Last Updated: May 13, 2021
Just like us, dogs are prone to specific health issues throughout their lifetime. They also might have genetic conditions that cause joint problems from birth. No matter how a dog develops joint issues, you can offer a little dietary help to reduce inflammation, repair cells, and decrease pain.
Some foods and supplements can strengthen your dog’s joints, too. Providing some nutritional support can reduce the overall symptoms. Let’s talk about what they are.
Joint Function in Dogs
Joint function is essential from the second of birth. Puppies need to have strong joints to support their growing muscles. They get all the nutrients they need from their mother’s milk until they start on solids. Then, it’s up to caretakers to make sure they have adequate nutrition.
Larger breeds must have proper diets that help joints. If they lack during their peak growth points, they can have significant mobility issues later in life.
Which Dog Food Ingredients Are Essential for Joint Health?
Many commercial puppy food recipes fit the dietary needs, matching their age nutrition profile. When you select puppy chow, look for recipes that have the right content.
Essential ingredients for joints include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- High protein content
Though puppies and seniors require different nutrient levels, they do mimic each other. The difference is that puppy recipes are meant to build joints while senior recipes are geared towards improving joint health and function.
What Causes Joint Problems in Dogs?
Dogs have athletic builds that are made for physical activity. Some are much more content snoring on the sofa. Lifestyle, exercise, and genetics all play a role in the way your dog’s body ages.
There are two types of joint issues we see in dogs, degenerative and developmental. Degenerative joint issues are slow loss of mobility and strength over time. Developmental joint issues happen when the joints do not form as they should during growth.
While most degenerative problems develop due to age, some joint issues can start from puppyhood. Regular vet visits can keep your dog healthy, ensuring proper weight and diet for their life stage.
Here are some of the factors that can determine joint issues:
When dogs gain weight excessively, it puts unnecessary pressure on their bones and joints. They’re carrying an abnormally high amount of weight, which causes all sorts of strain (not to mention the difficulty it causes for their organs).
Large and giant dog breeds tend to have joint issues because of their massive size. For instance, hip and elbow dysplasia is very prominent in breeds like German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, and other large breeds.
Rapidly increasing size and weight can cause issues in several breeds, which is why puppy years are so important. Certain joint conditions can be genetic, but other lifestyle factors influence some.
Some dogs are prone to certain health conditions that can lead to severe joint problems. With appropriate breeding, healthy puppies can avoid many genetic joint disorders.
But with the possibility of accidental or backyard breeding, puppies might not have the same health guarantees. That is why it’s so vital to pick reputable breeders or properly evaluated dogs before you buy—you never know what problems might pop up for your poor pup.
As our dogs age over the years, their bodies feel the effects. Aging causes a natural bodily deterioration, which is why it’s so important to keep up with any difficulties they might face. Older dogs tend to develop painful joint conditions like arthritis.
While the decline is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be as hard on your dog. If you follow a few tips for optimal joint health, you can make the golden years a cakewalk for your furry pal.
Food & Supplements for Healthy Joints in Dogs
Certain compounds feed your dog’s joints, decreasing inflammation, rebuilding tissue, and curbing degeneration. Here are 12 of the best things you can add to your dog’s diet to improve or strengthen their mobility.
Glucosamine is a natural compound in cartilage that helps support and cushion joints and bones. When your dog takes it as a supplement, the glucosamine works similarly in their system, repairing and strengthening these areas.
It alleviates pain in problem areas, improving your dog’s overall sense of mobility. The success of glucosamine for joint repair is moderate, so it might have better results in some dogs over others.
Glucosamine is typically found in stores as chewable tablets, treats, and powders.
Turmeric is such a common household spice that you might already have it in your cabinets. However, if you feed it to your dog in their regular diet, you should buy a turmeric supplement for the full effect as spice powder is not as effective.
Turmeric is a flowering plant in the ginger family. It contains a compound called curcumin. This is a fat-soluble antioxidant with sensational anti-inflammatory properties. Concentrated curcumin can lessen inflammation in your dog’s joints, leading to healthy cartilage function.
You can find turmeric curcumin in many specially formulated dog treats, chews, and other supplements.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that aids in several areas of health. We all know about the incredible immunity-boosting benefits of vitamin C.
But that’s not all—vitamin C is also an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that soothes any joint irritation. Collagen is a protein found in muscles and joints. Vitamin C acts as a collagen synthesis, which forms proper joint cartilage.
Adding vitamin C to your dog’s daily routine will boost their energy and reduce joint pain. Just be mindful about appropriate dosing. Since dogs don’t need vitamin C (as their bodies make their own), too much can negatively impact them.
4. Fish Oil
Fish oil is packed full of healthy omega fatty acids. These acids contain natural chemicals that supplement your joint tissue. Think of it as oiling a squeaky wheel, fish oil lubricates the tissue in between the joints to keep everything moving and functioning as it should.
Many commercial dog food recipes contain fish oil to help with this very issue. It also keeps the skin and coat shiny and healthy.
You can introduce more fish oil to their daily diet through supplements or concentrated oils to add to their existing meal.
Chondroitin is similar to glucosamine because your dog will take it the same way, and it will have a similar effect. Because it reduces pain, your dog can be much more active, exercising its joints and muscles.
This compound is best used as an injury preventive. So, if you notice your dog is suffering from a bit of inflammation, adding this into their diet will increase mobility and prevent damage.
You can find supplements containing high amounts of chondroitin designed to soothe joints. However, it’s most effective as an injectable shot from your veterinarian.
6. Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is a nutrient-rich root plant that will do your dog’s body good. Sweet potato has multiple health benefits for your dog, including optimal joint support.
Sweet potatoes contain a large amount of beta-cryptoxanthin, which prevents joint inflammation from starting. These spuds are full of fiber, helping with smooth digestion, so your pet isn’t bound up.
If you offer sweet potato, make sure that it is full peeled and cooked. You can mash it up and top their kibble or let them enjoy it as a stand-alone snack. Never feed your dog raw sweet potatoes.
Ginger is a common root used in many medicinal forms. Because it is loaded with antioxidants, it nourishes problem areas in DNA and fights disease. It’s an excellent counteractant for nausea, but ginger also is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Ginger also promotes healthy aging, which includes full joint support. Ginger extracts and topical treatments can soothe the onset of arthritis in dogs, too.
Ginger is typically available in liquid and solid form, so you can administer to your dog the best way they take it. You can also offer raw ginger root in small doses.
The alfalfa grass does lots of awesome things for your dog’s body, including joint nourishment. It is beneficial for seniors, as it gently soothes arthritis symptoms.
Alfalfa is also an excellent source of fiber, so expect an improvement in digestion as well. The natural poly nutrients feed the body, making this hay a terrific choice for healthy joints.
You can use alfalfa supplements to add to your dog’s food bowl. Many vets recommend daily doses for optimal results. However, alfalfa seeds have toxic amino acids in them, so make sure they don’t consume any. Dandelion, yucca, and licorice root pair well with alfalfa to combat degenerating joints.
The fruit of the papaya is another excellent food for joint health. The fruit flesh is soft and easy to digest, so it’s a good option for dogs with bad teeth. It’s also very sweet and punchy, so your dogs will love the taste.
Papayas contain a very high amount of vitamin C, a proven antioxidant that relaxes and strengthens joints.
You do have to be mindful of seeds. Papaya seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide which can make your pup very sick. Always make sure to remove any seeds before offering a piece to your dog.
Blueberries are an ideal fruit to add to your dog’s diet. These little berries have many nutritional perks that don’t just end at joint support. Raw blueberries reap the most reward, but there are also dietary bites that your dog can take for mobility—blueberry being the main ingredient.
Blueberries are small, easy to chew, and packed with powerful antioxidants to keep your dog feeling healthy, protecting against cell damage.
You can give your dog a handful of berries in their kibble or use them as a motivational snack. To be on the safe side, always choose organic berries to reduce chemical exposure.
11. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is all the rage these days, healing everything from dry hair to fungal infections. One of the healthiest oils on the market, this substance is an excellent inflammation reducer.
Coconut oil is loaded with fatty acids, which help the body oil its hinges, so to speak. This oil also helps strengthen bones due to its calcium and magnesium content.
You can use it both topically and internally, adding a daily spoonful at dinner time. Organic coconut oil may have a sweet flavor that your dogs love.
This surprisingly savory stalk vegetable is an extremely healthy water-based vegetable that decreases joint inflammation. You can offer this veggie to your dogs as a crispy snack with great benefits.
You can give your dog raw slices of celery, but the seeds are much more potent for optimal results. Always makes sure to chop the celery into thin pieces or strip it of the threads since it can be a choking hazard.
Other Tips to Help Dog Joints
You can help your dog maintain excellent joints as they age. Though diet plays a crucial role in joint health, it doesn’t stop there. Here are some tips to help you keep your dog moving with ease.
- Give your dog the proper nutrition.
Don’t wait until your dog starts developing joint problems to get them on the right track. Make sure their primary diet always covers their nutritional profile needs. Then, you can offer extra beneficial goodies at meal and snack time. Since different dogs vary in size and energy levels, there is no one-size-fits-all menu, so vary your portions according to your dog’s size.
You should select a high-quality dry kibble or wet food with all the good stuff—and without harmful fillers or artificial preservatives. Don’t be afraid to do your research or ask your vet for recommendations on diet options. Each breed might require certain commercial foods over others.
- Keep your dog at an ideal weight for its size.
Extra weight can cause strain on the body, which can inflame joints. Always feed your dog appropriate calories for the day, despite how much they might beg for more. Limit snacks, too. It might be easy to toss a milk bone their way every time they do a good deed, but too many treats equal extra pounds.
If you find your adult dog isn’t satisfied with a once-a-day feeding, you can split their rations into two or three smaller meals. That way, you can keep them on a better feeding schedule throughout the day, and they won’t have as many hunger pangs.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise.
Exercise does fantastic things for your pooch. It strengthens joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles—keeping the body functioning as it should. Even if your dog is having a bit of trouble getting around, you should still make sure to walk and enjoy fun activities with them.
It’s always a good idea to check with your vet to get a good exercise plan in place. With specific onset conditions, certain dogs might have exercise restrictions.
- Accommodate dogs with mobility issues.
If your dog has a joint problem of some form, make life a little easier for them. Make beds, doors, and food bowls easily accessible. Don’t allow them to engage in rough play. Take leisurely, short walks. Try to make your living space comfortable and secure.
The more you can do to make your dog cozy, the better their bodies will respond. If you can, make sure your dog’s bed is orthopedic, so they get full support during rest.
- Offer body massages often.
Your dog’s muscles harbor tension, just like ours. Massaging your dogs will promote healthy circulation, nourish soft tissues, and increase musculoskeletal function.
You can perform basic massage techniques at home, or you can take them to a professional doggy masseuse. It will leave your buddy feeling refreshed.
Now you can understand why joint health is so essential to our pups—they are the hinges holding everything together. Your dog deserves to live an active lifestyle as long as it can. By supplementing your dog’s diet with joint-friendly foods, you are laying nutritional blocks for the future.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding joint health in dogs, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian. Nothing replaces professional medical advice.
Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.