Diet & Supplements

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Beware products claiming health benefits for arthritis sufferers, many lack proof of efficacy!

Diet and Nutrition

Dog foods designed to aid mobility are now mainstream. However, there is little regulation of what the diet should have in it, or the effectiveness of the additional ingredients. Claims such as “improved joint health”, “added joint support”, “improved mobility support” are not regulated and can be made without the manufacturer having to prove them.

There are two main factors to consider when choosing a diet for your arthritic dog:

1. Maintaining an optimal body weight

It is globally agreed that the most important factor that may influence choice of diet for an arthritic dog is reaching and maintaining optimal body weight. Being overweight (110% of their recommended body weight) or obese (120% of their recommended bodyweight) has significant impact on pain control and progression of arthritis. It is a priority to ensure the diet chosen enables controlled weight loss if needed, or maintained weight if already at the appropriate weight. Mobility diets tend to support optimal weight management in their formulation.

2. Inclusion of joint supplements

Mobility diets will usually include ingredients similar to those found in joint supplements and nutraceuticals. Omega 3 fatty acids from marine-based sources are a common addition to mobility diets. Including them in the dog’s diet has a number of benefits:

    • a greater amount of these supplements per meal is achievable, ensuring enough is consumed to have clinical benefit
    • it ensures the supplements are well balanced
    • it makes supplementing potentially more affordable and convenient for the owner
    • it enables the diet to be balanced with other key nutrients
    • any potential side-effects of the high level of supplements (e.g. weight gain and diarrhoea) can be countered

What’s the scientific proof

The pet nutrition company 'Hills' have performed respected controlled clinical trials on their mobility diet (called 'j/d'), which are referred to in many other companies’ diet formulations. Their results suggest that the increased omega-3 levels combined with reduced omega-6 levels, reduced both the clinical signs of arthritis (scored by vets) and the dose of anti-inflammatory needed by the dogs.

Like with any intervention, nothing comes with a promise and the suggested benefits need to be monitored over time. Dietary interventions will not result in “overnight” improvements. They are likely to take months to have an effect, which can be hard for owners to monitor as the changes will happen so slowly. Therefore, having a way of objectively monitoring your dog's mobility can be useful to assess long term benefits. This can be done through using validated objective monitoring tools, client-specific outcome measures or the chronic pain indicator chart. As an owner, you would expect to see a slow improvement in clinical signs, over months not days, as well as less acute flares.

Similar principles to the ACCLAIM strategy need to be applied to choosing a mobility diet.

ACCLAIM strategy explanation

There are many diets available on the market and it can feel overwhelming to choose between them to get the best option for your dog. Stephen M Fox, author of Multimodal Management of Canine Osteoarthritis, sets out the ACCLAIM criteria for choosing a nutraceutical, but these principles can be used for choosing a mobility diet too.

A - a company name that you recognise, an established firm that provides veterinary educational materials.

C - clinical experience, i.e. companies that invest in clinical trials, and who publish data for respected journals.

C - content, all ingredients should be clearly indicated on the label.

L - label claims, i.e. if they sound too good to be true, they probably are. Reference to clinical trials is better than simple testimonials. Any label suggesting they treat arthritis, cure arthritis or prevent arthritis should be treated as suspicious.

A - administration, the dose recommendation should be accurate and easy to calculate.

I - a product batch identification number to indicate some form of surveillance is possible to test product quality.

M - manufacturer information and ideally a link to their website.

Supplements & Nutraceuticals

The supplement/nutraceutical industry has boomed in recent years.

However, it is a lucrative market. It is a perfect business model; it is unregulated, there are few barriers to wild marketing, the products are appealing to concerned owners, they can be purchased without veterinary assessment, and it is hard to decipher whether they are offering benefit, but they may be affordable to continue giving on the off-chance they may offer some benefit. (Harsh but true!)

This topic is vast and is a very difficult area to offer advice on due to:

  • The large numbers of products claiming health benefits for arthritis sufferers
  • Wide variations in product form, and therefore absorption, activity and effect
  • Believed wide variations in actual content compared with label claims
  • Numerous combination products offering more and more benefits
  • Subjective owner-driven input clouding actual evidence of improvements
  • A simple lack of carefully controlled trials of significant size to assess statistical evidence of efficacy


At CAM we feel this is an interesting area that will continue to grow, and fully support people who want to explore their use – but we feel it is important to give you the tools to make educated decisions as to whether benefit outweighs cost.

We have compiled a list of well known and easily available supplement components along with a brief description of documented evidence of effect in clinical trials.

Please remind yourself regarding the importance of objective monitoring to ensure you gain benefits for your bucks. Remember the response will be slow and it may take months to see benefit. This may be demonstrated in less reliance on medications, fewer acute flares, or consistently improved clinical signs.

This list is not a definitive guide, nor does it represent any form of endorsement of recommendation of any specific supplement (type or brand).

This information is an overview of summaries made by Fox S M (2017) Mulitmodal Management of Canine Osteoarthritis; Hielm-Björkman A Ass Prof (small animal surgery) at the Univeristy of Helsinki at ESVOT 2016; and Vanderweerd J M et al (2012) Systematic Review of Efficacy of Nutraceuticals to Alleviate Clinical Signs of Osteoarthritis. J Vet Intern Med 2012. Barbeau-Grégoire M, Otis C, Cournoyer A, Moreau M, Lussier B, Troncy E. A 2022 Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Enriched Therapeutic Diets and Nutraceuticals in Canine and Feline Osteoarthritis. Int J Mol Sci. 2022;23(18). doi:10.3390/ijms231810384

We intend to provide more detailed information on supplements in our Member’s Zone.


You can purchase CAM’s ‘The Influence of Diet and Supplements on Your Dog’s Arthritis‘ booklet from the CAM online Shop in print format.

Or why not join our CAM MEMBER ZONE where you will gain access to all our CAM booklets in digital format as well as a wealth of information, videos, downloads, forum and much more...