The average dog's lifespan is between 10 and 13 years. And generally, towards the handful of last years, you may begin to see signs that your dog is aging. Oftentimes, arthritis is the first and most obvious sign, and its progression can be difficult to watch.
Dogs who are victim of arthritis and other joint problems will show some signs we all dread to see:
- Easy sprints turn to tedious walking
- Jumping disappears, even to the couch
- Groaning when lying down or getting up
- Overall mobility issues and slower movements
The good news is that arthritis supplements may help your pup keep arthritis at bay. However, if you dog is already feeling pain and stiffness in his joints, stronger supplements should help soothe. The most popular and most recommended dog arthritis supplements in 2017 are:
- Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM – a very strong supplement for larger dogs
- The Missing Link Ultimate Hip & Joint – some delicious treats with glucosamine
- Synflex Liquid Glucosamine For Pets – a liquid dog arthritis supplement
- IAMS Proactive Health Dog Food – a dry dog food promoting joint support
- Nutramax Cosequin DS Plus MSM – gentler supplement than Dasuquin
But before we delve further into this topic, it's important to mention that dog arthritis supplements cannot correct structural damage to your dog's joints. Dog arthritis supplements may help alleviate pain, rebuild some cartilage, restore joint fluid, but these supplements will not heal calcium deposits, cartilage tears, scar tissue or contour changes to the dog's bones and joints.
In Short, What is Dog Arthritis?
Just like in humans, there are various types of arthritis a dog can get. The most common type is age-related osteoarthritis. Over time, cartilage cells can die off and this process releases enzymes that cause inflammation and lead to excess joint fluid being released. Due to inflammation, the space between joints becomes narrow and the bone underneath deteriorates. Ultimately, the joint does not function as it should, and this can cause pain that can lead to inactivity and a host of other problems.
Different Types of Arthritis Supplements for Dogs
When it comes to treating your dog's arthritis with supplements, you have options. The truth is that what works well for one dog may not work as well for another, so if you choose only one supplement, keep an open mind to trying another in the event your dog's arthritis doesn't respond.
There are various types of supplements you can give your dog to help alleviate arthritis symptoms. Each supplement works in a different way, but the goals are similar. Most supplements work to decrease inflammation and improve the body's ability to heal itself.
The below list includes the most common supplements for treating dog arthritis; asking a vet for his expert opinion is always recommended!
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are the most common supplements for treating dog arthritis. Glucosamine works by protecting the joint instead of just reducing symptoms. It helps rebuild cartilage and restore joint fluid. Some believe that glucosamine can help protect the joint, but more research must be done to prove this.
These supplements are given orally. Your dog's symptoms should improve within three to four weeks. If they do not, try another supplement.
MSM is a common treatment for joint pain because the compound plays a big role in forming connective tissue and healthy skin. MSM protects cartilage from deterioration and reduces joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. As a bonus, it also helps decrease pressure inside the cells and allows nutrients and water to flow and nourish the body. This helps maintain the skin's elasticity.
Methylsulfonylmethane, or just MSM, is a naturally-occurring organic sulfur containing compound that is found in animals, plants and humans. Scientists can also create it in the laboratory, which is often the case with MSM supplements. In the body, MSM is stored in almost all cells. However, your dog's MSM levels decrease with age, resulting in skin problems or various joint pains.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). You may have heard of Omega-3s for human health, but they are equally important for your dog's health (and cat, too.)
One Canadian study found that dogs who were fed a diet containing high levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish showed significant improvement in locomotor disability problems and daily performance. In this study, 30 dogs suffering with arthritis were fed either food containing omega-3 fatty acids sourced from fish oil or a similar food with a different fat source. Both gait and activity scores were improved for dogs on the omega-3 rich diet, but no significant improvements were noted for the other dogs.
Natural Arthritis Relief Therapies for Dogs
Massage and homeopathy are two at-home treatments that can also be very beneficial to your arthritic dog. Massage can help relieve muscle tension and potentially slow the degenerative process of arthritis.
Begin by petting your dog and slowly start applying pressure to the affected area. This will help increase circulation. Next, lightly knead your dog's muscles, but take care not to apply pressure to the painful joint. In total, the massage may last about 10 minutes.
Along with massage, you may want to consider using cold and heat packs. Heat packs create vasodilation and increase oxygen delivery to tissues, which can help improve the efficiency of any treatments. Cold packs are useful when your dog's joints are so inflamed that they feel warm to the touch.
Homeopathy works to address the specific issues your dog is having while bringing the dog's overall health and wellbeing back into balance. You can purchase a blend from a homeopath that is designed to specifically target arthritis. For example, one arthritis homeopathic remedy found on the market contains a blend of ten homeopathic ingredients that work symbiotically to help strengthen the cartilage along with a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that will reduce pain and improve your dog's quality of life.
Top 5 Best Dog Arthritis Supplements
Each dog arthritis supplement mentioned here works in a different way, so you need to make a decision: which molecule, which brand, and what dose to start with? Consulting a vet may help you answer these questions but there are some well-known products that are overall great choices.
If you decide to do it yourself, the best thing you can do is start one-by-one. If your dog happens to have a reaction to something you've given, you'll want to be sure you can pinpoint the culprit in order to keep your dog safe. By going one by one, you'll know exactly what's working, and carry on with this particular product.
1. Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM
Bestseller on e-commerce websites, Dasuquin by Nutramax is a powerful supplements for dogs suffering from joints issues and pains. This formula with added MSM makes this bestselling supplement a lot more effective, therefore ideal for larger dog breeds.
Each tablet contains at least 900mg of glucosamine, 800mg of methylsulfonylmethane, and 350mg of chondroitin. All three together have a unified action that was designed after years of research and clinical use.
The price, on the other hand, is top tier because you are having all the good stuff combined in one tablet. Additionally, Nutramax is a trusted manufacturer boasting several thousands of positive feedbacks on multiple websites. It's a premium arthritis supplement for dogs.
2. The Missing Link Ultimate Hip & Joint
Another way to prevent an appearance or aggravation of joint problems in dogs is by providing them with healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These Missing Link Hip & Joint treats are embedding a great trio:
- over 400mg of glucosamine,
- 1,000mg of omega-3,
- and 450mg of omega-6.
Nala, our own adult Border Collie, tried it over the course of a month and we witnessed a significant improvement with her mobility and ease of movement. She is also now boasting a nice and shinier coat thanks to these nutritious treats. We used them daily for training amongst other things!
Severe cases of dog arthritis and osteoporosis may require a stronger supplements such as Dasuquin. However, in most cases, a gentler option like the one offered by The Missing Link will suffice. Furthermore, because of its composition putting the emphasis on glucosamine and fatty acids, you expose your dog to a lesser risk of adverse side effects.
3. Synflex Liquid Glucosamine For Pets
Just like dog food, some dogs prefer the wet stuff. Synflex has come up with a strong pharmaceutical-quality glucosamine formula that is completely liquid. Mix it with your dog's water, or add it to the dog food. Either way, it's much easier to give a liquid formula to some picky dogs than go with tablets, or treats.
The formula includes Glucosamine HCL, Glucosamine Sulfate, Chondroitin, Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids. There are also additional and interesting ingredients such as Manganese, Yucca Powder and Vitamin C. It's overall a well-rated product that also exists as a human formula, with a similar composition.
4. IAMS Proactive Health Dog Food
The recipe includes great ingredients, and actually many of them will help with joint support: chondroitin glucosamine, omega-6 fatty acids, and calcium, amongst many others. However, the quantities are way too low to have a real impact for sufferings dogs. Younger dogs and active breeds are going to benefit from it over time, but don't wait until it is too late to serve this great dry dog food.
Price-wise, it's decent especially considering the fact that chicken is the first ingredient on the list. It is then followed by some carbs but it promises to also embed a good amount of farm-raised beef.
Used as an ongoing preventive dog food, the IAMS Proactive Health is great. Used as a treatment or curative arthritis supplement for dogs, it is useless.
5. Nutramax Cosequin DS Plus MSM
Nutramax Labs also makes Cosequin and it's a cheaper option when compared to Nutramax Dasuquin. Both contain glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, while only Dasuquin contains ASU (Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables), compounds known to help slow down cartilage erosion in dogs.
Quantities also are an other difference, as shown below, explaining why prices of both differ so much:
- 600 mg Glucosamine,
- 300 mg Chondroitin Sulfate, and
- 250 mg MSM.
It's a big difference so may favor Cosequin for small dogs and medium breeds while use Dasuquin for larger dogs. Remember that more of these compounds is not necessarily better, as we will explain below with side effects.
Side Effects of Dog Arthritis Supplements
Compared to pharmaceutical medications, the side effects of supplements used to treat dog arthritis tend to be minimal. Glucosamine is generally well tolerated, but some dogs may experience vomiting or diarrhea, especially during the first days. If this happens, try reducing the dosage and/or give the supplement with food.
MSM is also generally well tolerated and rarely results in side effects. However, the side effects can be more severe in dogs who experience them, so take caution when administering MSM to your dog. Start slow and gradually increase the dose. If your dog is allergic to dimethyl sulphoxide, administering MSM could cause a severe reaction – start with a small dose if you are unsure whether your dog has an allergy.
Even dogs who are not allergic can develop health issues from taking dimethyl sulphoxide over time, so keep an eye on your dog's health. Dogs who take MSM should get regular eye checkups and liver and kidney tests.
Many dog foods do not supply adequate omega-3 fatty acids, so most dogs would welcome an increase as well. Don't necessarily rely on manufactured Omega-3 supplements, you can add some of your own everyday foods like eggs, fish oils, and raw fatty fish like salmon.
In most cases, the dangers of supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids occur when a dog already has adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids and supplementation provides excess. Look for gastrointestinal issues if adding completely new fatty foods, and weight gain when your dogs has too much.
Massage and homeopathy are generally great for all dogs. If your dog seems to be in pain from massage, do not apply pressure to that area. Reactions to homeopathic remedies are extremely rare, but if your dog seems to be having a reaction, discontinue use and contact your naturopath or homeopath for some recommendations.
When it comes to buying the best dog arthritis supplement, you will need to try a few and see which one works the best. Most of them will work and relief pain, strengthen the dog's structural frame, but you want the one that works the best. Meaning, getting the most upside while having as little side effects as possible for your dog.
In practice, most dog owners pick one and they will see good results and they will stick with it for the years to come. They have seen their dog in pain, so they don't want to risk going back to that for a product that may not even work as well as their current one.
Each dog is very unique and it's all about knowing his or her reactions. The final decision is yours!