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Joint care for dogs – to supplement or not?

With many dogs suffering from some form of joint condition or disease, many pet owners turn to supplements or alternative treatments to help ease the pain. However not all supplements or home remedies are effective, or even safe. So let’s explore the current research on joint supplements and joint diets in dogs, both what works and what doesn’t. It’s always important to discuss your treatment options with your vet, and what they would recommend including in your dog’s joint management regime.

Reluctance to move, walk or get up can be a sign of arthritis in your pet

Supplements that actually work:

Supplements that don’t work (or lack evidence)

Tips for assessing diets and supplements for joint care

Check the amount in the supplement/food: Many diets and dog treats claim to contain glucosamine and chondroitin, or green-lipped mussel but always look at the label. Many of these diets (unless they are therapeutic or prescription diets) do not contain anywhere near enough of the active ingredient to be effective. Don’t be lured in by claims of added joint supplements, always check what is the dose that your pet will require, and if this food provides it at a therapeutic level.

Limit the amount of products: If you are feeding a therapeutic joint diet, always check with your vet before adding supplements; particularly omega 3’s and 6’s as these can easily interfere and unbalance the precise ratio within the diet, thus cancelling out any potential benefit your pet will receive.

Avoid making your own supplements: A common mistake I see clients making is mixing their own ‘golden paste’ or some other joint recipe they’ve found online. Not only are these potentially dangerous, it’s near impossible to tell what is going to be a safe and effective dose.

Always ask your vet for their recommendation and products they use. It’s also advisable to purchase your supplements through them to guarantee safety, and not use human products. Products available through vets already have done the research for you, are clinically proven and are stocked by your vet because they have seen what works (and what doesn’t) in their patients. Your vet will also be able to support your pet’s condition with other medical treatments (such as cartilage building injections, pain relief, surgery, weight management and exercise ideas) that can also improve your pet’s quality of life.

Do you have a pet with joint disease? What supplements do you use to manage their condition?


  1. McCarthy G, O’Donovan J, Jones B, et al. Randomised double-blind, positive-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. Vet J 2007 174(1):54-61
  2. Reichling J, Schmökel H, Fitzi J, et al. Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd 2004;146(2):71-79.
  3. Beths, T., Munn, R., Bauquier, S., Mitchell, P. and Whittem, T. (2020), A pilot study of 4CYTE™ Epiitalis® Forte, a novel nutraceutical, in the management of naturally occurring osteoarthritis in dogs. Aust Vet J.
  4. Fritsch DA, Allen TA, Dodd CE, et al. A multicenter study of the effect of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on carprofen dosage in dogs with osteoarthritis. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010 236(5):535-539.
  5. Henrotin, Y.E., Sanchez, C., Deberg, M.A., Piccardi, N., Guillou, G.B., Msika, P. & Reginster, J.Y. (2003) Avocado/soybean unsaponifiables increase aggrecan synthesis and reduce catabolic and proinflammatory mediator production by human osteoarthritic chondrocytes. Journal of Rheumatology, 30, 1825–1834.
  6. Rialland P, Bichot S, Lussier B, et al. Effect of a diet enriched with green-lipped mussel on pain behavior and functioning in dogs with clinical osteoarthritis. Can J Vet Res 2013;77(1):66-74.
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