As colder winter temperatures commonly exacerbate the symptoms of arthritis in our pets, many dog owners go in search of a natural remedy to help ease their dog’s joint pain at this time of year.
Despite their marketing claims, the efficacy of these nutraceutical products can vary greatly and it can be pretty confusing trying to figure out which one is the best for your dog. Fortunately, a new study published in 2022 can help.
The authors of this study assessed the efficacy of 38 compounds by analysing a total of 57 trials, which tested the effects of either nutraceuticals or diets enriched with nutraceuticals on the pain associated with arthritis. They assessed these trials very thoroughly, taking into account the quality of the trials done and the strength of scientific evidence.
What did they find for glucosamine and chondroitin?
They looked at nine trials which evaluated the efficacy of glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulphate. Only one of these nine trials showed any improvement in the dogs that were treated and the study design of that trial was found to be of poor quality. They note that many of these products are not absorbed well by the dogs' body.
The conclusion of the systematic review was that glucosamine-chondroitin nutraceuticals should not be prescribed for canine arthritis.
Which nutraceuticals do work for treating osteoarthritis in dogs?
The omega 3-enriched therapeutic diets and omega 3-based nutraceuticals had the greatest number of high quality trials and these trials showed that they are highly effective. The authors concluded with certainty that:
"the use of omega-3 products beneficially modulates the painful condition of osteoarthritis in dogs"
What about other nutraceutical compounds?
Unfortunately a lot of the nutraceuticals that have been investigated for the treatment of canine arthritis did not have a sufficiently large number of trials for a reliable assessment to be made.
The scientific evidence for the efficacy of collagen for treating arthritis was low. This was mainly due to the poor quality of the trials, which tended to be done with low numbers of dogs over a short time frame.
The authors looked at seven trials which tested cannabidiol treatments. Although these were high quality trials they concluded that, while the results were promising, "further investigation is needed to determine the efficacy, doses, formulations and combinations recommended for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis pain." *Please note - the feeding of cannabidiol compounds to pets is currently illegal in New Zealand
The take home message on nutraceuticals for dogs
- Don’t waste your hard earned cash on products containing glucosamine and/or chondroitin as their main ingredients
- The weight of evidence for the best treatment for arthritis currently falls on enriched therapeutic diets and nutraceuticals based on omega 3 fatty acids
- Watch this space as more research will be done in coming years on many other nutraceutical compounds