Joint health is one of the major issues for dog parents as beloved pets age. Poor joint support can rob an otherwise healthy pet of quality of life and cause pets to leave behind their favorite pastimes. It’s heartbreaking.
Whether your pet is already experiencing pain or you’re preparing for the future, there are a few things you should consider before you buy a food intended for pain. We’ve put together a list of foods we think will help your pet manage pain and possibly reverse some of the damage. First, let’s answer a few questions you may have about how to choose the right food. Let’s take a look.
What Causes Joint Pain in Dogs?
Joint pain comes from a variety of sources. Sometimes, age causes the cushioning between your pet’s joints to become thin. Other times, hereditary diseases such as arthritis or hip dysplasia can cause pain.
Weight is another issue. Large breed dogs could have trouble supporting joints if they experienced growth too quickly as puppies. Other dogs may experience weight gain in older years that makes joint pain worse.
Food allergies can also be a source of joint inflammation. Inflammation is just an immune response. If your pet is experiencing digestive issues, this inflammation could spread to the soft tissues of the joints.
What Is Arthritis and How Does It Affect Dogs?
Arthritis is a degenerative issue that causes painful joints. Over time, cartilage and cushioning can wear down between the joints causing the bones to rub together. The constant rubbing causes pain.
Arthritis and joint pain have many causes. Sometimes it’s heredity. Sometimes, it’s obesity. It can also be consistent stress on the joints or other issues like hip dysplasia.
The most common places are hips and back as well as knees. Dogs may not show pain right away, since dogs are notoriously stoic about pain, so it’s important to watch for signs such as decreased mobility and a loss of interest in doing common, favorite activities.
What Is Hip Dysplasia and Which Dogs Does it Affect?
Hip Dysplasia is another hereditary condition in which the hip socket fails to develop correctly. It wears over time, causing pain and eventual loss of function.
Certain breeds are highly susceptible to this condition, particularly large and giant breed dogs. Treatment ranges from surgery in the worst cases to lifestyle changes such as weight control. Symptoms include reluctance to jump, lameness in the hind end, and a swaying “bunny hopping” gait.
Small breed pet owners aren’t completely off the hook. It’s not as common for small breed dogs, but it’s still possible for your smaller pet to develop the condition.
How To Choose A Food For K-9 Joint Pain
Keep a few different things in mind.
How Old Is Your Pet?
Age is a huge factor in joint pain. Young puppies can always benefit from building a good health foundation, but you don’t need to consider their joint pain as carefully as you would an elderly dog.
One exception to this is large breed puppies. Food that causes large breeds to grow too fast puts a lot of pressure on the musculoskeletal structure. That can cause joint pain and arthritis at a much younger age. Food that supports slow, proper growth can prevent your puppy from developing these early issues.
Otherwise, a formula for your dog’s life stage is appropriate to support joint and bone health. Senior formulas usually have the correct amount of ingredients to consider your dog’s unique aging issues.
What Breed Is Your Pet?
We mentioned large breeds above, but they aren’t the only type of dog that has issues with joint pain. Certain breeds, such as bulldogs, for instance, have trouble with hip pain. Others have trouble with joints.
Checking common issues for the breed of your dog can help you decide what food to buy. Small breeds of dog don’t always show joint pain until it’s too late, so choosing a small breed senior formula.
Large breeds need support because of weight. Large breed formulas consider that kind of weight and help to support both weight and muscle.
You also know what issues your pet is likely to have, that can help you prepare for your dog’s senior years.
How Is Your Pet’s Weight?
Being overweight even just a few pounds can have a serious impact on your pet’s joints and pain levels. Arthritis is a heredity issue. However, the joint pain caused by carrying excess weight is not only treatable, but it’s also entirely preventable.
As your pet ages, they aren’t likely to be as active. It’s a vicious cycle because your pet gains weight, which causes them pain. Pain prevents them from moving around as much, so the weight issue gets worse. Then pain gets worse.
Food that helps your pet maintain a healthy weight can help with those issues. Joint support and arthritis formulas can only go so far if you aren’t addressing your pet’s pain issues.
What Ingredients Are Best?
There are a few different critical ingredients to help with your dog’s joint and arthritis pain. Let’s take a look.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
These ingredients are often found together. Glucosamine is a building block for healthy joints because it attracts and retains water and helps rebuild cartilage. It supports the materials busy doing that. Adding cushioning to deteriorating joints can help reduce pain.
Chondroitin is a significant component if cartilage. It helps build up cartilage in those joints, increasing efficiency and reducing pain. When the two ingredients are together in your dog’s food, it’s a non-steroidal treatment for inflammation.
Almost all senior specific and large breed specific foods have these two ingredients together to help build your dog’s health.
Fatty Acids are crucial for all our fluid and soft tissues. Those nutrients help build up cartilage, increase good fluids in joints, and maintain healthy connective tissue. Fatty acids can’t be synthesized and must be consumed from the diet.
Many dog foods already have fatty acids in the formula because they’re excellent for maintaining skin and coat health. Of all the ingredients on our list, this one should be the easiest to find in dog foods. Almost all dog foods available has some form of fatty acid supplement.
If your dog food doesn’t have them, it’s simple to find ways to supplement. You could even add some forms of fish to your dog’s regular diet.
High-quality protein sources can help your dog maintain muscle tone critical to remaining active. That activity can reduce weight, which also reduces the pressure on joints and bones.
Protein isn’t just for muscles. Amino acids are critical building blocks for nearly every part of your dog’s body. Get the recommended amount of protein, and your dog’s bones and joints also get proper support with their fundamental building blocks.
Which Ingredients Should I Avoid for My Arthritic Dog?
Grains can be known inflammatory ingredients even if your dog isn’t allergic to gluten. They can cause inflammatory reactions in the gut, putting your dog’s immune response on high alert. Arthritis is an immune response to the joints, so reducing the amount of inflammatory ingredients can help reduce overall inflammation.
Corn can also be highly inflammatory by raising your dog’s glycemic response. They’re also heavily sprayed with pesticides which can cause digestive issues.
Soy is another common dog allergen that causes inflammation and makes it difficult for your dog to maintain a proper weight. Many senior dog foods avoid soy for those very reasons.
You could use alternative ingredients such as barley or rice, but we really recommend a simple set of ingredients with minimal processing to ensure your senior dog’s sensitive tummy and inflammatory response is supported.
Do I Need A Prescription Food?
If your dog continues to struggle with weight control, you may need to explore prescription food. You should talk with your veterinarian to determine if prescription food is necessary for your particular needs.
If your dog has only minor joint issues or doesn’t seem to struggle with weight, commercial dog food may be plenty. Again, you should talk with your veterinarian to determine if your dog should be on a specialized diet or something more general.
The Best Dog Foods For Arthritis And Joint Pain
Here are our top picks for foods to help your dog with their joint and arthritis pain.
Wellness Core’s dog food is specially formulated for large breeds to help with joint and skeletal support. It contains glucosamine and Chondroitin to help support joints, antioxidants to reduce inflammation, and omega fatty acids for overall joint and skin health. It’s grain free to help avoid common inflammation in the gut due to gluten, and there’s no corn or soy.
Wellness Core uses high quality, lean protein, so your dog gets proper amino acids. There are no byproducts that can inflame your dog’s sensitive digestion. It also includes Wellness Core’s WellFlex formula, nutrients that help support healthy joints and prevent degradation over time.
The formula also helps your dog maintain its proper weight, building a healthy life and encouraging your dog to remain active even in its older years. It’s made in the United States with locally sourced ingredients.
Wellness Core isn’t cheap, but let’s be honest. Spending a little bit more to create a system of health for your dog can help you avoid the worst of the vet bills. However, you should be aware of the budget. Also, the largest size is a 26-pound bag which may be inconvenient for the largest breeds.
- formulated for large breeds
- includes WellFlex formula for joint support
- grain, corn, and soy free
- somewhat expensive
- 26 pounds is the largest bag size
If your dog is of the breeds most at risk for hip dysplasia, Dogswell’s formula may help. It uses glucosamine and Chondroitin to support joint health. Lean, high-quality protein from chicken gives your dog all the building blocks for bone, muscle, and weight control.
Vitamin A and E help reduce inflammation and improve the immune system. It helps keep weight in check through complex carbohydrates to give your dog energy to move around. Fiber from real fruits and veggies help your dog maintain proper digestion and receive critical nutrients.
Chicken proteins come from whole range free chickens. There are no growth hormones or steroids, so your dog has a better chance to rebuild critical muscles and bones.
They also make happy hips treats if you want to supplement your dog’s diet further. If your dog is a senior and has become picky, they also make a wet dog food you could use to supplement your dog’s diet.
- full range of happy hips products
- whole chicken without steroids or growth hormones
- complex formula for hip dysplasia support
- the largest size is just 22 pounds
- may not satisfy picky dogs
Royal Canin’s food is designed for working and large breed dogs who are hard on their joints. It encourages healthy joints and better skin through a combination of antioxidants and high-quality proteins.
It contains glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints and a higher amount of critical fatty acids to support both skin and joint cushioning. Protein comes from high quality, lean chicken, giving your dog the proper building blocks for healthy muscles and bones.
It breaks our rule by adding corn and wheat, but it is a small part of the formula. If your dog has known allergies to these compounds, you’ll want to stay away.
Otherwise, working dogs and mature dogs, particularly large breeds, should find plenty of joint an coat care in the formula and should see a reduction in some minor pain.
- formulated specifically for inflammation in joints and skin
- good for working dogs and senior dogs
- plenty of fatty acids for both skin and joint health
- contains gluten and corn, common allergens
- comes in just a single bag size
This one will require permission from your veterinarian, but we can’t make a list without listing Hill’s popular prescription dog food. This one is specifically designed for dogs who have trouble maintaining their weight and need support for joints.
It uses a clinical formula to support joints including Chondroitin and glucosamine. It has plenty of fatty acids and nutrients from vegetable sources. Chicken provides the bulk of protein for essential amino acids.
This particular formula is clinically proven to improve mobility in as few as 21 days. It also can reduce body weight by 13 percent in about 60 days. It works with your dog’s natural metabolism through a formula supported with a fiber blend coming from fruit and vegetables. High levels of essential fatty acids help improve conditioning in joints and decrease pain.
To order the food, you’ll have to provide proof of prescription either by emailing your provider or contacting customer service. It is not cheap, but if you don’t have a lot of other options and your dog’s weight is clearly interfering with its mobility, it could be the one.
Aside from the cost, the hassle of having to provide a prescription may deter you from using this food. However, if you don’t have a lot of options, it’s certainly a good one to finally get your dog’s weight under control (and through that, help with joints).
- clinically proven to improve mobility and weight
- the formula that works with your dog’s natural metabolism
- veterinarian approved
- requires a prescription
- very expensive
Your small senior dog has specific nutrition needs to maintain weight and healthy joints. Nutro’s senior dog food is formulated especially for small breeds. It includes glucosamine and Chondroitin for joint support and uses three different protein sources for a range of amino acids.
High-quality proteins are essential for seniors. This formula uses chicken, lamb, and fish for a nutrient dense formula that supports energy levels without encouraging weight gain. Essential fatty acids help cushion joints, improve the quality of skin and coat, and keep minds fresh.
There are no preservatives or artificial flavors. It’s gluten, soy, and corn free, so no allergy triggers. The right fiber balance helps your small dog absorb nutrients better and maintain weight.
It’s currently only available in a four-pound bag, and it’s on the expensive side. However, they do make a regular breed senior formula that’s very similar if you’d like to explore that option for a bigger dog.
- specially formulated for the energy and weight control needs of senior dogs
- includes three protein sources
- joint support ingredients plus inflammation control
- only four-pound bag options
- somewhat expensive
Caring for your aging dog’s joints begins with proper nutrition. Your growing large breed puppy benefits from preventive care in the form of diet as well. Foods that specifically target joint health are excellent ideas along with maintaining proper weight. The hope is your dog will age gracefully. He or she may not remain as energetic into their senior years but with proper care, should maintain enough mobility to enjoy life even in the later years.