Petfoodology

the scientific study of pet nutrition by veterinary nutrition specialists and experts.

Can Joint Diets Help My Dog’s Pain?

Can Joint Diets Help My Dog’s Pain?
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Many pet food companies have come out with specific veterinary therapeutic joint diets that have claims to decrease joint pain from arthritis. These diets typically have glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids and sometimes green-lipped mussels added to them. Some published studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids and, to a lesser degree, green-lipped mussels, glucosamine and chondroitin are effective in reducing joint pain. While each company has research of its own to back the respective claims, this research is not always published. So, what makes these diets different?

 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

One main difference to look for is the amount and source of omega-3 fatty acids that have been added. Omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate joint pain by decreasing inflammation. Companies often use ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid) from plants or EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) from fish oil or algae as an omega-3 source. While both are considered ‘omega-3 fatty acids,’, EPA and DHA seem to be more effective than ALA at reducing joint inflammation. In addition to the source of omega-3 fatty acids, you should also take into account the amount. The amount in the veterinary diets is enough, whereas the amount in most over-the-counter diets is much too low to have a benefit.

 

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

The other common ingredients in these joint diets are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which are substances called “glycoaminoglycans” that are building blocks of the cartilage in joints. Some studies have shown benefit with these ingredients in supplement form, but the doses were considerably higher than what is found in veterinary or over-the-counter diets. Just because a diet (or one of the many treats out there) says it has added glucosamine and chondroitin does not mean that the amount in the food will be in the right amount to have an effect. If you’d like to know the amount in your dog’s food, call the company that makes your pet’s food.

 

Green-lipped mussels

Green-lipped mussels are another source of “glycosaminoglycans,” which assist in the repair of damaged joint tissues. In some studies, green-lipped mussels showed improvement in pain and when given either as a powder supplement, included in a treat, or infused into a diet. More studies are needed, however, before the optimal dose is known.

 

The take-home for veterinary joint diets is that they may be helpful, in combination with keeping your pet at a trim body condition. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist about the optimal diet for your pet.

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Deborah E. Linder, DVM, MS, DACVN

Dr. Deborah Linder, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, is the head of the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals and has had articles appear in Eating Well, the Boston Globe, AARP, SHAPE, and XM Sirius Radio Doctor Channel. She has spoken at national and international conferences and a Capitol Hill briefing, and is an expert in pet obesity, nutrition communication, and in the human-animal bond. 

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