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Arthritis and joint diseases, such as elbow and canine hip dysplasia, are common conditions in older dogs, especially large dog breeds.
And although old age will impact the mobility of the best of them, there are a few things that you can do as a dog owner to help your dog live comfortably throughout his life, including purchasing dog food for joint health.
These joint supporting dog food formulas add important nutrients (such as glucosamine and chondroitin) and vitamins to keep dog joints healthy, help decrease the symptoms of arthritis, and improve mobility.
Below we’ll discuss what to look for in commercial dog food recipes specifically targeted towards aiding joints and arthritis. In addition, we’ll include reviews of the best dog food for arthritis and joints with 7 top picks.
Does My Canine Need a Dog Food For Joints?
It is very important for a dog suffering from symptoms of arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other joint diseases to receive the appropriate veterinary advised treatment to speed up recovery and provide comfort.
But, diet and nutrition are also essential in helping prevent arthritis and support joint mobility for two reasons.
First, proper and healthy weight management ensures that the hip joints aren’t carrying too heavy a load. Secondly, certain minerals and supplements found in dog food can reduce the painful symptoms of dysplasia and help rebuild the cartilage around the joint.
It is essential to feed a high-quality dog food, regardless of your dog’s specific joint needs.
For most dogs, a good quality dog food is all that they will likely require in terms of diet. However, there are some breeds that have a high occurrence of arthritis or hip dysplasia that could benefit from a specific joint health dog food.
Many large breed dogs tend to develop arthritis in old age, and Labrador Retrievers are particularly notorious for developing hip dysplasia and arthritis.
Remember that extra vitamins found in a joint health dog food are not a replacement for medication, and many joint problems and arthritis need to be treated with medicine and physical therapy, not just special pet food.
Best Dog Food for Joint Health and Mobility
I have given the percent by weight of various nutrients, as given by the guaranteed analysis on the package of dog food. It is important to remember that these numbers are a minimum or maximum possible in the food, and not necessarily the actual amount.
Description: This joint and hip chicken and oats formula is a dry dog food with real chicken as the first ingredient. Dogswell Happy Hips dog food lists many different fruits and vegetables in its ingredients, which provide your dog with important vitamins and nutrients to support joints and bones.
- Protein: 24%
- Fat: 12%
- Carbs: 58.5%
- Fiber: 5.5%
Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oats, Barley, Peas
Key Ingredients for Joint Health: The Dogswell Happy Hips formula contains glucosamine and chondroitin to support dog joint health and arthritis, and is free of corn, wheat, and soy to help reduce inflammation in your dog’s joints.
Description: This dry food for joints is formulated with chicken meal and avocado to support healthy skin and coat. It is also grain free, which makes it easy for your dog to digest.
- Protein: 30%
- Fat: 12%
- Carbs: 52%
- Fiber: 6%
Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Cartilage, Pea Flour, Garbonzo Beans
Key Ingredients for Joint Care: The AvoDerm Natural Advanced Joint Health recipe contains avocados and flax seeds, which contain omega-3 fatty acids to alleviate inflammation, and it is grain and soy-free, which also reduces inflammation in dogs. Glucosamine and chondroitin are added to boost joint health and mobility.
Description: This multi-protein dry food is intended for “active and sporting dogs” and contains nutrients essential to joint health to keep your dog mobile and active throughout her life.
- Protein: 26%
- Fat: 18%
- Carbs: 52.2%
- Fiber: 3.8%
Top 5 Ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Millet, Chicken Fat, Blood Meal
Key Ingredients for Joint Mobility: Victor Performance Dry Dog Food includes essential fatty acids, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin to reduce inflammation and aid healthy joints.
Description: This kibble uses quality natural ingredients to provide your dog with healthy nutrition. Because it is grain free, Wellness CORE uses more meat ingredients than many other brands of dog food.
- Protein: 34%
- Fat: 12%
- Carbs: 46%
- Fiber: 6%
Top 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Potatoes, Peas
Key Ingredients for Joint Care: Wellness CORE contains glucosamine as well as essential fatty acids to aid mobility, support joints, and decrease inflammation.
Description: This kibble is made with extra-large dogs in mind, and as large breeds tend to be prone to arthritis and mobility issues, this formula is designed to counter these symptoms for optimal mobility.
- Protein: 24%
- Fat: 14%
- Carbs: 58%
- Fiber: 4%
Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Rice, Oatmeal, Oats, Chicken Fat
Key Ingredients for Joint Support: Holistic Select’s Natural Large and Giant Breed formula dog food includes glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, and chondroitin to support healthy hips and joints, and does not include wheat, to reduce inflammation.
Description: This lamb meal and rice joint support dry dog food contains quality protein from lamb, as well as probiotics and superfoods for optimum health.
- Protein: 22%
- Fat: 12%
- Carbs: 61%
- Fiber: 5%
Top 5 Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Cracked Pearl Barley, Oatmeal, Grain Sorghum
Key Ingredients for Joint Mobility: Diamond Naturals dog food does not contain any corn, wheat, or soy and contains glucosamine and omega-3s to reduce inflammation and increase mobility.
Description: This inflammation support recipe was created with senior dogs in mind. Because a significant concern among owners of senior dogs is arthritis and hip dysplasia, this targeted formula is made to address these concerns. It also contains lots of quality meat ingredients.
- Protein: 22%
- Fat: 10%
- Carbs: 63.75%
- Fiber: 4.25%
Top 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice
Key Ingredients for Joint Care: No corn, wheat, or soy are included in this Wellness Complete Senior dog food, omega-3 fatty acids and other joint care ingredients abundant. It also contains lots of high-quality antioxidants to give your older pup a healthy boost.
How to Select the Best Dog Food for Arthritis and Joint Care
Before you start feeding your pup a food meant to help with joint mobility and arthritis, make sure to check with your vet!
They will know best whether a certain kind of food meets all the nutritional requirements of your dog, they can recommend the best dog food brands, and they will likely have the best insight into whether your large breed really needs a dog food for arthritis.
A special note here – most general practice vets are not nutrition-focused. Many vets are also courted by dog food brands, such as Hill’s Science Diet, and get kickbacks for recommending that brand of food.
Don’t be afraid of asking your vet lots of questions. If you have a veterinary nutritionist in your area, it’s probably worth paying an extra visit!
When searching for any good dog food for arthritis, it is hard to know exactly what to look for.
Experts do not always agree on the nutritional requirements for dogs (especially since dog breeds vary so much), and there are fewer regulations governing the quality of ingredients and how foods are labeled, than there are pertaining to human food.
Key Ingredients To Look For in Dog Food for Joint Mobility
Despite inconsistencies, here are some things to look for in a commercial dog diet for adult dogs (puppies and seniors have different nutritional requirements).
- Protein should make up between 18% and 30% of your dog’s food by weight. 18% is a bare minimum, and some working or athlete dogs will require more than 30% protein.
- Fat should make up between 5% and 20% of your dog’s diet by weight. Remember that these values should be adjusted based on your dog’s age and activity level.
- Fiber helps with digestion and should be around 3-4% of your dog food. Senior dogs will require slightly higher fiber content.
- Carbohydrates do not have a recommended percentage, but simple math will tell you that they should make up between 30% and 70% of your dog’s diet. Carbs, such as corn, are often used as fillers in cheap dog food, so it is important to read the labels and ensure that carbs do not make up too high a proportion of your dog’s food. A good rule of thumb is that meat should be the first ingredient.
Not all dog foods are made the same, and because of loose regulations regarding labeling, owners need to be wary of flashy labels or health claims that are not backed up.
Your vet can help you sort this out, but there are certain characteristics and nutrients, in particular, to look out for if you want the best dog food for dogs with joint problems:
- Grain-free dog food is a good choice for dogs who are susceptible to hip and joint issues. Rice and barley are generally fine, but corn, wheat, and soy can lead to inflammation that can decrease mobility and exacerbate arthritis symptoms. There is some research suggesting that grain-free diets may be linked to heart issues, so be sure to ask your vet before switching to grain-free. The diets of most concern are ones where grains are replaced with peas, potatoes, or lentils.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two nutrients that, when paired together, reduce inflammation and increase joint mobility. There are peer-reviewed studies to back up this claim.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids help keep a dog’s coat and skin healthy and help increase joint mobility. Omega-3 fatty acids are often found in fish and fish oil supplements, so look for those ingredients in your dog’s food.
Joint Health Dog Food: Things to Consider Before Purchasing
Remember that your vet will know best what to feed your dog, so be sure that any diet you pick is veterinarian-approved! There are many things to consider when figuring out the best dog food for your pup.
Before selecting the first option targeted towards joint support, think about other characteristics of your individual dog.
Puppies, adults, and senior dogs have different nutritional requirements. Puppies need food with extra high protein and fat content, which aids in their growth and development.
In order to maintain a healthy weight, adult dogs need lower proportions of protein and fat, and therefore their food has a higher proportion of carbs than puppy food. Older dogs are usually less active, and have lower calorie requirements, and need less fat in their diet.
Senior dog foods are often higher in fiber as well, to aid digestion. Almost every commercial dog food brand has specifically designed puppy, adult, and senior formulas.
Just like with age, dog food companies have developed specific formulas for small breeds and large breeds. This is important due to differing nutritional requirements for different dogs.
Small breeds have a higher metabolism, and therefore require food that is more calorie-dense.
Large breeds have a high likelihood of developing arthritis, and feeding specific nutrient ratios have been shown to reduce this risk.
This seems obvious, but a more active dog requires more calories than a dog who sleeps most of the day.
There are some dog food formulas for especially active dogs, but often simply feeding more of their regular diet is enough (provided it is good quality food).
Activity level is not always specified in feeding instructions, so the amount you should feed an active dog is not always clear. Be sure to check with your vet to ensure that your dog is getting all the calories and nutrients she needs!
This often parallels the concerns relating to a dog’s size, but certain dog breeds have different nutritional requirements. Active breeds have different nutrient requirements and metabolism levels. There are a few companies that sell breed-specific dog food.
If your dog has any food allergies, it is important to ensure that whatever you feed him will be safe. Some common dog food ingredients, such as wheat, corn, and chicken products, are known to cause allergic reactions in some dogs.
Other Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Joints Healthy
Although certain nutrients, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, have been proven to improve mobility and joint health, science also points to other methods to keep your pup’s joints healthy.
One study that looked at over 15,000 dogs of four breeds found that the dog’s body weight was a significant risk factor for developing hip dysplasia.
As this study illustrates, one of the best ways to prevent mobility issues is to keep your dog at his optimum body weight.
Many pets become overweight or obese due to overfeeding and inadequate exercise. This extra weight puts extra stress on a dog’s bones and joints and increases his risk of developing arthritis and other issues.
As a general rule, you should be able to feel your dog’s rib cage and the top of his hip bones quite easily but you shouldn’t see hipbones or ribs poking out for most dog breeds. You may be able to see the ribcage of a boxer, but not in a fluffy Great Pyrenees.
This is a general guideline, though – Greyhounds will appear much bonier than a muscled Newfoundland. Any dog who is very active will have lower fat percentages and more muscle tone.
Consider Joint Support Supplements
Certain supplements can also be added to a regular high-quality diet to boost your dog’s joint health. Joint supplements for dogs and fish oil can be found in many dog supplement products. These may include chewy and crunchy treats, powders, and fish oils to add to your canine’s diet.
Another interesting ingredient that can be used to supplement your hound’s diet is the green-lipped mussel. Consuming this mollusk has been shown in a peer-reviewed study to improve symptoms of arthritis in dogs, although they are not sure why this method works so well.
Summing Up the Best Dog Food for Arthritis and Joint Problems
Before feeding any of these foods to support healthy joints and aid arthritis pain, it is important to check with your vet. You want to be sure that the diet you feed is going to be good for your dog.
Furthermore, there are a few varieties of prescription dog food for certain issues, so ask your vet if one of these options might benefit your pup.
Also, ask your vet about your dog’s joints or any lack of mobility or joint pain you notice he’s feeling. These foods listed here provide vitamins and nutrients to help aid pain, but they are not a replacement for medication. Dogs with arthritis are going to do best on medication at the direction of your vet.
All of the joint health dog foods listed here are dry kibble, and for a dog with arthritis, chewing on crunchy kibble could be a painful process. Try softening the food by mixing in a small amount of chicken broth (low sodium!) or water to make it easy for your dog to chew.
Because joint issues are such a common problem in dogs, it is good to have such a simple tool that can ease their pain and boost their mobility.
Check with your vet to find out what treatment and diet is right for your dog, and feed him the best to keep him energetic, at a healthy body weight, and happy throughout his whole life!