs – one research study published by a company creating the supplement (not double-blinded), found that Fortetropin prevented muscle wasting after tibial plateau leveling osteotomy in dogs (knee surgery). Even though dogs were place on strict bed rest, no muscle wasting was seen in the group that received Fortetropin at the 8 week mark (in comparison to placebo who did see a significant reduction in muscle mass of about 1.2 cm).
Supplements containing Fortetropin with clinical trials in Dogs:
I hope this overview provides you with a thorough look at the different supplements that are on the market so that you can make the best decision for your pup. I know personally for my pup Ranger who has pretty severe hip dysplasia – I use a combination of dietary management with very high doses of fish oil with additional hyluronic acid, collagen-II, and green-lipped mussel. Then I use CBD as needed if Ranger happens to be particularly sore. I also plan to test out Myos in the future to see if it can help Ranger as he continues to age.
Every dog is a bit different – so speak to your veterinarian about which option would be best suited for your pup!
About the Author: Nikki is a Registered Veterinary Technician (Veterinary Nurse) and Dog Mom with over a decade of experience with dogs and cats. Since graduation from college (BS Biology, Dip. Animal Nutrition, AS Animal Science) she has adopted two mixed breed dogs – Ranger and Ash, and has focused her time learning about pet food and nutrition.
Nikki shares information on a range of dog nutrition topics: from how to create a homemade complete and balanced dog food recipes, to how to choose a dog food. Nikki strives to give dog parents the information they need in order to make the best nutrition decisions for their pup!
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