The dog joint is a complex part of the musculoskeletal system whose structures tend to deteriorate and degenerate as the pet gets older due to overuse and stress or when the pet endures a traumatic injury.
Canine osteoarthritis has a progressive and irreversible nature which means it is best to start focusing on your dog’s joint health before the condition reaches an advanced stage.
In this article, we will review the use of one of the best and most popular dog supplements for joint health – hyaluronic acid.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring gel-like substance belonging to the group of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). In animals, it is present in different places in the body but mostly in the connective tissue space and synovial fluid.
HA has the ability to bind with water, thus gaining a stiff viscous, almost jelly-like structure. When the binding occurs within the synovial fluid, it results in a more viscous joint fluid.
Since the key purpose of the joint fluid is to lubricate joints, HA helps with this function. Higher joint fluid viscosity is associated with better lubrication and more potent shock-absorbing capacity.
Is Hyaluronic Acid Safe for Dogs?
Hip and joint problems are quite common in dogs, especially among members of certain dog breeds. For example, large and giant breed dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, increasing the risk of developing osteoarthritis before reaching their senior years.
However, hip and joint problems are not the only predisposing factor for developing osteoarthritis at an early age. Namely, certain dog breeds are predisposed to cranial cruciate ligaments tearing and other breeds to congenital elbow deformities.
In dogs with a breed predisposition to developing hip, knee, or elbow problems, it is advisable to start using joint supplements at an early age, sometimes even at puppyhood. This is the key reason why the joint supplement must be safe for long-term use. And luckily, HA is safe for dogs, cats, and other pets.
If you start supplementing your dog later on when the condition is advanced, the supplements will achieve lesser results. In predisposed dog breeds, starting with supplements while the joints are still healthy is the best alternative.
Therefore, do not wait for your dog to reach old age to start protecting its joints, especially if it belongs to some of the hip, elbow, or knee problems predisposed breeds. Call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment.
The veterinarian will recommend the best joint supplements for your dog. He/she will also explain what other support approaches may help your dog’s skeletal health and mobility.
How does Hyaluronic Acid Help Dogs with Arthritis?
In the dog’s joints, the naturally occurring hyaluronic acid has two key roles:
- Lubrication by increasing the joint fluid viscosity
- Improved shock-absorbing capacity of the cartilage
As dogs age and enter their senior years, the natural HA slowly becomes damaged. Old age (natural wear and tear) is not the only reason for damaged HA – trauma and overuse are also common culprits. Additionally, old age is associated with slower production of new HA.
Using HA joint supplements is the best way of restoring the natural HA, thus providing joint support for dogs with osteoarthritis. By joint support, we mean improved mobility, decreased joint aches, and better overall health and quality of life.
The Different Types of HA Joint Supplements
Hyaluronic acid is a frequently used joint supplement for dogs with arthritis. The hyaluronic acid joint supplements are available in two forms – injectable (liquid) and oral (tablets, powder, chews).
There are many different joint supplements available on the market. Talk to your veterinarian about which formula is best for your dog.
Injectable HA Joint Formula
Injectable (liquid) hyaluronic acid joint supplements are manufactured synthetically and differ in molecular weight. Basically, there are two types of liquid HA supplements – high (HMW) and low molecular weight (LMW).
The natural hyaluronic acid found in the healthy non-arthritic dog joint is more similar to the HMW synthetic hyaluronic acid. When injected inside the joint, the synthetic HA alters the metabolism of the naturally occurring HA, thus improving decreasing the joint pain and promoting normal mobility.
According to a study from 2016, “Hyaluronic acid versus saline intra-articular injections for amelioration of chronic knee osteoarthritis: A canine model,” both high and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid injections result in improved osteoarthritis symptoms.
However, the group of dogs receiving high molecular weight hyaluronic acid injections showed better improvement than the group receiving low molecular weight hyaluronic acid.
In both cases, it took between four and eight weeks for the pain, lameness, and decreased range of motion to improve, and the effects started to subside after 6 months.
Oral HA Joint Formula
A study published in 2008, “Absorption, uptake and connective tissue affinity of high-molecular-weight hyaluronan after oral administration in rats and dogs,” showed that oral HA supplements are bioavailable and efficient in replacing the damaged HA.
Oral HA dog supplements are available in three forms – pills, powder, and liquid. The liquid form is best as the powder and pills are excreted more quickly.
Most hyaluronic acid supplements for dogs are enriched with other joint-friendly ingredients offering inflammation control or cartilage protection and regeneration to ensure optimal joint health.
Potential Side Effects of Hyaluronic Acid
Compared to humans, the side effects of HA in animals are a less researched topic. HA injections are associated with transient side effects like local aches, swelling, redness, and itchiness in humans.
Based on study reviews in dogs, there are no reported side effects. However, this does not mean you can just purchase a HA supplement and start adding it to your dog’s food. Talk to your veterinarian before choosing a supplement.
Why Combine Hyaluronic Acid and Glucosamine?
The best way of boosting your dog’s joint health is by combining hyaluronic acid supplements with other joint-friendly ingredients, primarily with glucosamine. Glucosamine is the key ingredient when making the right combination, as it is the main cartilage building block.
Based on a study from 2014, “Efficacy of an oral hyaluronate and collagen supplement as a preventive treatment of elbow dysplasia,” there is a possible synergistic effect when different chondroprotective ingredients are used together.
The Ideal Dog Supplement for Joint Support
The ideal dog supplement for joint health contains several different ingredients promoting cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and synovial liquid health.
Using the best joint-protective combination is particularly important if your dog belongs to a breed predisposed to hip, knee, or elbow problems that increase its risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Different Joint Supplement Products
The modern market offers an array of different joint supplements for pets. Each joint supplement has its pros and cons and differs from the rest in terms of quality and complexity.
The list of joint supplement ingredients for pets includes glucosamine, chondroitin, omega 3 fatty acids, collagen, HA, MSM, eggshell membrane, Green Lipped Mussels, and organic CBD oil.
Deciding which supplement is best for your pet can be challenging and requires consulting with your trusted veterinarian.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are perhaps the most popular joint supplements for both pets (dogs and cats) and humans.
Because of their synergistic effect and ability to boost each other, glucosamine and chondroitin are usually used together in one formula known as glucosamine chondroitin.
In simple terms, glucosamine promotes cartilage renewal, and chondroitin protects the cartilage from enzymatic damage. Glucosamine and chondroitin are available in different forms – pills, powder, chews.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are a popular supplement choice for pets with joint health issues. They have strong anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce osteoarthritis-related pain and inflammation.
The best natural source of omega 3 fatty acids is fish oil. Fish oil derived from wild-caught, cold-water fish is free from harmful chemicals and contains an adequate omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids ratio.
Arthritic dogs using supplements with omega 3 fatty acids experience high-quality pain relief even if receiving lower anti-pain medication doses. This is because the omegas reduce the inflammation, thus alleviating the related pain.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring organic sulfur source in plants and animals. MSM is vital for the synthesis of enzymes, proteins, and connective tissues. It is a popular ingredient in joint supplements for dogs, cats, and horses.
MSM has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and supports the formation of connective tissue – ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.
What is more, MSM may help reduce osteoarthritis-related discomfort and aches because it can inhibit the nerve impulses responsible for transferring pain signals.
To ensure normal MSM intake, many dog food manufacturers add MSM to their kibble formulas. Before using an MSM supplement, check how much MSM is in the food formula your dog eats. If the MSM amount in the food is not enough, the veterinarian will recommend the ideal MSM supplement.
Eggshell membrane dog supplements are a relatively novel approach for managing joint pain and inflammation related to osteoarthritis.
The eggshell membranes supplement is good for pets and humans with osteoarthritis because it contains several ingredients that promote healthy joints, including glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, and collagen.
Green Lipped Mussels
Green Lipped Mussels have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They are rich in ingredients that support the joints – glucosamine and chondroitin, omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, copper, zink, and vitamin C and E.
Green Lipped Mussel supplements are available in powder form that you can add to the food. Your pet will show decreased pain and improved mobility after between four and six weeks of use.
Honest Paws Mobility Chew for Arthritis
Promoting musculoskeletal health is straightforward if you use the Honest Paws® Mobility Chews. Just go through the reviews, and you will see why this supplement is best for dogs with osteoarthritis.
The Honest Paws® Mobility Chews combine five all-natural and high-quality ingredients in one health formula. They are free from harmful chemicals and additives and can be used daily.
Supplementing your pet with the Honest Paws® Mobility Chews results in decreased pain and improved mobility.
Organic Full Spectrum Hemp Oil
Pet CBD oil is extracted from organic hemp and is 100% THC-free. THC-free indicates the pet CBD oil does not contain psychoactive compounds and can safely be used in dogs, cats, and other pets.
Organic full-spectrum hemp oil means the oil is derived from organic hemp, and it contains various healthy ingredients – cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes.
Together, these ingredients may help alleviate the signs and symptoms of canine osteoarthritis because of their abilities to:
- Promote healthy joints and structures – cartilage, bones, ligaments, and tendons
- Support adequate joint flexibility and motion range
- Ease stiffness and discomfort related to daily exercise and activity
- Provide connective tissue enhancement
- Manage inflammation processes in the body
- Modulate the immune response in the body.
As mentioned, hyaluronic acid helps pets with osteoarthritis by promoting the natural lubrication of the joints and increasing the joint’s shock-absorbing capacity.
Chondroitin is a naturally occurring compound found in the cartilage of humans and animals. Chondroitin sulfate acts by protecting the cartilage from enzymatic damage. Chondroitin is one of the cartilage building blocks, and it increases its elasticity and shock-absorbing capacity.
Glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL) is another naturally occurring cartilage building block. Glucosamine promotes cartilage renewal by stimulating a more intense synthesis of proteoglycans. Glucosamine also prevents cartilage degeneration by inhibiting type II collagen degradation.
Glucosamine acts best when used together with chondroitin. The conjugated form of glucosamine and chondroitin is popularly called glucosamine chondroitin.
Boswellia Serrata Powder
Boswellia serrata (popularly known as Frankincense) is a popular supplement for dogs with osteoarthritis.
This is because the naturally occurring boswellic acids in the Frankincense act similarly to the non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. Namely, they manage inflammation processes within the body, including the dog’s joints.
A study from 2004, “Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease,” showed that adding Boswellia serrata powder in the dog’s food for at least 6 weeks results in decreased osteoarthritis signs and symptoms, including pain, stiff gait, and lameness.
Our Final Thoughts
The best dog joint supplement needs to promote healthy joints and be safe for long-term use. The best joint supplement should also offer several ingredients, and of those ingredients should be hyaluronic acid.
Talk to your veterinarian about which hyaluronic acid supplement is best for your dog’s specific needs. The goal of the supplementation is to slow down the progression of arthritic changes. In more advanced cases, the goal is to improve your dog’s quality of life and ensure pain-free mobility.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is hyaluronic acid safe for dogs?
As a naturally occurring compound, HA is safe for dogs and other pets even if used in the long term.
What are the side effects of hyaluronic acid?
There is no information regarding the potential side effects of hyaluronic acid use in dogs and cats.
What is the best joint supplement for dogs?
There is no such thing as the best joint supplement for dogs as every dog and osteoarthritis case are different. Purchase the formula your veterinarian recommends.
Is taking hyaluronic acid orally effective?
Yes, giving your pet oral HA supplements is effective. However, liquid oral supplements are related to higher HA bioavailability over pills and powder forms.