Unfortunately, as they age, the dog’s health begins to deteriorate. One of the most common problems among senior pups is joint pain. Joint problems can cause mobility issues and make your doggy’s life miserable.
The bad news is that this problem is quite common in aging dogs of all breeds and sizes. Even young puppies and dogs can sometimes suffer from different joint problems.
The good news is that in many cases, making simple dietary changes can help alleviate joint pain, improve the pup’s mobility, and even help prevent such health problems.
In fact, a therapeutic diet is an essential part of the veterinarian’s medical therapy prescribed for dogs suffering from canine arthritis.
The best treatment for such health issues is prevention. This is why we recommend you consider adding some supplements that can help prevent or alleviate joint problems early on while your furry friend is still young and healthy.
Read on to learn more about the types of joint pain, the symptoms, the causes, and the preventative actions and treatments for it.
We have also added a list of the top-rated and veterinary-approved dog foods for joint health. And some tips for adding natural joint health supplements and foods to your furbaby’s diet.
What Kinds Of Joint Problems Do Dogs Suffer?
Joint health issues in dogs are pretty common. Here are the most common causes of your pup’s joint pain, discomfort and mobility problems:
Arthritis – canine osteoarthritis is the chronic degeneration and inflammation of the cartilage in the joints.
Dysplasia – hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition, often seen in giant and large dog breeds, and is a misalignment of the socket and ball of the hip joint socket. This condition can be accelerated by excessively rapid growth, an improper diet, or weight.
Osteochondrosis is when there is an abnormal development of cartilage in the joints when it fails to transform into a bone and remains weak and unstable. This, too, is a genetic condition that is more common among rapidly growing puppies of large and giant breeds that receive excessive nutrition or suffer trauma.
Luxating patella – this is an issue in which the kneecap of the pup is dislocated out of its normal place. This luxation is more common among smaller dogs and can affect either one or both legs.
Trauma – a joint can become fractured or dislocated, and the ligaments can be torn due to some injury.
Signs And Symptoms Of Joint Pain In Dogs
If you are not sure whether your furry friend has problems with its joints, here are some of the most common telltale signs or symptoms to look for:
- Swelling of the joint
- Inability to move
- Difficulty getting up or lying down
- Difficulty or reluctance to go down or up the stairs or to get in and out of the car
- Muscle thinning and atrophy
- Pain when being touched
- Lethargy, lack of interest in walking and other activities
- Continuous licking of the joint
- A loss of stamina
- Irritation and unusual aggression
- Slower movements
- Skipping when running
Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your furry companion has joint health problems or if you have a dog from a breed prone to hereditary joint issues.
Are Some Breeds More Susceptible To Joint Problems Than Others?
Yes, many joint problems can be affected by genetics. Others are more common among dogs with particular builds and sizes.
Here are some of the dog breeds that are more prone to suffering from joint issues:
- Great Danes
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and small and toy dog breeds
What Is Canine Arthritis?
This Degenerative Joint Disease causes the cartilage, which generally acts as a joint buffer, to become inflamed and damaged, leading to the bones in the joint rubbing directly with each other.
It usually affects the hips, legs, and ba, making moving painful, uncomfortable, and challenging.
Unfortunately, one in five dogs suffers from this painful condition, which is the number one cause of chronic pain in canines.
Cartilage is a “buffer” that protects the bones as they rub against each other with every movement. It is a living substance made up of cells that produce lubrication and cushioning for the dog’s joints.
Causes Of Arthritis In Dogs
Similarly to us, dogs can suffer from arthritis due to age, inflammations, improper diets, trauma, illnesses, auto-immune diseases, genetics, stress, abnormal joint development or limb structure, and many other reasons.
The most common cause is aging, as, over time, the cartilage of the pup’s joints can become diseased or damaged, leading to inflammation and pain.
If left untreated, the dog will become less active and live in discomfort, pain, and lack of interest in the things it once enjoyed.
How To Prevent And Treat Arthritis In Dogs
Since osteoarthritis is irreversible, your veterinarian will prescribe an arthritis management plan to alleviate your pup’s discomfort, pain, and mobility issues.
Usually, the management plan includes pain medications which can be NSAIDs or, in other cases, corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drugs.
Your vet will also prescribe a therapeutical diet because nutrition and weight control play an essential role in your pup’s joint health.
Your veterinarian will most probably prescribe some nutritional supplements, known as nutraceuticals which you should give to your furbaby as part of the treatment.
In some cases, your dog may be prescribed physical therapy, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, acupuncture, or other physical medicine to help improve its mobility and relieve the pain.
You can help make your arthritic furbaby more comfortable by providing it with suitable padded and soft bedding, raised dog food and water bowls, a ramp for getting in and out of the car, using carpeting or other non-skid floor covers for your floors, and more.
Here are some of the things to you as preventative measures if you want to reduce the risk of your furry companion developing arthritis:
- Make sure that your pup maintains a healthy weight in all of its life stages
- Feed it with complete and balanced dog food suitable for its life stage, weight, health, and activity level
- Give your dog veterinary-approved supplements such as essential fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and antioxidants
- Provide your pup with low-impact, moderate daily exercise, such as walking
- Take your dog to regular veterinary checkups
- Use efficient tick and flea preventatives because Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases can cause inflammation of the joints and arthritis
The 7 Best Dog Foods For Joint Health
Here are the top-rated and top-recommended dog foods suitable for managing and preventing joint health issues.
Best Overall: Purina ONE +Plus Joint Health Formula
- First ingredients: Chicken, Rice Flour, Chicken By-product Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, Soybean Meal
- Joint health supplements: Fish oil and glucosamine
- Protein content: 27.0% min.
- Fat content: 12.0% min.
- Calories: 379 kcal/cup
- Diet: high-protein adult dry dog food, all dog breeds, hip, and joint support, muscle health, and immune support
This protein-rich kibble is formulated for adult dogs of all breeds and has chicken as its first ingredient.
It is highly digestible and will provide your pup with the healthy energy it needs, as well as natural sources of fatty acids and glucosamine to help prevent or alleviate joint problems.
The top-rated dog food is affordable and contains the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients for a healthy immune system, heart, and overall well-being of your furbaby.
The only potential downside of this dog food is its high caloric content, so you should follow the recommended serving portions closely to prevent weight gain.
It is sold in 16.5 or 31.1 lbs. bags.
Editor’s Choice: Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d Joint Care Chicken Flavor Dry Dog
- First ingredients: Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Corn, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Egg Product
- Joint health supplements: Omega 3 fatty acid, EPA, glucosamine, L-carnitine, and controlled calorie content
- Protein content: 17.0% min.
- Fat content: 11.0% min.
- Calories: 353 kcal/cup
- Diet: adult dry dog food for all breeds and sizes, veterinary diet, pea-free, hip, and joint support
This prescription diet dry dog food has been formulated and clinically proven to help improve mobility in dogs suffering from joint health problems in as little as 21 days.
The small-sized kibble is packed with proteins and yet has a relatively low caloric value, with supplements added to help control your dog’s weight. It has added glucosamine, EPA Omega 3 fatty acid, and essential ingredients to help alleviate joint pain, stiffness, and mobility problems.
The downside is that you will need a veterinarian’s prescription to purchase or order the food online.
It is available in bags of 8.5 lbs.
Premium Pick: Merrick Grain Free with Real Meat + Sweet Potato
- First ingredients: Deboned Beef, Lamb Meal, Salmon Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes
- Joint health supplements: glucosamine and chondroitin, controlled calorie content
- Protein content: 34.0% min.
- Fat content: 15.0% min.
- Calories: 379 kcal/cup
- Diet: adult dry dog food, all dog breeds, grain-free, poultry-free, gluten-free, hip and joint support, digestive, skin, and coat health, high-protein, no fillers or artificial preservatives
This high-quality grain-free dry dog food is perfect for dogs with joint issues. It is made of top-quality Texas deboned beef and sweet potatoes, and other natural ingredients and contains 65% protein and healthy fat, and 35% fiber, as well as probiotics for daily energy and a healthy weight and digestion.
The kibble is without poultry, which is good news for dog parents with pups with chicken allergies.
It is packed with four different animal proteins and is gluten and grain-free, which reduces the risk of inflammations and joint problems for dogs with allergies and intolerances.
The added natural sources of omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin will ensure your pup’s joints are healthy and well.
You can buy this excellent dog food in bags of 4, 10, 22, and 30 lbs. and in different flavors, including Real Bison, Beef, Real Chicken, Real Lamb, and Real Salmon with sweet potato.
Best For Pups: Blue Buffalo Baby Blue Healthy Growth Formula
- First ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Potatoes
- Joint health supplements: fish oil with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Protein content: 10.0% min.
- Fat content: 7.0% min.
- Calories: 425 kcal/can
- Diet: high-protein puppy food, all dog breeds
If you want to give your growing puppy high-quality wet dog food which will ensure that it grows healthy, strong, and happy, then you should check the Baby Blue Healthy Growth Formula by Blue Buffalo.
It is formulated with real turkey as the first ingredient and primary protein source and has fatty acids, fish oil, antioxidants, minerals, and all the nutrients that your young puppy needs to grow strong and healthy.
The wet food is delicious, so even the fussy eaters will like it. It is all-natural with no added artificial preservatives, by-product meals, soy, wheat, or corn.
You can buy it in cases of 12 12.5-oz cans.
Related: 20 Best Puppy Foods 2022
Best For Large Breeds: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
- First ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley
- Joint health supplements: glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Protein content: 22.0% min.
- Fat content: 12.0% min.
- Calories: 352 kcal/cup
- Diet: large and giant breed dry dog food, immune support, hip, and joint support, no soy, no corn, and no wheat
Unfortunately, large and giant dog breeds are more susceptible to many of the common joint issues.
This dog food by Blue Buffalo is made especially for such pups and contains enough glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids to keep the joints, as well as the coat and skin of your large-sized dog, healthy.
The kibble is highly palatable, with real chicken as a first ingredient and a “Super 7” package of natural ingredients loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, chelated minerals, five probiotic chains, and phosphorus, calcium, and L-carnitine.
It is free of any fillers and artificial preservatives and is also available in a Lamb and Brown Rice flavor.
You can buy it in bags of 15, 30, or 34 lbs.
Best For Weight Loss: Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility
- First ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Flaxseed, Soybean Meal, Whole Grain Corn
- Joint health supplements: natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids
- Protein content: 23.0%
- Fat content: 13.0%
- Calories: 292 kcal/cup
- Diet: dry food for adult dogs, veterinary prescription diet, weight control
If your pup suffers from joint problems, your veterinarian will advise you to maintain its weight at a healthy level. If your furbaby is already overweight, you will need to do everything possible to get that extra weight off as quickly as possible. The reason is that the heavier the dog – the more strain is put on its joints.
With this veterinary diet dry dog food, your dog can lose about 13% of its weight in just two months, and its mobility will start improving as soon as 21 days after eating this healthy kibble.
It is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which will help alleviate painful joint inflammations.
The food is also loaded with fiber and healthy natural nutrients, which are formulated to be highly palatable, and boost your pup’s health and yet help it lose weight thanks to the low-calorie count.
You will need a prescription from your vet to buy this food and can order it in bags of 8.5, 15, or 24 lbs.
Related: Best Weight Loss Dog Food 2022
Best For Senior Dogs: Royal Canin Health Nutrition 8+ Years
- First ingredients: chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, wheat, corn gluten meal, chicken fat
- Joint health supplements: chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, healthy fatty acids
- Protein content: 25.0% min.
- Fat content: 15.0% min.
- Calories: 308 kcal/cup
- Diet: dry dog food for large or giant breeds, senior dogs (8+ years), bone and joint, and healthy aging support
This dry dog food by Royal Canin is specially formulated for dogs that weigh 56 to 100 lbs. aged 8 years or more. It contains carefully selected nutrients that will help keep your aging dog happy and healthy and alleviate or prevent joint and mobility problems as it enjoys its golden years.
The ingredients include a highly digestible chicken protein with added fiber and glucosamine, chondroitin, and fatty acids to promote joint health.
The food is sold in 30 lbs. bags and is also available for adult dogs 5+ years of age.
Related: Best Senior Dog Food Reviews – 2022
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Dog Foods For Joint Health
If your dog has joint health problems, feeding it the most suitable diet for its age, weight, and activity level, as well as one that can help relieve painful joint inflammations and conditions, is crucial.
Your veterinarian will probably advise you about the food type and brand which is best for your pup.
But if you still have concerns about selecting the best dog food for joint health, here is what to look for.
The ingredients are the most important features of any dog food. If your dog has mobility and joint problems, then it should contain added supplements that are known to relieve and improve them. Some of the main ones include glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids.
Good quality dog food usually contains a real animal-based protein as a first ingredient. Protein is the key nutrient for canines, so make sure to read the ingredient list and check all ingredients used carefully.
They are listed in order, with the most prevalent ones listed first. So, it is the first 5 ingredients that are most important.
But also look for the supplements for joint health, as well as the protein percentage, the calories, and whether they do not contain something your pup is sensitive or allergic to.
It is advisable to steer away from dog food mainly made of meat by-products or that contains fillers and artificial preservatives because it is neither nutritious nor healthy for your pup and can cause weight gain and worsening of its condition.
Remember that obesity is the number one reason for shortening the lifespan of dogs, so you need to monitor your pet’s weight at all times and in all life stages if you want to ensure it lives as long as possible.
Your vet or an animal nutritionist can tell you exactly what your pup’s dietary needs are based on its specific health condition, weight, age, and activity level.
If you want to delve into this matter further, you can check the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines, as well as the guide for manufacturers of dog food for canines with arthritis by the FDA.
In any case, look for complete and balanced dog food suitable for your dog’s age, breed, weight, and specific health issues.
Wet Or Dry Dog Food
There has been an ongoing debate among dog parents, animal nutritionists, and veterinarians about whether wet or dry dog food is better forever.
The truth is that it is up to you and your pup’s preferences regarding what type of dog food to feed it, as long as it is of good quality, offers a complete and balanced diet and contains the ingredients and the supplements it needs for its health issues.
It is also essential to strictly control portion sizes and your pet’s daily caloric intake to help keep your furry companion fit and healthy.
This feature is important because some dog breeds are more prone to hereditary or acquired joint health issues than others.
The ones which are most predisposed are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, Great Danes, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Old English Sheepdogs, and Dachshunds.
Many small and toy breeds are susceptible to patellar luxation, which is another common joint problem.
You will need to start early with the specialized joint health dog food if you have a large or giant dog breed puppy too.
Talk to your vet about the nutraceuticals and other supplements and food you should give your fast-growing puppy.
Related: Best Large Breed Puppy Foods – 2022
Weight management is essential for the health and well-being of all dogs of all ages and sizes.
Unfortunately, statistics show that obesity can lead to the shortening of the lifespan of your pup by an average of two years.
Among the other health problems which can occur in dogs that are overweight or obese is the problem with their joints and mobility.
The extra pounds will put extra stress and weight on its bones and joints.
This is why you should monitor your furbaby’s caloric intake and portion sizes from an early age.
Always buy dog food that is appropriate for your pup’s breed, weight, age, and activity level, and for any health problems it has.
Keep in mind that dog treats and other snacks should not exceed 10% of the daily caloric intake of your dog.
How Are Joint Problems Treated For Dogs?
Unfortunately, canine osteoarthritis and other hereditary and acquired joint health problems in dogs cannot be completely cured.
But there are ways to manage the pain, improve the mobility and well-being of your pup, and alleviate the symptoms.
Your veterinarian will discuss the best treatment and management options for your furry companion.
Usually, joint and mobility issues are treated with one or more of the following methods:
A Suitable Diet
Feeding your pup good quality dog food for joint health and appropriate for its breed, weight, age, and activity level are crucial.
With suitable dog food, you can keep your dog’s weight at a healthy level. Plus, the added ingredients and supplements in the specialized food will help reduce inflammation and improve the strength and health of your pet’s joints.
Talk to your veterinarian about the best supplements you can give as a preventative measure for your pup and the supplements to give it if it already has joint problems. Some of the most common ones are glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Depending on your furbaby’s condition and overall health, your vet may prescribe different anti-inflammatory or pain management medications. Remember to follow the doctor’s orders strictly when giving your dog medication.
Certain therapies can be beneficial and efficient in some cases when a dog suffers from joint and mobility problems. Some of the most common types include hydrotherapy, laser therapy, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
Changing your dog’s usual daily regimen and environment can also help manage its pain and other problems caused by osteoarthritis.
Your veterinarian may recommend that you get your pup an orthopedic padded bed, use raised water and dog food bowls, use ramps and limit the access to stairs or jumping on high furniture and cars, and place non-skid carpeting on your floors, using back slings, and others.
If your pup is overweight or obese, your veterinarian will recommend that it loses the extra weight as quickly and efficiently as possible. In fact, it may be the extra weight that is causing most of the problems with your furbaby’s joints.
Some joint problems, such as trauma, kneecap, or elbow displacement, and others can be resolved with surgical or arthroscopic intervention. In severe cases, joint replacement or joint fusion can be performed.
Natural Foods And Supplements
Apart from the traditional medications, you may add some natural foods and supplements that are known to help prevent and alleviate inflammations and help manage your dog’s pain. Some can act as prevention for osteoarthritis in canines too.
Here are some anti-inflammatory and pain relief foods and supplements you may want to try adding to your dog’s food and diet:
This common plant, also known as lucerne, has very few calories but is packed with antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
It can help protect the cells of the joints from damage and thus slow down their degradation and provide relief to a dog with arthritis.
Cinnamon is a common spice but is also used in traditional medicine. It can reduce the inflammation of the joints and is also beneficial for improving brain function, lower blood sugar, and boosting the pup’s metabolism.
It is safe for pups and most of them like its taste.
The recommended dosage is 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon per 15 lbs. of the dog’s weight.
This is another spice that you probably already have in your spice cabinet. Turmeric has been used as a traditional medicine since ancient times. The curcumin it contains has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties.
In fact, some studies have found that turmeric is about as powerful as Ibuprofen for relieving the symptoms of arthritis in people.
The recommended daily dosage is up to ¼ teaspoon for small dogs, up to ½ teaspoon for medium-sized pups, and 1 teaspoon per day for large and giant dogs.
Dog-safe oily fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. The fish which are safe for your pup are salmon, sardines, tuna, and anchovies. The healthy fatty acids can help reduce joint inflammation and will boost your pup’s immune system.
It is recommended to add some deboned oily fish to your pup only 2 or 3 times per week and be careful with the portioning because too much can cause weight gain and make the joint problems worse.
Coconut oil is a great natural source of omega fatty acids and can help relieve the pain and inflammation of the dog’s joints.
You can add a teaspoon per pound of the dog’s body weight to its regular food.
But please refrain from overfeeding it with coconut oil or giving it to pups who suffer from sensitive stomachs or pancreatitis.
Apples are among the best fruits for dogs. They are loaded with vitamins A and C, which have anti-oxidative properties, and can help reduce painful joint inflammation.
Remember to remove the seeds and core and slice or cut the apples into manageable pieces for your pup.
Adding a few fresh blueberries to your pup’s food can help boost its immune system and fight the aging and degeneration of the joints and the inflammations.
These healthy superfoods contain vitamins, fiber, and the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin.
Cabbage contains minerals, vitamins, and anti-inflammation chemicals, which can help prevent or reduce the inflammation of your dog’s joints.
You can add up to 1/8 cup of shredded cabbage per 20 lbs. of your dog’s body weight per day.
Celery is another healthy plant that you can give to your pup safely, even as a treat. Celery has 25 different anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help relieve the swelling and pain in the joints.
You can serve it cooked or raw to your furbaby.
Sweet potatoes are commonly used as ingredients for dog foods for joint and mobility support. They are high in amino acids and beta-carotenes, and vitamin A. Thus, they can help reduce and fight joint inflammation and strengthen the muscles around the joint.
But remember that they are carbs and need to be fed to dogs cooked and in moderation.
Other foods suitable for dogs with joint health problems:
- Beef trachea
- Pig or beef tails
- Chicken feet
- Bone and tendon broths
- Cooked tomatoes
Some supplements that you can give to your pup with joint health issues include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- CBD Oil – some vets recommend it for pain relief for pups with arthritis
What To Avoid
You can help keep your furry companion with joint problems as comfortable and well as possible by avoiding feeding it the following inflammation-causing products:
- Nightshade vegetables – eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and white potatoes contain glycoalkaloids that can cause inflammation.
- Gluten and grains – many canines are sensitive or intolerant of grains or gluten.
- Fillers – avoid foods that have ingredients like bran, hulls, grain by-product, soybean, or modified corn starch.
Food For Dogs With Joint Pain: FAQ
What are glucosamine and chondroitin?
They are elements of the structure of the cartilage of the joints. This is the tissue that acts as a cushion and lubricant between the bones that meet in the joint.
They are commonly added to foods that are formulated for joint and mobility issues and are available as separate supplements.
What is a natural source of glucosamine?
The best natural sources of glucosamine are chicken feet (450mg per foot), beef trachea (1,400mg per 30g), green-lipped mussels (they also contain omega-3 fatty acids), pig, beef tails or oxtails, thick slow-cooked bone broth, and shellfish shells.
Can dogs have too much glucosamine?
Always buy glucosamine supplements from trusted manufacturers recommended by your veterinarian. Follow the recommended dosage because giving your pup too much glucosamine can lead to adverse effects such as bloody diarrhea, nose bleeds, dehydration, and poisoning.
What are the best joint supplements for dogs?
Our research shows that the top-rated joint supplements for dogs that are preferred by veterinarians and dog parents alike are the natural YuMove supplements.