This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Schutzhund USA Magazine.
If you have a very active working or sporting dog, joint health is often an important consideration. These dogs go hard and endure a lot of impact as part of their daily activity regimen. This invariably leads to interest on what you can do to either avoid or treat joint issues. Rather than just answer the Glucosamine question, we’re going to address the larger issue.
Impact of Diet on Joint Health
The bigger question is if diet, whether food or supplements, can really have a positive impact on joint health. While we believe genetic makeup plays the largest role as a predictor of healthy hips and joints, we also support the idea that diet can favorably impact joint health from both a prevention and treatment standpoint. If we assume healthy genetics, we can reduce the debate to the dietary component. If diet can improve overall health, it stands to reason that there’s a benefit to joint health in there as part of the package. Consequently, it makes sense that diet can have a favorable impact on joint health since a fully healthy body will have more healthy individual parts.
Ingredients Specific to Joint Health
Beyond the general benefits of a good diet, though, there are a number of specific ingredients that are touted as specific for joint health. The most common ones are typically Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, Collagen and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. There have been a multitude of studies that have tested these ingredients both individually and in various combinations. The results have been a bit of a mixed bag with some dogs showing improvement and some seemingly unaffected. We’ve seen enough cases where dogs benefited to feel confident that these ingredients, in the right combinations and concentrations, can support healthy joints and even fuel recovery for damaged joints in some cases.
Which Ones Do I Need in My Dog Food?
Here’s where the challenge comes in. Most of these ingredients are pretty expensive when compared to the proteins, fats and carbohydrates that make up the bulk of your dog’s diet. They also need to be consumed at fairly high levels in order to have a therapeutic effect on your dog’s joint health. Taking both of these things into account, while many foods tout the inclusion of some of these ingredients, cost dictates that the ingredients are not included in sufficient concentration to have a therapeutic effect. In short, they’re what we call “tag dressing” and are not really having the desired impact on joint health.
Find a Source Other Than Food
The best solution is not going to come in the form of a commercial food. If you’re looking for benefits beyond the whole body health provided by a good diet, your best bet is going to be the supplement route. While many of the supplements on the market also fall below acceptable therapeutic levels, there are some available that have some of these ingredients in sufficient concentration. You may need to combine a couple different supplements to get everything you want, but the results can be significant for some dogs.