Joint problems are common in dogs and can range from minor discomfort from stiff joints to severe pain. Problems in the joint can sometimes be so serious that they hinder exercising or even walking short distances and prevent your pet from leading a full life. With the most severe painful joint pain even getting up or standing can become difficult for your dog. Hips and elbows are amongst the most commonly affected areas.
Joint supplements can be a good way of supporting your dog’s joints alongside a healthy lifestyle and any medical care they may be receiving from your vet. Many pet owners are finding that nutraceuticals like glucosamine for dogs can be a helpful addition to the daily diet.
How can I tell if my dog needs a joint supplement?
You’ll know as an owner whether your dog is not his or her usual self – but if you’re unsure here are some key signs to watch out for:
Limping or moving awkwardly
Reluctance to climb stairs or jump
Back legs giving way
Bad temper and a dislike of being touched
Swelling in the joints
Licking the joints excessively
If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to get your dog seen by the vet straightaway. Don’t forget that joint stiffness or pain can be a symptom of an underlying condition.
What causes joint problems in dogs?
Osteoarthritis – this is the most common cause of joint pain in dogs and can be as a result of a number of other conditions or simply because of old age.
Hip and elbow dysplasia – these developmental disorders occur as a result of a misshapen joint structure or lax muscles. Certain breeds are more susceptible, particularly larger dogs like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers and Saint Bernard’s.
Tendon and ligament injuries, the most common being the cruciate ligament or ACL.
Congenital disorders like luxating patella, which can happen when the knee cap is misshapen and can therefore become dislodged. Small breeds like smaller Poodles and short legged breeds like Basset Hounds and Dachshunds can also be more susceptible.
Fractures – injuries can lead to arthritis in dogs down the line.
Hormonal conditions like hyperparathyroidism can cause an imbalance in the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood. This can result in bones deteriorating leading to joint pain and inflammation.
Spinal disease – this can affect certain breeds more than others, with Basset Hounds, Beagles and Cocker Spaniels amongst those who are more susceptible.
There are a number of other conditions which can result in joint inflammation and pain. Always talk to your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.
Supporting your dog's joints
There are a number of things you can do to help your dog if they have joint issues:
Speak to your vet to identify the cause – they may prescribe medication or advise surgery depending on the issue
Keep them at a healthy weight and manage their diet
Make sure they are exercising appropriately
Consider therapies like hydrotherapy or acupuncture
Give some nutritional support in the form of a joint supplement or appropriate foods
What to look for in a good joint supplement for dogs
When you are looking for a joint supplement for dogs, the key is the blend of building blocks, the natural anti-inflammatory support and the absorption rate in the digestive tract.
Glucosamine and chondroitin – used together for the best support, these nutraceuticals provide the building blocks to help maintain smooth cartilage in your dog’s joints, essential to maintain the resilience of cartilage.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – important for helping to maintain the natural anti-inflammatory actions of the metabolism. Hemp oil is probably the best source found in the plant world and provides a unique combination that allows the animal’s body to make essential Omega-3 fats normally only found in fish.
MSM – methylsulfonylmethane is a source of sulphur which is used by your dog’s body to produce and maintain connective tissues like tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
Turmeric – the active ingredient of this spice is curcumin, a potent antioxidant that mops up potentially damaging free radicals produced during exercise.
Piperine Black Pepper Extract – this helps with the retention of poorly accepted nutraceuticals like curcumin.
Oatinol™ – this is unique to GWF Nutrition and is a key part of Joint Aid for Dogs and many of our other supplements. It’s so important as it helps to maintain a high rate of absorption in the digestive tract.
Other things to look out for
Muscle support can be really important when animals are suffering with joint problems. Conditions that affect mobility can also lead to muscle loss through inactivity. Look for a joint supplement that also supports your dog's muscles for good overall freedom of movement.
It’s worth also considering what form the joint supplement comes in and how easy it is to feed. Joint supplements for dogs are available in several different forms: as tiny pellets which you can easily sprinkle over food (such as Joint Aid for Dogs and Joint Aid for Dogs plus Muscle Maintenance); others come in tablet form or as a chew. What works for you will depend on the blend of nutraceuticals and the delivery of these in the digestive tract as well as your dog's preference.