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Joint care for Dogs

General, Joint disorders | August 4, 2021 | Author: Naturopath


Joint care for Dogs

As we get older we know what it's like to feel pain and stiffness in our joints and we only need to watch our older dog companions to see they share same struggle. Osteoarthritis is a debilitating disease which can take the joy out of our pets' life. Osteoarthritis of the joints can occur due to a number of possible reasons, such wear and tear or trauma. Obesity can cause added stress to the joint. Just like their human counterparts, there are nutrients available and lifestyle changes which can help.


Canine osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative disease of the joint which may involve defects in the structure of the cartilage or failure of cartilage to regenerate. Joint trauma and inflammation may instigate the beginning of osteoarthritis in dogs.

Dogs of all sizes and any breeds can be affected by the debilitating disease of osteoarthritis and this can mean their quality of life is reduced.

Symptoms and Signs of Osteoarthritis

Symptoms and Signs of OsteoarthritisCommon symptoms include pain, tenderness, stiffness, swelling, muscle wasting and a limited range of motion. Moving slowly or not being able to move at all (lame). Difficulty walking up stairs or hills  and slipping on some floor surfaces can occur. There may also be some behavioural changes due to pain. 

These symptoms can limit enjoyable physical activity and be as severe as to affect normal everyday movement such as standing up and walking.

Natural Therapies to the Rescue

Glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate are commonly prescribed by veterinarians often as an alternative or add on therapy to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis. NSAID’s are not always suitable or tolerated by canines and may cause some adverse effects.


Glucosamine is a compound (an amino sugar) which naturally occurs in the body. Glucosamine serves as a building block of cartilage and stimulates growth of cartilage cells.

The cartilage is the protective covering at the end of bone which allows smooth movement.

Glucosamine supplement help to regulate the synthesis of collagen in cartilage and act as a mild anti-inflammatory.


Chondroitin naturally occurs in the body and is a major constituent in connective tissue, including cartilage. It is a glycosaminoglycan which helps to maintain fluid in the joint (and other parts of the body) and plays a role in joint flexibility. Chondroitin sulfate inhibits destructive enzymes in the fluid of the joint.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are often found together in supplements and together contribute to the formation of cartilage. Supplements suitable for canines differ from those available for humans with different strength, formulation and other active ingredients. It may take between 2 – 6 weeks of supplementation before result are achieved.


Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring nutrient used as a supplement in conditions of inflammation and to prevent oxidative stress in diseases such as arthritis. Some formulas for arthritis for dogs contain MSM, although studies on its use in dogs are lacking. Broccoli, leafy greens and apples contain natural sources of MSM.

​Green lipped musselsGreen lipped mussel

Green lipped mussel products may offer an anti-inflammatory action and modulating affect on cartilage. In studies it was shown adding green-lipped muscle to the diet of dogs with osteoarthritis helped with gait (manner of walking).

Fish oil

Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA from fish oil, offers an anti-inflammatory action which helps with stiffness and pain in dogs with osteoarthritis.

Boswellia serrata and Curcuma longa

Boswellia serrata and Curcuma longa (turmeric) are well known to be an effective medicine in the treatment and symptom relief of osteoarthritis in humans. Veterinary literature has also revealed these nutritional supplements to  be helpful in the prevention of collagen degradation, inhibition of the pro-inflammatory medicators and downregulation of the pre inflammatory cascade. 


L-carnitine is an essential nutrient which must be provided by the diet or biosynthesized by other body tissue.  It is essential for the transportation of long-chain fatty acids in the mitochondria (the energy centres of cells) and is essential for normal cardiac and skeletal muscle function. Studies on Labrador retrievers showed l-Carnitine “prevented exercise-induced muscle damage based on the reduced efflux of inflammatory enzymes and reduced oxidative stress during strenuous exercise in Labrador retrievers” [1].

Supplementing with l-carnitine may offer positive benefits such as improving body composition (weight-loss) and muscle recovery after exercise. L-carnitine also offers antioxidant protection.

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Other considerations

Weight loss

Obese and over-weight dogs are more prone to inflammatory conditions and development of osteoarthritis. Diet and exercise are important for successful weight loss – as is the limitation by the owner of offering extras and treats.

Weight lossNutritional formulas designed specifically for weight loss will often contain higher amounts of protein, L-carnitine, fibre, vitamins and minerals. These diets formulas help with maintaining lean muscle mass whilst promoting fat loss.

Advice from veterinarian is highly recommended for suitable products and amounts needed for individual pets.


Exercise is important for weight loss and mobility is important for joint health in dogs with osteoarthritis. Going out for a walk can be an enjoyable activity and offers a positive connection between human and dog.

Providing a comfortable environment

Ensuring a warm and pleasant environment is important for the comfort of your mate. Suggestions such as a ramps instead of stairs, placing non-slip mats for walking or sleeping, and an easily accessible and warm bed can help limit joint stress and pain. 

If your companion is appearing to suffer from joint pain and stiffness it is important to obtain a proper diagnosis from your veterinary doctor, who can also provide the correct nutritional, supplemental and exercise advice.

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Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5356289/

Effect of a diet enriched with green-lipped mussel on pain behavior and functioning in dogs with clinical osteoarthritis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3525174/

Effects of feeding a high omega-3 fatty acids diet in dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22805303/

Nutritional management of osteoarthritis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22581724/

Clinical efficacy of Curcuvet and Boswellic acid combined with conventional nutraceutical product: An aid to canine osteoarthritis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8162585/

Nutrition and nutraceuticals in the changing management of osteoarthritis for dogs and cats https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/10.2460/javma.256.12.1335?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed

[1] Utilisation of supplemented l-carnitine for fuel efficiency, as an antioxidant, and for muscle recovery in Labrador retrievers https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5465856/


Vitamin C in Health and Disease: A Companion Animal Focus https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32482285/

Nutrition and Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Does It Help? Steven C. Budsberg, DVM, MSa,*, Joseph W. Bartges, DVM, PhDb a Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA b Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-4544, USA https://vrshealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/O3-and-OA-VCNA.pdf

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