With just a few dietary additions, you can offer your canine patients’ the joint support they need this winter. Consider these nutrients when making recommendations.
Winter is a tough season for joints. As the temperature and barometric pressure drop, tendons, muscles and the surrounding tissues expand, causing joints – especially those afflicted by arthritis – to become achy and hypersensitive. In addition to feeling the effects of cold, dry or damp weather, those that live in northern climates are more prone to injury due to snow and ice. Needless to say, this season – and the weeks preceding it – is a great time to recommend joint-supportive supplements for your canine patients.
Nutritional support for joints
There are multiple joint-supportive ingredients to consider for animals during the winter months (and year-round):
Glucosamine and chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are purported to slow or alter the progression of osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin are precursors for glycosaminoglycans, which are a major component of joint cartilage; therefore, supplemental glucosamine and chondroitin may help to maintain or rebuild cartilage.1-6
New Zealand green-lipped mussel
Perhaps a less familiar ingredient used in supplements for joint support is the New Zealand green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus; GLM). The GLM is endemic in the coastal waters of New Zealand and has been a part of the staple diet of the indigenous Maori people for hundreds of years. Its use as an active ingredient in both human and animal joint supplements stemmed from the observation that these coastal communities had a lower incidence of arthritis than their European or inland counterparts.6-8
The GLM is not only a rich source of glycosaminoglycans, but it also has anti-inflammatory effects most likely derived from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content. Other lipid components include pro-resolving lipid mediators, bioactive peptides, and F-acids that may also play a role in some of the beneficial effects that have been demonstrated in the literature. Early studies of GLM found no significant benefits of GLM, but at the time, the extracts were not well preserved. In 1986, dried mussel extracts became available that were stabilized with a preservative. These stabilized lipid extracts used in more recent studies have been shown to be more effective than a non-stabilized extract at inhibiting inflammation. Today there are over 150 publications on the benefits of GSM with many in vitro and in vivo trials using GLM extracts to evaluate its effectiveness in alleviating the symptoms of inflammation and osteoarthritis in rodents, humans, dogs, cats, and horses.6-8 Several studies indicate that GLM extracts are a safe, logical supplement for the veterinary patient with osteoarthritis:
In a randomized controlled clinical study of 31 dogs with arthritis, GLM powder was added to a test diet. When compared to control groups, dogs on the GLM test diet had significant improvement in subjective arthritis scores, joint swelling, and joint pain.10 Another randomized-controlled study of 45 dogs with osteoarthritis reported dogs receiving GLM had improvement in mobility when compared with placebo.11 A study of 81 dogs with presumptive osteoarthritis reported improved clinical signs on day 56 of the study in dogs receiving GLM.12 An uncontrolled study of 85 dogs fed a GLM supplemented diet for 50 days showed reduction of a composite arthritic score when compared with baseline scores on various diets dogs were consuming.13
Another ingredient that has found its way into joint supplements are extracts from Boswellia serrata, a medicinal plant found in the mountainous regions of India, Northern Africa and the Middle East. B. serrata is also commonly known as guggul, Indian olibanum, loban, or kundru. Since ancient times, Boswellia has been an important traditional medicinal plant used for the treatment of various ailments. More recent in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated the immense therapeutic potential against several conditions especially those involving inflammation.14-15
Extracts of the gum resins of Boswellia contain numerous pentacyclic triterpenic acids, with acetyl-11-keto-boswellic acid (AKBA) and 11-keto-β-boswellic acid (KBA) being primarily responsible for its anti-inflammatory effects. Studies in vitro and in vivo suggest these active components in Boswellia extracts (BSE) may inhibit the 5-lipoxygenase pathways as well as microsomal prostaglandin E2 synthase to reduce inflammation in body tissues.14-15 Studies in humans with osteoarthritis in the knee have reported some beneficial effects in mobility and pain management.16-17 A non-placebo-controlled study demonstrated a reduction in clinical signs of naturally occurring osteoarthritis in dogs supplemented with an oral BSE formulation.18 Another study evaluated two BSE containing supplements compared to placebo in a random, controlled clinical study of 32 client owned dogs with osteoarthritis. This study demonstrated an improvement in clinical signs.19 These studies in osteoarthritis as well as other studies in other chronic disease states demonstrate BSE can have some efficacy and seems safe and well tolerated.19-22
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been shown to help with resolving inflammation in joint and connective tissue injuries as well as osteoarthritis. Studies evaluating inflammatory mediators (thromboxane, leukotriene, and matrix metalloproteinase) within the joint fluid documented a reduction of these inflammatory mediators with omega 3 supplementation.23-24 Improvements in mobility and a reduction in lameness was reported in two studies in dogs fed a therapeutic diet supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids.25-26 Improvements in mobility (i.e. increased activity and jumping) with a reduction in lameness and stiffness was documented in cats fed a therapeutic diet containing omega-3 fatty acids.27
When is supplementation necessary?
Though some diets may contain small amounts of the above listed nutrients, most of them need to be supplemented for a therapeutic effect. Unfortunately, many pet parents don’t think to support their dog’s joints until they are showing signs of discomfort, so being proactive and recommending these dietary additions early on can be beneficial. Large breed dogs in particular can benefit since they tend to be prone to joint issues as they age.
The onset of cooler weather is a great time to reassess your patients’ diets to determine whether or not it’s sufficiently supporting the health of their joints. And for clients who are equipped to offer it, year-round support is preferred!
*This blog is sponsored by Standard Process.
- Chan PS, Caron JP, Orth MW. Effects of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate on bovine cartilage explants under long-term culture conditions. Am J Vet Res 2007;68:709-715.
- Lippiello L, Han MS, Henderson T. Protective effect of the chondroprotective agent Cosequin DS on bovine articular cartilage exposed in vitro to nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents. Vet Ther 2002;3:128-135.
- Gouze JN, Bordji K, Gulberti S, et al. Interleukin-1beta down-regulates the expression of glucuronosyltransferase I, a key enzyme priming glycosaminoglycan biosynthesis: influence of glucosamine on interleukin-1beta-mediated effects in rat chondrocytes. Arthritis Rheum 2001;44:351-360.
- Dodge GR, Jimenez SA. Glucosamine sulfate modulates the levels of aggrecan and matrix metalloproteinase-3 synthesized by cultured human osteoarthritis articular chondrocytes. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2003;11:424-432.
- Phitak T, Pothacharoen P, Kongtawelert P. Comparison of glucose derivatives effects on cartilage degradation. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2010;11:162.
- Silbert JE. Dietary glucosamine under question. Glycobiology 2009;19:564-567
- Eason CT, Adams SL, Puddick J, et al. Greenshell Mussels: A Review of Veterinary Trials and Future Research Directions. Vet Sci 2018;5
- Gibson RG, Gibson SL, Conway V, et al. Perna canaliculus in the treatment of arthritis. Practitioner 1980;224:955-960.
- Butters DE, Whitehouse MW. Treating inflammation: some (needless) difficulties for gaining acceptance of effective natural products and traditional medicines. Inflammopharmacology 2003;11:97-110.
- Bui LM, Bierer TL. Influence of green lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) in alleviating signs of arthritis in dogs. Vet Ther 2003;4:397-407.
- Hielm-Bjorkman A, Tulamo RM, Salonen H, et al. Evaluating Complementary Therapies for Canine Osteoarthritis Part I: Green-lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2009;6:365-373.
- Pollard B, Guilford WG, Ankenbauer-Perkins KL, et al. Clinical efficacy and tolerance of an extract of green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) in dogs presumptively diagnosed with degenerative joint disease. N Z Vet J 2006;54:114-118.
- Servet E, Biourge V, Marniquet P. Dietary intervention can improve clinical signs in osteoarthritic dogs. J Nutr 2006;136:1995S-1997S.
- Kunnumakkara AB, et al. Googling the guggul (Commiphora and Boswellia) for prevention of chronic disease. Front Pharm 9 (2018) Article 686.
- Lalithakumari K, et al. Safety and toxicological evaluation of a novel, standardized, 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA)- enriched Boswellia serrata extract (5-1 Loxin®). Toxicol Mech Methods 16 (2006) 199–226.
- Sengupta K, et al. Comparative efficacy and tolerability of 5-Loxin and Aflapin against osteoarthritis of the knee: a double blind, randomized, placebo controlled clinical study. Int J Med Sci 7 (2010) 366–377.
- Vishal AA, et al. A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled clinical study evaluates the early efficacy of Aflapin in subjects with osteaoarthritis of the knee. Int J Med Sci 8 (2011) 615–622.
- Reichling J, et al. Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd 146:2 (2004) 71-79.
- Moreau M, et al. A medicinal herb-based natural health product improves the condition of a canine natural osteoarthritis model: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Res Vet Sci 97 (2014) 574–581.
- Meins J, et al. Survey on the quality of the top-selling European and American botanical dietary supplements containing Boswellic acids. Planta Med 82 (2016) 573–579.
- Miscioscia E, Justin Shmalberg J, et al. Measurement of 3-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid and 11-keto-beta-boswellic acid in Boswellia serrata supplements administered to dogs. BMC Vet Res 15 (2019) 270.
- Haroyan, et al. Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteoarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med 18:7 (2018)
- Lascelles BD, King S, Roe S, Marcellin-Little DJ, Jones S. Expression and activity of COX-1 and 2 and 5-LOX in joint tissues from dogs with naturally occurring coxofemoral joint osteoarthritis. J Orthop Res. 2009;27(9):1204-8.
- Hansen RA, Harris MA, Pluhar GE, Motta T, Brevard S, Ogilvie GK, et al. Fish oil decreases matrix metalloproteinases in knee synovia of dogs with inflammatory joint disease. J Nutr Biochem. 2008;19(2):101-8.
- Roush JK, Cross AR, Renberg WC, Dodd CE, Sixby KA, Fritsch DA, et al. Evaluation of the effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on weight bearing in dogs with osteoarthritis. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2010;236(1):67-73.
- Roush JK, Dodd CE, Fritsch DA, Allen TA, Jewell DE, Schoenherr WD, et al. Multicenter veterinary practice assessment of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoarthritis in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2010;236(1):59-66.
- Lascelles BDX, DePuy V, Thomson A, Hansen B, Marcellin-Little DJ, Biourge V, et al. Evaluation of a therapeutic diet for feline degenerative joint disease. Journal of veterinary internal medicine. 2010;24(3):487-95.