Joint Care – The Importance of Good Quality Food & Supplements
Taking steps to help maintain our pets’ joint health can help improve mobility and improve their quality of life. Arthritis and osteoarthritis are a common occurrence, especially in dogs. In the UK, it is estimated that over 30% of dogs and 10% of cats undergo veterinary treatment for conditions such as arthritis.
WHO NEEDS JOINT PROTECTION?
Some cats and dogs are more prone to joint conditions. For example, elderly or overweight pets, and certain breeds such as large or short-legged breeds (Maine Coons, Great Danes, Dachshunds, etc.). Giving these higher risk pets joint care in the form of high-quality supplements can be beneficial. It is important to note that supplements can also help pets who are recovering from limb or spinal injuries or are genetically predisposed to joint conditions such as hip dysplasia.
Here at The Thoughtful Pet Food Store, we believe that pets of all ages and sizes can benefit from a quality joint care regime. By including high-quality supplements in our pets’ diet (alongside appropriate nutrient-dense food) we can help protect their joints in later life by slowing down the natural wear and tear.
JOINT CARE INGREDIENTS
There are a variety of different substances that aid in joint protection and maintenance. These include glucosamine, chondroitin, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), green-lipped mussels, fish oils and turmeric. All of these supplements are produced naturally and can be found in a wide range of pet products. Some high-quality dog foods include joint care in their formulas, and although less common, it is not unheard of in cat foods either.
These pre-added supplements should be listed with the other ingredients in your pet’s food along with the quantities used, so we recommend reading the packaging to see what levels of joint care the food may be providing. If the quantities are not stated on the packaging, it may mean that there are only trace amounts present in the food.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring monosaccharide constructed of sugar and amino acids. It is produced primarily in the cartilage around the joints where it aids in the lubrication of the joint and the construction of shock absorbers, helping to keep the joints working and healthy. As well as this, glucosamine helps to rebuild damaged cartilage, protects tendons, and ligaments, and contributes to the synovial fluid that surrounds and protects the joints.
As our pets age, the production of glucosamine in the body decreases, allowing the joints to become exposed to damage. Providing our pets with a glucosamine-based supplement can make a difference in slowing down the onset of joint conditions, and keeping the levels of glucosamine in the body at a healthy level.
Glucosamine supplements are predominantly derived from the shells of crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs, and lobsters. A vegetable source of glucosamine is also available via the fermentation of grains, with wheat being one of the primary ingredients often used in this process. However, we would not recommend this for most dogs or cats due to their inability to fully digest wheat-based products.
Chondroitin sulphate is a carbohydrate macromolecule often used as a joint supplement alongside glucosamine. Together, these substances provide a higher level of joint care and protection.
While glucosamine aids in the building of cartilage, chondroitin sulphate prevents cartilage from dehydrating, allowing it to remain elastic and act as a better cushion against any impacts the joints may experience. Just like glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate is produced naturally in the body. It is found in the articular cartilage that is located on the ends of bones where the joints form.
As our pets age, the production of chondroitin sulphate in the body slows down. Pets with joint-related medical conditions will experience added strain on the joints, which often results in the body not being able to produce the amounts of chondroitin sulphate required for the cartilage to be maintained. Providing a supplement can help compensate for the underproduction of chondroitin and improve our pets’ joint health by strengthening the surrounding cartilage.
When in supplement form, chondroitin can originate from a variety of sources. These sources include beef and pork tracheas, shark cartilage (not a source we recommend for environmental reasons), chicken keel, and other fish by-products.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a sulphur based molecule that is similar to chondroitin sulphate. In our pets’ body, it helps to maintain the connective tissues around the joints, aiding with overall joint function and health. Studies have also linked MSM to anti-inflammatory properties in humans. However, there have been no studies to confirm this is the same in dogs and cats.
MSM is converted from dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a sulphur based macromolecule that is present in a wide variety of foods such as fruits and grains. When added as a supplement in pet food, MSM is produced synthetically by converting DMSO obtained from marine plankton and algae.
Green-lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) are a mollusc species native to the coasts of New Zealand believed to have natural medicinal properties, especially in regards to joint care. Green-lipped mussels contain omega 3 fatty acids, amino acids and glycosaminoglycans (natural lubricants and shock absorbers in the body).
When converted into a supplement, green-lipped mussels are commonly available in two forms; freeze-dried power and lipid extract. The lipid extract of green-lipped mussels contains high levels of fatty acids, with over 30% of these being omega 3. The high concentration of fatty acids gives this form of green-lipped mussel extract anti-inflammatory properties*.
The freeze-dried powder form of green-lipped mussels does not contain such high levels of fatty acids. However, it still has the beneficial amino acids, glycosaminoglycans, vitamins, and minerals that can aid in joint protection.
DIET & JOINT PROTECTION
As well as using a high-quality joint supplement, feeding our pets a good quality diet can have a positive impact on their joint health. A diet with suitable levels of digestible protein and fats, especially from an early age, will help strengthen muscles and tendons, thus supporting bones and joints more effectively. Essential amino acids present in high-quality fresh or dried meat provide a variety of uses to the body, including the production of collagen.
Collagen is found in tendons, ligaments, muscle, bone, and cartilage, and is one of the key structural proteins needed for the body to function. If a dog or cat is on a diet that does not provide the essential amino acids to produce collagen, then health issues can occur, including the weakening of bones, joints, and muscles.
Finding a combination of both good food and supplements that work for our pets is vital for prolonging joint and skeletal health, and can mean our pets can enjoy being mobile and active for longer.
If your pet is already showing signs of arthritis, it is never too late to alter their diet either by changing the brand or by introducing a supplement. It is important to remember that degenerative diseases such as arthritis cannot be cured, but steps can be taken to slow the progression, reduce inflammation, and ease discomfort.