As pets live longer, undergo complex orthopedic surgeries, and participate in physically demanding activities, they increasingly need to maintain their mobility and joint health. To meet this need, the pet supplement (i.e., nutraceutical) market has expanded with products that advertise increased muscle development, faster recovery, improved flexibility, and pain-free play.

Unfortunately, the industry is unregulated, and ensuring the products you purchase are safe, effective, and validated can be challenging. As advocates for your pet’s lifelong physical health, the Animal Rehabilitation Center team has prepared this guide for selecting the best joint supplements for your dog or cat.

When are joint supplements recommended for pets?

Joint supplements are typically recommended for any pet whose normal movement is impaired because of pain, weakness, trauma, or disease, such as:

  • Age or trauma-related changes (e.g., osteoarthritis)
  • Orthopedic surgery 
  • Soft-tissue or joint injury, structural deformity (i.e., hip dysplasia) 

The right joint supplement will work synergistically with your pet’s pain management, recovery, or rehabilitation program to reduce discomfort and inflammation, and improve joint function (i.e., range of motion).

How do pet joint supplements work?

Joint supplements are designed to restore cartilage health, increase synovial fluid production, and promote smooth (i.e., frictionless, pain-free) joint motion. While supplements cannot restore a damaged joint, they can decrease inflammation and slow arthritic deterioration, because the longer your pet stays mobile, the longer they can maintain a healthy muscle mass to support the weakened joint.

Why should pet owners use caution when purchasing a supplement?

Unlike human supplements, pet supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or any other entity. Companies can sell products with label information, such as nutritional information and an ingredient list, that is not approved—or factual—so your pet’s “joint cure” may be nothing more than flavored powder and empty promises.

Ask your pet’s Animal Rehabilitation Center veterinarian, or your regular veterinarian, for a product recommendation. They can provide suggestions that are appropriate, authenticated, and backed by adequate research.

Why do veterinary-recommended supplements cost more?

While veterinary-recommended brands are often more expensive than over-the-counter (OTC) products, you will be purchasing and feeding your pet a validated, quality-controlled supplement that is upheld to rigorous standards and delivers visible and measurable health benefits. Plus, veterinary-recommended supplements, given regularly, can save money in the long run by:

  • Reducing your pet’s injury risk, by helping them maintain or rebuild muscles to support their joints
  • Minimizing or eliminating the need for expensive or invasive surgery
  • Allowing your veterinarian to reduce or discontinue other pain medications (e.g., non-steroidal antiinflammatories [NSAIDS])

What are the common ingredients in pet joint supplements?

Although many products advertise unique and “all-natural ingredients,” they must be metabolized and utilized by your pet to provide any benefits. Therefore, we recommend using products with proven joint-health enhancers, including: 

  • Glucosamine hydrochloride — Improves joint cartilage rebuilding and repair
  • Chondroitin sulfate — Blocks natural cartilage destruction, often working in tandem with glucosamine 
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) — A naturally occurring anti-inflammatory and free-radical fighting antioxidant
  • Fatty acids — Promote joint lubrication and smooth movement—omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, are also natural anti-inflammatories with benefits extending to the heart, skin, and coat

How long do pets take to improve?

Because joint supplements are often recommended as part of a multi-part treatment plan and each patient has their own unique variables (e.g., age, weight, body condition), anticipating how long a pet will take to progress is difficult. However, most will show improvement in four to six weeks.

No matter what supplement you provide, following your veterinarian’s dosing instructions is essential to ensure maximum benefits for your pet. Never exceed the recommended dose, and always store supplements out of your pet’s reach—many are flavored for palatability and can lead to overconsumption and toxicity. 

What pet supplements are recommended?

At the Animal Rehabilitation Center, we carefully research each product we recommend and are always on the lookout for breakthroughs, product innovations, and new research or clinical trials. When your pet needs a joint supplement, we’ll make an individual recommendation that fits their exact needs and preferences. 

Some products we trust and recommend include:

  • Dasuquin with MSM (Nutramax) Dasuquin with MSM is a leading joint supplement for dogs and cats. Nutramax independently upholds its products to extensive research, rigorous testing, and operates under current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs).
  • Dasuquin Advanced (Nutramax) Dasuquin Advanced includes additional antioxidant support and omega-3 fatty acids for more severely affected pets.
  • Synovi G4 Synovi G4 includes glucosamine, Boswellia serrata, and antioxidants, such as turmeric and vitamin C, to support joint health and mobility. This product carries the National Supplement Council (NASC) Quality Seal, which shows that it meets the council’s rigorous requirements and review process.

While these products are available over-the-counter, never feed your pet supplements without  first contacting Animal Rehabilitation Center or your regular veterinarian.

Mobility is an essential part of your pet’s quality of life, and joint supplements—used as part of a veterinarian-supervised treatment plan—can significantly improve your pet’s comfort, confidence, and wellbeing.

If your pet is slowing down or experiencing mobility-related challenges, they may be in pain. Schedule an appointment at the Animal Rehabilitation Center for a complete examination, and let us recommend a customized therapeutic treatment plan.