Joint support explained: Does your dog have creaky knees (or hips or elbows)?

dancing healthy dog

With a little joint support your dog will be dancing!

Your dog may not be arthritic, but he may still benefit from some joint support. As the snap of fall chills the air, old injuries or general sensitivity can manifest in creaky joints and stiffness (just as in humans)!  And just as we humans benefit from taking our Glucosamine/Chondroitin and Omega-3 supplements, dogs can also benefit from a little extra joint support.

But what specific dogs should really take joint supplements?

  • Large breed dogs – simply the size of their frame means that their joints sustain more stress than joints of smaller breeds. Larger dogs are also more at risk for joint disorders like hip and elbow dysplasia, even if they’re not showing signs of it yet.
  • Active adult dogs, especially those within the “working” or “sporting” breeds – many working and sporting breeds are notorious for suffering from joint problems, and keeping them active without pain will ensure they stay happy.
  • Adult dogs that seem to have some difficulty with mobility – if you notice your dog seems to have trouble rising after he’s been sleeping, is stiff after exercise or generally seems stiffer than usual, especially as the temperature drops, consult with your vet first, but giving him some extra joint support in the form of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements and Omega 3s certainly can’t hurt. Many vets can even prescribe an injectable form of glucosamine that works much faster and more effectively than pills.
  • Overweight dogs – Just as in humans, any extra weight the frame has to carry creates excess stress on the joints and can develop into arthritis. Consider an exercise regimen for your overweight dog – as he sheds the pounds, he’ll love the stimulation from the exercise even more, and he’ll feel better too.
  • Older dogs showing signs of arthritis or other mobility difficulties like stiffness, limping, or  lameness
  • Young large breed dogs – supporting the growth of these large breed dogs with an excellent diet, good exercise regimen, and joint supplements if your vet recommends it will ensure they develop into strong and healthy dogs.
  • Breeds prone to hip dysplasia – chances are, if you have a dog that’s prone to hip dysplasia, you’re already aware of it. Just as with developing large breed dogs, keeping these dogs trim, fit, and healthy through a great exercise and diet routine will ensure they live a long and happily active life.

    The key ingredients you’ll see in joint supplements and what they do:

  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin: You’ve probably seen these two ingredients listed together on just about every joint support supplement, and are even found in many “joint-specific” foods and treats (“Happy Hips!”). These two ingredients work best together, which is why it’s rare to see one without the other. Both are vital to the production and maintenance of the smooth cartilage that covers the bones of a joint. Humans, dogs, and cats of any age can benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which simply work in a preventative, truly “supporting” way to help lubricate and maintain healthy cartilage.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found naturally in fish and some oils like flaxseed, these antioxidants help to stabilize cells against the effects of destructive substances including free radicals, the molecules that damage cells, including those in the joints and skin.
  • Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, E, citrus bioflavonoids, quercetin, DMG, grape seed extract, selenium, and zinc all help to neutralize free radicals. The more one ages, and the more stress one is exposed to (in the form of pollution, poor nutrition, and emotional stress), the more free radicals are produced due to natural “oxidative” action of the cells. So antioxidants help to scavenge up and clear up the oxidants (also known as free radicals) that are a byproduct of this naturally-occurring cellular function. Left to their own devices, the free radicals float around the body and do damage to tissues, resulting in wrinkles (in humans), and poor skin and hair/coat health, and internal ways like pain and decreased joint mobility.
  • MSM: Methysulfonylmethane is a naturally occurring compound and organic source of sulfur used in normal cartilage production is most effective in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin.

Remember, the level of joint support your dog requires depends on a number of factors: age, breed, size, weight, level of activity, and current signs of pain or stiffness.  The best thing to do before starting a joint support regimen is to ask your veterinarian about it during your next annual checkup. He can recommend the best treatment or prevention plan for your individual dog.