Like their two-legged human owners, our four-legged friends very commonly suffer from aching joints. From research date, we know that arthritis affects more than 20% of adult dogs and likely affects a much higher percentage of geriatric animals (typically those over 7 years of age). Arthritis is also more common in large and giant breed dogs than smaller breeds. The causes of arthritis include: genetics, diet, bone health, muscle weakness (due to disease or lack of use), obesity and joint laxity. Therefore, arthritis is not just a factor of “old age” but encompasses many causes.
Joint surfaces are made up of cartilage, which covers bone endings, and there is joint fluid between the cartilage covered bone ends, which provides lubrication for movement. There are lots of ingredients in the joint fluid that keep it healthy and thus keep the joints moving in a fluid manner. Osteoarthritis is caused by both the breaking down and repair of cartilage. When the balance between building new cartilage and breaking down old cartilage becomes imbalanced, arthritis results. With arthritis comes pain, stiffness, slower mobility, and often even subtle signs such as jumping less or lying more. It is important to remember that pets very seldom vocalize (cry out) due to pain and it often takes close observation to notice small signs of pain associated with arthritis or other diseases.
Aside from medicines that can be used to increased patient comfort, there are many supplements that mimic the ingredients found in healthy joint fluid that can be administered to our pets.
Ingredients and their uses:
- Glucosamine: Anti-inflammatory and cartilage rebuilding properties, including benefits such as reducing pain, tenderness, swelling and increased mobility
- Chondroitin Sulfate: Anti-inflammatory and cartilage rebuilding properties, reduction of components that cause damage to joints
- Fatty Acids (commonly in the form of dietary fish oil): Improves joint stiffness, swelling, and tenderness
- Antioxidants: Help reduce inflammation in the body (also helps with immune function)
- Hyaluronic Acid: Aids in joint lubrication and cushioning
There are many products on the market that contain these ingredients and there are also prescription foods made for the aid in treatment and prevention of arthritis that are fortified with these ingredients. It is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine if a supplement or joint food is appropriate for your pet and how much should be given. It is also important to remember that these supplements or foods are often made for long-term use and aren’t a “quick fix”. Nutritional supplements may take many weeks to show positive effects and the benefits may be subtle if the patient has severe/advanced arthritis. These supplements are also commonly combined with medicinal therapies for improved relief of symptoms associated with arthritis. With high levels of obesity in our pets, it is also important to remember that obesity is a large contributor to arthritis and its clinical signs. Weight loss often greatly improves the signs associated with arthritis. Additionally, fat also contributes to inflammation in the body and joints. Weight loss, daily exercise, medicines, and nutrition can all be beneficial factors in treating our patients suffering from arthritis.
Here is a small list of examples of joint supplements/foods:
- Cosequin ® (*cat version and dog versions)
- Phycox ®
- Dasuquin ®
- Acti-Flex ® (*Horse and dog versions)
- Royal Canin Mobility Support ® (food)
- Hill’s Joint Care J/D ® (food)
- Purina Pro Plan JM ® (food)