The Link Between Nutrition and Joint Health in Dogs

Mar 26, 2024

When we talk about keeping our dogs happy and hopping well into their later years, we have to talk about joint health. It’s key to helping maintain their quality of life and making each and every day full of capability and comfort. Focusing not only on what you feed your dog but how well they can absorb the nutrition is important. What’s in their food bowl definitely matters, but if they’re not absorbing all the nutrients, it could affect their joint health as well as their overall health and well-being.

Quality Dog Food And Nutrition

Nutrition plays the most important role in supporting our furry friends’ joints, as good health starts from the inside. Your dog’s health and happiness aren’t just about feeding them enough and filling their stomachs. It’s about feeding them right, and more, making sure that they’re able to absorb all they’re supposed to be able to absorb from the food you give.  

Nutrient absorption isn’t just a fancy term; it’s really the key to unlocking a life of play and mobility for them. You can spend a ton of money on food for your dog, but if you’re not making sure they’re getting optimal nutrient absorption, this can affect everything from their heart and brain function to their joints and mobility.

You want to make sure they’re able to happily wag those tails and keep those joints moving smoothly, and it all starts with nutrition and nutrient absorption.

What Is Nutrient Absorption For Dogs All About?

Nutrient absorption for dogs is the process where the digestive system breaks down the food you feed into molecules small enough to be transported across their gut wall and into their bloodstream. All the ingredients of the food–proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals–are all processed differently. For instance, enzymes break down proteins into amino acids, while fats are emulsified by bile and digested into fatty acids. Once these are all broken down, the nutrients can cross your dog’s gut lining—usually in the small intestine—and enter their circulatory system, where they’re carried to where they’re needed in your dog’s body.

What Does Poor Nutrient Absorption Mean For My Dog?Photo: A man and a woman feed their Labrador Retriever vegetables.

The thing is, if your dog’s digestive system and health are poor, that will definitely impact their nutrient absorption. If the proteins, fats and all the good stuff in your dog’s food aren’t broken down properly, they just pass through your dog’s body without doing any of the important work they need to do. No matter how nutrient-rich a diet is, if a dog can’t properly absorb these nutrients and carry them through the body as they’re needed, they won’t benefit from them. That’s like stocking up on the best organic dog food but ending up with it just going to waste—literally.

Understanding Joint Health In Dogs

Joint health is critical to a dog’s overall well-being, affecting their mobility and quality of life. Dogs can suffer from various joint issues that fall into two main categories: degenerative and developmental.

Degenerative joint problems are part of the aging process, where the wear and tear of life leads to the deterioration of joints, cartilage, and tendons. This results in pain as the protective cushioning of the bones wears down, causing them to rub together during movement.

Developmental joint issues in dogs come from the dog’s genetics or congenital defects, leading to conditions like hip dysplasia, where the ball and socket of the hip joint do not fit properly, causing friction and eventually leading to arthritis.

Some specific developmental joint problems include osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), which is an abnormal development of cartilage in the joints, and panosteitis, which is often referred to as growing pains and can affect rapidly growing young dogs. Both conditions can significantly impact a dog’s mobility and comfort.

Factors Influencing Joint Health In Dogs

Factors influencing joint health in dogs include their age, breed, activity level, and weight. Certain breeds are predisposed to developmental issues due to their genetic makeup, which can influence their weight distribution and skeletal structure. For example, large breeds are more prone to conditions like hip dysplasia and panosteitis due to the stress their size puts on their joints. 

Maintaining Joint Health In Dogs

Maintaining joint health in dogs involves a comprehensive approach that includes nutrition, weight management, regular low-impact exercise, and possibly physical therapy. These strategies can help manage pain and improve mobility for dogs with joint issues. Early detection and treatment are crucial for managing these conditions effectively. Regular veterinary check-ups can help diagnose joint issues early on, and vets can use physical exams, X-rays, and fluid analysis to assess the extent of joint damage and inflammation if your dog is struggling with joint issues.

The Role Of Dog Nutrition In Joint Health

The role of nutrition in maintaining and enhancing joint health in dogs is somewhat complex because your dog requires a careful balance of various nutrients. While glucosamine and chondroitin are often considered an industry ‘go-to’ for their potential benefits, their effectiveness, particularly in the dosages commonly found in commercial pet foods and supplements, is a subject of debate among experts. These compounds, essential for the formation and repair of cartilage, may not always be present in the sufficient quantities needed to have a positive therapeutic effect. In fact, a review of several glucosamine supplements found the bulk of them to be ineffective.

Interestingly, though, that same study aligns with additional emerging research that suggests omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA from fish oil, may significantly reduce joint inflammation, potentially offering relief to dogs with arthritis or other joint issues. Omega-3s modulate the inflammatory process and have been associated with improved mobility in affected dogs.

Antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C, and selenium, combat the joints’ oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can make joint inflammation worse and damage to joint tissues, so these nutrients help protect against further degeneration.

Amino acids and proteins are crucial for maintaining and repairing joint tissues. A diet rich in high-quality protein sources supports the overall health of the dog musculoskeletal system, which helps the recovery and maintenance of joint function.

All of this support from nutrition boils down to one thing: absorption. Without optimal nutrient absorption, your dog is missing out on all the good stuff that keeps them happy and healthy. If they cannot get enough proteins, antioxidants, omegas and other vitamins and nutrients they need for good gut and digestive health, they just aren’t getting the best.

How Can Managed Weight And Nutrient Absorption Support Joint Health In Dogs?

Obesity is a well-known risk factor for the development and worsening of joint problems in dogs. Excess weight puts additional strain on joints, accelerating wear and tear. Dietary management, focused on achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, is so important for minimizing this risk. Weight management diets often come at the advice of your veterinarian and can help reduce the burden on a dog’s joints and improve their overall joint health and mobility.

But so can appropriate nutrient absorption. Proper nutrient absorption is key to a dog’s healthy weight management because it allows their body to efficiently use the food you feed them for energy and bodily functions, instead of storing it as fat. When nutrients are absorbed well, they support a dog’s healthy metabolism, which can also help regulate their body weight. And, when a dog’s body absorbs nutrients properly, they are more likely to feel satiated, or full, which can prevent them from overeating and taking in more calories than they burn off. Overall, it’s about making every calorie count by ensuring the body uses it as it should be. This supports lean muscle maintenance and prevents excessive weight gain.

Bernie’s Marvelous Mobility: The Best Way To Supplement Dog Nutrition And Joint HealthPhoto: A Bernese Mountain dog eats raw chicken from its bowl.

The science is clear; a comprehensive nutritional approach is key to supporting joint health in dogs, and more current research shows it’s more than just the old, stand-by supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin. A proper, balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, proteins, and careful weight management can collectively play a significant role in maintaining healthy joints and enhancing the quality of life for dogs with joint issues.

And if you’re going to supplement joint mobility and healthy joints, why not do so with ingredients that science does show to be effective? That’s what we were looking for when we created Bernie’s Marvelous Mobility. Both of our dogs are large-breed and prone to joint mobility issues, so we knew we needed the most current, effective ingredients to help them live their best lives. We consulted with experts and in addition to

From the start, we’ve always been dog parents first. We pride ourselves on harnessing the effective and science-backed power of Undenatured Type-II Collagen in our formula. Unlike traditional joint supplements, this particular form of collagen encourages the body’s natural process of maintaining joint health, which is what we’d prefer because it’s a more holistic approach. Science suggests it helps the body rebuild cartilage and restore joint functionality naturally. Additionally, antioxidants like astaxanthin and Vitamin C help counteract oxidative stress, while omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed, anchovy, and algal oil reduce joint inflammation. We added ingredients like green-lipped mussels and turmeric to help maintain joint flexibility. All of the ingredients in Marvelous Mobility were carefully chosen to offer comprehensive support for your dog’s mobility and joint health–and we did so with a focus on gut health because we know that all good health starts in the gut!

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