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April 13, 2023

Well, crap friends. There's some surprising new intel on arthritis supplements for dogs in a recently published veterinary paper that looked at a bunch of prior studies into various types of enhanced diets, nutraceuticals, and arthritis supplements for dogs (and cats).

I emailed the paper to our main DVM. We'll talk about it more when the dogs get their wellness exams soon. I very well may be changing my strategies for preventing and helping my dogs with joint supplements. (Or not, keep reading to the end.) What works? What doesn't? What's *maybe on the horizon as the next big thing in arthritis supplements for dogs? Let's find out.

arthritis supplements for dogs what helps vs what doesn't graphic

Glucosamine-chondroitin arthritis supplements for dogs don't work.

I won't bury the headline. That's where we're headed. I also found, though, support for some what I do with arthritis supplements for dogs, and some new ideas on maybe what to try next. 

I first learned about this new paper from @SkeptVet on Twitter. You can read his online post in detail here. Evidence-based veterinary medicine is his thing, and I've learned a lot over the years by following, etc. 

skeptvet tweet arthritis supplements for dogs

Here's what jumped out at me when I read through the paper. I encourage you to download and read full text yourself here.

Arthritis Supplements for Dogs Key Points from New Paper

  • Nothing cures or structurally improves osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs. The paper's authors say this (emphasis mine): 

"To the best of the authors’ knowledge, no therapeutic approach has any indication of a delayed effect on the progression of OA. Thus, the terms 'chondroprotective,' 'structuremodulator' or 'disease-modifying' do not yet apply to the therapeutic approaches available in pet OA, with all therapeutic indications revolving around an improvement in the behavioural or physiologic signs associated with OA pain."

  • Arthritis supplements for dogs (and cats) end up on the market, not because there is any proof they work, but instead ... it's mostly that they don't seem to cause harm. The paper's authors explain this point as follows (emphasis mine): 

"However, regulatory assessments of these compounds primarily focused on the absence of side effects (safety), quality and nutrition but did not require proof in therapeutic efficacy."

  • The paper's authors describe their goals and hypothesis like this:

"The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to examine the evidence
for analgesic efficacy of fortified therapeutic diets and nutraceuticals to build up solid research evidence (evidence-based medicine) and to properly disseminate findings on the efficacy of the therapeutic potential in dogs and cats affected by OA."

arthritis supplements for dogs paper hypothesis quote graphic

"Our hypothesis was that, in 2022, we have sufficient evidence to support, or not, the use of therapeutic diets or nutraceuticals in the management of canine and feline OA."

Arthritis Supplements for Dogs - What Works and What Doesn't

I won't attempt to explain all the ways they found, evaluated, and ranked prior veterinary research studies into arthritis supplements for dogs, but suffice it to say that some prior research got deemed higher or lower quality. The paper's authors gave more weight to higher quality. In many cases, the results didn't achieve statistical significance. 

The headline, though, is that some arthritis supplements for dogs that work have higher quality research than some that don't. The authors explain (emphasis mine): "Collagen-based (ctg. 3) and chondroitin-glucosamine-based (ctg. 4) nutraceuticals stand out with a higher presence of lower-quality trials. The quality level ratios (the number of AB/CD level trials) were 0.6 and 0.8, respectively, for these two categories. Conversely, omega-3-enriched therapeutic diets (ctg. 1), omega-3-based nutraceuticals (ctg. 2) and cannabinoids (ctg. 5) had more high-quality trials as evidenced by the quality level ratios of 4.0, 2.3 and 2.5, respectively."

Okay, Yikes!

The paper basically goes on to say that omega-3-based arthritis supplements for dogs "stand out in terms of effect," meaning dogs show improvement in behavior and pain scores. Then, the authors, make the comparison to chondroitin-glucosamine-based nutraceuticals "stand out for their lack of efficacy with 88.9% non-effect and 0% effect." That means of the prior studies reviewed a bunch showed that chondroitin-glucosamine did NOT work and 0% showed it did. Yikes!

This graphic, in particular, shows how chondroitin-glucosamine arthritis supplements for dogs stack up compared to other options. You can read the full paper yourself to get the details and nuances of the data, but for simplicity's sake just know that being below that center line isn't good.

arthritis supplements for dogs - fig 4 OA supplement paper

This next graphic, which actually comes earlier in the paper than the one above, gives you a good overview of the findings for various types of arthritis supplements for dogs. It's the one @SkeptVet used in the Tweet that got my attention. 

I'm intrigued to see how research into cannabinoids pans out. Since we're already using this CBD oil from a local company (along with another OTC med) for Tori's ongoing car-sickness.

I wrote this long article for a magazine for veterinary professionals a couple of years ago. It includes details on some key points about CBD, including that some cannabinoids *might help for neurology cases and others *might help for pain related to things like arthritis in dogs. In other words, NOT ALL CBD products are the same, so you'd have to really target the type of cannabinoids that may someday show positive results in studies. 

Arthritis Supplements for Dogs The Main Graphic

arthritis supplements for dogs - Fig 3 OA supplement paper

The knockout punch IMHO comes later in the paper, where the authors conclude the following. Ouch!

arthritis supplements for dogs conclusion quote

"Like these previous reviews, the results of the present meta-analysis led to the conclusion that chondroitin-glucosamine nutraceuticals should not be prescribed in canine or feline OA."

The authors also conclude that "all the other nutraceuticals evaluated did not present sufficient evidence of efficacy to decide on their indication." That's veterinary research speak for not being able to say that veterinarians **should** recommend certain arthritis supplements for dogs.

Still, I feel good about what the paper says about omega-3s, and I'm considering ditching the glucosamine we use and investing that money instead into better fish oil supplements for ALL of my dogs. Mr. Stix already takes a high-quality one our DVM dermatologist recommended for his skin issues. I could simply buy more for the girls too. 

I will also add ... and I could swear I've written about it a bit before ... but I cannot find the post, so just a quick note that I did try a new arthritis supplement for dogs with collagen (UC-II) recently, and both Clover and Tori's mobility and pain issues got much, much worse. Yet, some of the data looks promising enough (maybe just NOT for my dogs) that I have at least one veterinary friend who gives UC-II to their dog. It's my go to person for when I need to know if something is based in science or baloney, so there you go. Her answer is typically "baloney" when I ask about new supplements for dogs people try to hype to me. 

Arthritis Supplements for Dogs on the Horizon (maybe)

Toward the end of the paper, the authors list a few types of arthritis supplements for dogs that *might show promise if additional high-quality studies continue and find good results. I've honestly not heard of the ones they mention specifically in the end of the paper such as:

  • Elk velvet antler  
  • Brachystemma calycinum D don extracts 

The paper goes on to say, "The results with turmeric were conflicting, being either negative, ambiguous or positive . Although turmeric seems to benefit from a composite synergistic approach, evidence of efficacy remains to be confirmed with further studies." So, I guess keep an eye on that too. 

Already Heard Back From My DVM

While writing this post (and waiting to hear our latest foster dog FOREST did during surgery today), my DVM already replied to my email. She points out that it's all very specific to specific animals with pretty much everything, including approved pain meds, so... maybe I won't ditch the glucosamine. The girls definitely improved after I stopped the test of the collagen supplement and put them back on glucosamine.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. My Vet recommended UC-II when I mentioned trying a joint supplement for my older boy; she said there was research on it [this was a couple of years ago] and it's made a huge difference for him. I've not tracked down the research she mentioned though.

    1. Great. I don’t know if the supplement we tried just didn’t have *enough UC-II that was bioavailable for my girls or if it just didn’t work for them. My veterinary pal is just using a people supplement. My hubs tried it for a while too, but he wasn’t consistent enough to see a difference.

  2. "Mr. Stix already takes a high-quality one our DVM dermatologist recommended for his skin issues. I could simply buy more for the girls too. "

    Are you able to name which one? My dog has itchy skin.

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