When Should I Start Giving My Dog Joint Supplements?

By helloBARK!
Updated on 23 February 2022

Have you been thinking about introducing a joint supplement to your dog’s diet?

Pet owners are becoming more concerned with promoting a healthy lifestyle for their dogs by switching from traditional dog food to balanced and complete meals.

There’s been a big shift towards supplements aimed at pets over the past few years as dog owners look to embrace some preventative measures to take care of their canine’s health.

Before we go any further, it’s important to point out that supplements for dogs aren’t a substitute for balanced and complete meals in a dog’s diet.

You should speak to your vet before you decide to introduce a new supplement to your dog’s feeding plan.

In this article, we’ll hear from six veterinarians who will give their perspective on when dog owners should introduce a joint supplement to their dog’s diet.

A Definite Argument For Starting Them When A Dog Is Young To Middle-aged

Dr Linda Simon, Veterinary Surgeon And Veterinary Consultant for FiveBarks

The world of joint supplements is relatively new and one that has many unanswered questions. Research is relatively limited and we are currently in the process of learning a lot about the various joint supplements that exist and how we can best put them to use in our pet.

Many owners wish to know when to provide their dog with supplements and they can be frustrated to find there is no defined answer. Indeed, the answer will vary depending on who you speak to. Among vets, there is no real consensus at this moment in time.

For ‘high risk’ pets such as giant breeds like the Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound, most will agree that starting a joint supplement early in life is sensible. These dogs are prone to a range of joint issues including OCD (Osteochondritis dissecans), elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia as they mature. It is possible that providing joint supplements from puppyhood could help to some extent.

Supplements containing ingredients like Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulphate, Collagen, MSM, green lipped mussel and fish oils work to prevent cartilage breakdown, minimise the effects of arthritis and improve mobility. They cause effects including a reduced inflammation within the joint and an inhibition of cartilage breakdown. Thus, it makes sense to start them before a dog is in the grips of joint disease.

There is a definite argument for starting them when a dog is young to middle-aged.

Owners are most often told to start their pet on joint supplements when they present with arthritis. These dogs may have signs including stiffness and lameness. It is worth questioning if these dogs should have been started on supplements earlier.

It is important to state that joint supplements are generally prescribed alongside pain relief and anti inflammatories. As joint supplements provide minimal (if any) pain relief, for those with existing joint disease, they are rarely given alone.

Some supplements are marketed at a specific age group and they may contain a set amount of micronutrients to support these dogs. For example, those aimed at puppies tend to be higher in calcium to allow for bone growth. Those aimed at older dogs may have higher concentration of the active ingredients. When possible, feed your pet the supplements targeted at them.

Active Dogs Should Start At A Young Age

Dr Chyrle Bonk, DVM And Veterinary Consultant At Hepper.com

There isn’t a specific age that dogs should start taking joint supplements. It’s going to depend on each individual dog.

For large or giant breeds, starting supplements as early as eight weeks isn’t unheard of. That’s because these dogs are prone to orthopedic issues, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, that can cause arthritis at a very early age.

Joint supplements may cause some digestive upset, especially in younger dogs, so you and your vet may choose to wait until your large or giant breed stops growing, usually around one year of age. For other breeds that are prone to orthopedic issues, such as Basset Hounds, starting joint supplements when they stop growing will help prevent arthritis related to these issues.

Of course, if your dog has hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, or any other orthopedic issue, it’s recommended to start joint supplements as soon as they are diagnosed.

If your dog isn’t a high-risk breed, starting joint supplements sooner is always better simply because these supplements don’t work once arthritis gets moderate to severe.

Active dogs or those that have had any injuries should start joint supplements at a younger age.

Small breed dogs are less likely to develop arthritis than their larger counterparts but that doesn’t mean that they won’t.

So, joint supplements can be started on them anytime you and your veterinarian feel comfortable. There are many joint supplement products out there to choose from and it can be a little overwhelming.

Speak to your veterinarian about which products are right for your dog and the proper dosage.

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When Arthritic Changes Can Start To Affect Mobility

Dr. Albert Ahn, DVM And Veterinary Advisor At Myos Pet

In general, dog owners should think about introducing a joint supplement as their four legged companion approaches middle age, when arthritic changes can start to affect mobility.

However, an owner may want to contemplate starting joint supplementation much sooner, particularly if their dog has had a history of having a knee injury, such as cranial cruciate ligament tear, at a younger age.

Additionally, owners should not overlook the benefits of supplementation with Fortetropin, which is backed by clinical studies and derived from egg yolk, to help maintain healthy muscles in dogs that are on joint supplements.

It is well known that strong muscles help to support joints, which is especially important in the presence of arthritis. By combining a joint supplement with Fortetropin, pet owners can optimize the mobility and quality of life of their older dogs.

Prior to adding a joint supplement, a pet owner should have a conversation with their veterinarian to find out what product may be best suited for their dog’s needs. This will help the dog owner to select a supplement which is most appropriate for their dog.

Additionally, it is very important to maintain strong muscles that can help support arthritic joints while allowing the dog to maintain mobility. Pet owners should discuss the benefits of using a joint supplement in conjunction with a muscle supplement with their veterinarian.

Joint Supplements For Dogs Who Experience Injury Or Disease To Joint

Dr Michelle Burch, DVM At Paramount Pet Health

I recommend starting joint supplementation at one year for large breed, giant breed, and breeds who are prone to developing arthritis. The breeds prone to developing arthritis include Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Great Danes, St. Bernard, or Doberman Pinscher.

I recommend starting a joint supplement for dogs who experience injury or disease to the joint, including cranial cruciate ligament rupture, luxating patella, fracture involving the joint, or septic joint.

Trauma and damage to the joint predispose a dog to develop arthritis over time. Dogs who have been diagnosed with early evidence of osteoarthritis from survey X-rays should be started on a joint supplement.

Joint supplements will encourage the health of the cartilage and reduce joint inflammation but must have a substantial amount of cartilage still present.

Pets diagnosed with end-stage osteoarthritis with bone-on-bone contact will not benefit from joint supplementation.

Shih Tzu stares at dog supplement (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Shih Tzu stares at dog supplement (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Supplements Are Very Effective As A Preventative Measure

Dr Megan Conrad, DVM At HelloRalphie

Every dog is different and has different needs when it comes to joint supplements.

Supplements are very effective as a preventative measure against unnecessary pain later in life or to help delay the onset of arthritis; you shouldn’t have to wait until joint problems arise.

Certain breeds are more prone to joint issues than others and could benefit from joint supplements starting at a young age in an effort to prevent earlier onset issues.

Large dog breeds like Great Danes and Mastiffs are just a few that could benefit from having joint supplements as early as one year of age. Dogs that take a lot of impact on their joints like working German Shepherds, hunting dogs and frisbee or agility dogs may also benefit from having a joint supplement added to their diet.

There truly is not a hard and fast rule as far as an age to start. Talk with your vet about your pet’s lifestyle and activity level to find out when and which supplements are best for your pet.

Start While The Joints Are Still Healthy

Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM At Pumpkin Pet Insurance

In general, it is a good idea to wait until a dog is done growing to start joint supplements. Growing dogs have specific nutritional needs, and well meaning pet parents can create imbalances with supplementation that can impact normal growth, leading to joint disorders. Small breeds are done growing around 8 months of age, large breeds can take 18 months to 24 months to finish growing.

Once a dog is done growing, it is beneficial to start joint supplements because most supplements are aimed at maintaining joint health, NOT repairing diseased joints, so it makes sense to start while the joints are still healthy. In general, dogs do not need to take joint supplements aimed at their age groups, as all dogs can benefit.

The best supplements are omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine hydrochloride given in tandem with chondroitin sulfate (they are synergistic).

Make sure to give the right amount of joint supplement or it won’t really help (most human supplements are dosed too low and you would have to give a massive amount of them, Rx strength supplements are easier to dose because they are higher concentration that is aimed at a dog).

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