Natural Supplements for Dogs with Arthritis

Posted by Dr. Amanda Jondle on

German Shepherd eating out of their food bowl

Natural supplements are critical in helping a dog with arthritis. Before diving into what supplements can be beneficial for dogs with arthritis, it is good to know a little background information. For starters, what is arthritis?

Arthritis is the term used for inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the joints. It can affect one or multiple joints. This condition involves the breaking down and thinning of the cartilage within joints, formation of bone spurs, joint effusion (fluid buildup) and thickening of the connective tissue in the joint. Arthritis is a progressive, degenerative, and irreversible disease which is often caused by years of normal wear and tear on joints.

Arthritis in dogs can also be caused by infections, trauma, injuries, excessive or abnormal force, poor joint alignment, or congenital orthopedic conditions. Large breed dogs, sporting dogs, and obese dogs are at a higher risk of developing arthritis, but it can be seen in all breeds, ages, and genders of dogs. 

What can I do to help my dog with arthritis?

There are a variety of things a devoted dog owner can do to help their dog with arthritis. This article will focus on natural joint supplements but will also provide several other suggestions to help your dog with arthritis.

diagram showing joint discomfort in dogs

What are joint supplements?

Joint supplements can either be purchased over the counter or are prescribed by your dog’s veterinarian. These supplements help support and protect the cartilage and aid in slowing down the process of arthritis.

It can be overwhelming to find the plethora of supplements made for dogs. Make sure to choose high-quality supplements based on your veterinarian’s recommendation and your own research. Choose supplements that have certifications from regulatory bodies such as the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). 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 don’t do research or studies on their products. Also keep away from products with fillers, preservatives, artificial food coloring, and artificial flavors. If you are ever in doubt of the ingredient list, ask your veterinarian to help you.

Some joint supplements also support other body systems. In addition to bone and joint health, some promote heart health, provide skin and hair/coat support, strengthen the immune system, and improve energy.

Natural supplements for dogs with arthritis

  • Glucosamine hydrochloride – Glucosamine is an amino sugar involved in building up the cartilage and stimulating growth of new cartilage. It is recommended to give a loading dose of glucosamine for the first four to six weeks. The loading dose is usually twice the maintenance dose but is specified on the instructions per your dog’s weight. It is then given at the daily maintenance dose long term – often for life.

  • Chondroitin sulfate – This supplement works by blocking enzymes that break down cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin are often given together due to their synergistic effects. It is also often started at a loading dose.

  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) – MSM has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and helps support the immune system and build healthy bones and joints.

  • Green lipped mussel - This supplement works as an anti-inflammatory and includes EPA, DHA, and ETA fatty acids.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids – These fatty acids are commonly found in fish oils. 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. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to help relieve pain. Fatty acids are known to support the body in many ways including boosting the immune system and promoting 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 dose needed to help joints is much higher than the dose for skin and other body systems, so it is best to confirm with your vet that you are giving the correct amount.

Small brown and white dog with Lolahemp Hip&Joint chews

[pictured above: Lolahemp hip & joint hemp chews with glucosamine, MSM and green lipped mussel]

  • Other joint supplements

    • Boswellia serrata – A tree extract with anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting effects. It is said that this compound has NSAID-like effects to reduce the severity of pain.

    • Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) – Protects the cartilage from damage, stimulates healing, supports joint function, decreases the breakdown of existing cartilage, and promotes new cartilage growth. Often ASUs can decrease how much chondroitin is needed.

    • Green tea extract – This has anti-inflammatory effects and is especially helpful in cases of chronic inflammation.

    • Eggshell membrane – This supplement contains some glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, and hyaluronic acid – all nutrients that aid in maintaining healthy joints and joint fluid.

    • Manganese ascorbate – This compound supports bone development and maintenance.

    • Hyaluronic acid – This gel like substance works to lubricate joints and help absorb shock.

    • SAM-e – This is an amino acid building block of protein and is naturally produced in the body but can also be supplemented. It is known as an anti-inflammatory and liver protectant.

    • Turmeric – This spice has been known for centuries to contain medicinal properties. It contains curcumin which has many health benefits including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

a bowl of tumeric powder and ginger roots

[pictured above: turmeric root and powder]

What else can I do to help my dog with arthritis?

See your veterinarian. A visit or phone call with your veterinarian should be the first thing you do if you suspect your dog has arthritis or if they have diagnosed your dog. Your veterinarian will have recommendations for the best medication, supplements, food, therapies, or other treatments that are most appropriate for your dog.

Know the signs. It is important to recognize the signs your dog may be giving you if they have arthritis. These signs include:

  • Lameness or limping – this indicates pain in a leg or joint.

  • Muscle loss or atrophy – this shows that the dog isn’t using that leg normally. 

  • Joint swelling – due to a buildup of joint fluid, known as effusion.

  • Decreased mobility – can be seen as less activity than normal, walking instead of running, and slowing down.

  • Difficulty getting up or laying down – dogs can be slow to get up from laying down, slow to lay down, stiff and sore after getting up, or have difficulty standing up on their own.

    Pain management. Pain management is an extremely important part of helping a dog with arthritis. Often, a multimodal approach is used to help control pain in a dog.

    • Medications. Often your veterinarian will use pain medications as part of a multi-modal approach to your dog’s pain management, depending on how painful or bad your dog’s arthritis is.  Medications should be given under the direction or prescription of your veterinarian. Do not give over the counter medications unless your veterinarian recommends it. These can be harmful or even toxic to your dog.

    • Adequan injections – Adequan is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan that helps to control cartilage loss, lubricate, and decrease inflammation in joints.

    • Stem cell therapy – Stem cell therapy is a type of regenerative medicine to allow the body to repair and heal.

    • Surgery – In some cases, surgery may be recommended to help heal and repair the joint.

    • Alternative therapies. There are alternative therapies that are now becoming more readily available for pets. Some examples include acupuncture, cold laser therapy, massage, and hydrotherapy.  

      Environmental and lifestyle changes. A dog with arthritis will have difficulty getting around, up, and down. You can help by making some easy changes around the house. Some ideas would include:

      • A comfortable orthopedic dog bed

      • Dog ramps

      • Non-slip surfaces

      • Avoid stairs

      • Raised food and water bowls

      • Keep your dog’s nails trimmed short

      • Use toe or paw pad grips

      • Harness or slings for support

      • Regular controlled exercise

      • Avoid obesity

      • Provide an appropriate diet

        Using natural joint supplements, making environmental changes, and working with your veterinarian to adapt a multi-modal approach can help ease your dog’s pain and discomfort from arthritis.



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