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Does my pet need a joint supplement?

By: Kaitlyn Lackey DC cAVCA

Published: April 6, 2024




In a robust marketplace, it can be confusing what to choose when it comes to ensuring your 4 legged family member's joint health. Many pet parents across the world purchase joint supplements as a means to ensure that their pet is comfortable and healthy well into their golden years.


But, are joint supplements really effective? Are they even necessary?


In this blog post, we'll talk about what joint supplements are, how to choose a safe brand, the most common problems we see in the marketplace, our opinion on whether your pet needs them, and how to crease a well-rounded approach to your pet's joint health.



What are joint supplements?



👉🏻 Supplements, as the name implies, are designed to bridge any gaps in your pet's nutrition. A joint supplement therefore is supposed to provide nutrients to promote better health to a pet's joints.


Some joint supplements act by decreasing inflammation (ex: omega 3's) whereas others provide building blocks to cartilage formation (ex: chondroitin).


Supplement is a broad term. Joint supplements may include:

  • Vitamins / minerals: fundamental building blocks for the body to utilize in naturally occurring processes (ex: vitamin C)

  • Amino acids, proteins: these are more complex building blocks the body may use in naturally occurring processes (ex: omega 3's, collagen)

  • Extracts: naturally occurring substance or compound that is processed or distilled into it's purest form (ex: curcumin, MSM)

  • Nutraceuticals, botanics, or herbs: something derived from plants with noted health benefits (ex: boswelia)

In general, supplements are often thought to be "more safe" or that they can "replace" other interventions (such as medications)... and it's just not true. Supplements can still cause negative side effects, despite alluring promises and reassurance that they are derived from natural ingredients.


In comparison to medication, supplements are also not well regulated. This means that supplements may not be as effective as advertised, may not have to list all ingredients on the label, and do not always have rigorous means of quality control. This means that is is especially important to do your due diligence before purchasing.


Common joints supplements may include:

Glucosamine

Chondroitin

Collagen

MSM

Turmeric / curcumin

Omega 3's (ex: fish oil)

Hyaluronic acid

Vitamin C , D, or E

Magnesium, manganese

Green lipped mussels

Boswelia

Green tea


*Please schedule a vet visit to discuss the pros and cons of joint supplementation and what products or active ingredients may be right for your animal.



How to choose a safe supplement brand



👉🏻 Not all joint supplements are created equal.


Some products are straight up natural ingredients whereas others may have been processed.


Some also are absorbed differently. The term "bioavailability" relates to the body's ability to absorb and use an active ingredient. Did you know that glucosamine for example has 3 biochemical forms? Not all glucosamine's are created (or absorbed) equally!


Active ingredients work in different ways. Whereas one supplement may work on decreasing inflammation, another may work on providing proper precursors to collagen formation. Depending on what's going on with your animal and their unique presentation, the results may vary.


Joint supplements aren't held to the same quality control compared to pharmaceuticals. For this reason, be sure to ask your vet about the clinical effectiveness in research studies and if products were 3rd party tested.


--> This is especially important because some companies have been known to pay for their own research to prove that their product works and then they will use those results for marketing.


If your pet is on medication: be sure to ask your vet about any known drug interactions. (Turmeric, for example, can interact with blood thinners.)


It's not a bad idea to also make sure any naturally derived ingredients are organic and not genetically modified. I think this goes without saying... but we're looking for more natural options!



Problems in the supplement marketplace



👉🏻 The marketplace for joint supplements is like the wild west. There are snake oil salesman that could be hiding around every corner.


Some of my own personal beef's with this industry are the following:


-Absorption / bioavailability: although some brands tote that their ingredients are more natural (i.e. a grinding up a fresh turmeric plant) the supplement may not be as readily absorbed or effective as another brand with an active ingredient (i.e. such as giving 100% straight curcumin.)


-Unnecessary additives: do you know what natural smoke flavor is? Or where it comes from? Neither do I. Looking at the ingredient label should never have you crossing your eyes or scratching your head. A lot of supplements want to appear "tasty" and will incorporate additives to help bind ingredients and/or make the supplement more palatable. Not only can this prevent absorption, but can also add unnecessary calories.


-False advertising: many companies will pluck at heart strings or by making grandiose promises. On average, a joint supplement will take 4-6 weeks before seeing any improvement. Any claims with owners that saw results right away may be unfounded.



Does your pet really need a joint supplement?



My unsolicited opinion: joint supplements are not your pet's silver bullet. A great joint supplement can definitely help, but it's not the end all be all to ensuring your pet's comfort.


Your pet's joint health ultimately boils down to diet and lifestyle.


For example: I find with many pets that the money spent on joint supplements could have actually been better spent on better quality food. The time invested in researching a quality supplement brand could have actually been better spent by booking a vet visit so that you could ask for expert advice on the topic.


My approach? Focus first on the most pressing needs!


  1. If your pet is overweight, explore weight management methods. Your pet may need metabolic disorders ruled out with their vet and/ or they may need to be on a diet to cut calories.

  2. If your pet lays on the couch all day everyday, get them up and moving. Small, frequent (2-3x/day), low intensity walks (less than 10 min at a time) can help reduce joint pain significantly. Motion is lotion!

  3. Ask your vet (or a veterinary nutritionist) about a WSAVA or AAFCO compliant diet. Make sure your pet's diet is not deficient of any vitamins or minerals that they need to be healthy.

  4. If your pet has difficulty digesting, work with your vet (or find a specialist) to understand why. Gut dysbiosis can cause difficulty absorbing even a diet full of the appropriate vitamins and minerals.

  5. And lastly, rule out any underlying conditions. If your pet does have an inflammatory or degenerative disorder, get to the root cause and see if it can be addressed. Many times, joint problems can be greatly improved with routine chiropractic care.


After all of these needs have been met.... then you can consider adding a joint supplement.



A well rounded approach to your pet's joint health




Many pet owners inform me that their pet does not need chiropractic care as they are already utilizing a joint supplement.


Although a great sentiment, I like to remind owners that a joint supplement must be ingested. This means that on top of needing to be potent, the supplement must also be absorbed via digestion and then must also reach the problematic joint in question.

Can anyone say, "I need a miracle"?


This stands in stark contrast to the mechanism of action of a chiropractic adjustment.


Utilizing palpation, a misaligned or fixated joint(s) can be detected and specifically adjusted. With an adjustment, proper range of motion is immediately restored. With proper motion, joints then can glide more properly and will be less inflamed and unencumbered as they work to build or maintain cartilage.


[[chef's kiss noise]]



How to choose an animal chiropractor


It's important that when choosing care for your animal that you do your research. Not all providers are created equally!


When choosing an animal chiropractor, be sure to choose a TRAINED PROFESSIONAL.


Only veterinarians or chiropractors are eligible to undergo post graduate education in animal chiropractic. Upon completion of the coursework, these individuals may also prove proficiency via examination such as the tests offered by the American veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) or International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA).


Common vernacular or abbreviations include:

  1. Certified animal chiropractor (CAC)

  2. Certified in veterinary chiropractic (CVC)

  3. Certified in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy (CVSMT)

  4. Certified AVCA or IVCA (cAVCA, cIVCA)


A licensed, trained, and certified provider is going to be the most responsible choice when moving forward with animal chiropractic care.


You should avoid the following:

  • provider does not do a thorough evaluation

  • provider does not evaluate pre AND post treatment

  • provider uses excessive force and/or theatrics during treatment

  • pet is excessively uncomfortable or painful during treatment

  • provider cannot answer your questions about what they are doing

  • provider continues to treat without any signs of measurable improvement

  • provider cannot answer where they received training, their license #, or if they have insurance


It is advisable that you seek animal chiropractic care in supplement to your existing vet care.


Numerous conditions and unexplained symptoms can often be improved with animal chiropractic treatment, however, a primary care veterinarian should always be involved and routinely monitoring your animal for signs of degrading health status so that further diagnostics and/or interventions can be explored if necessary.


Across the United States there are different rules and laws about animal chiropractic care. In a select few states pets can see an animal chiropractor without first consulting a veterinarian... whereas in many other states an animal chiropractor may require a written referral or direct veterinary supervision. Please be mindful of this as it could delay your pet's accessibility to an appointment should they immediately be in need.


In summary



In this blog post we reviewed what a joint supplement does, how to know if you have a quality brand, some problems within the supplement marketplace, and if your pet actually needs a joint supplement or not.


As the supplement marketplace is like the wild west, it is extremely important that customers do their own research. Many pets actually don't need a joint supplement as they could have more pressing health care needs.


Reminder: a joint supplement is meant to bridge any gaps... it is not meant to be a replacement for other interventions.


In summary: it's important to consider a well rounded approach to your pet's joint health.


 

About the author


Kaitlyn Lackey DC cAVCA


Many people don’t know that I’ve sustained 3 very serious head injuries due to horseback riding. 

 

When I sought medical treatment for these injuries, traditional medicine "failed me."

 

I'm very fortunate to have found chiropractic. Getting adjusted gave me my life back after I was struggling every day with dehabilitating migraines.

 

After seeing what it did for me, I thought: why isn’t this available to animals, too?

I decided against vet school and instead pursued chiropractic education.  I graduated Parker University in April of 2017 with 2 Bachelors and my Doctorate then later received my AVCA certification in June of 2017.

I practiced for 2 years on humans and then shifted my focus to offering chiropractic care for animals full time in 2019. I now travel across North Dallas offering care to all sorts of animals.

I continue to do all that I can to practice evidence informed and patient centric chiropractic care to guarantee that my clients receive the best results.


 

DISCLAIMER


We operate in full compliance with all laws and regulations. Our services are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any specific illness or condition and should only be used as a complement to routine veterinary and/or medical care. Chiropractic may provide support and encourage the body into its most optimal state of health. The content provided herein is informational only and is not to be construed as medical or veterinary advice.


 


I want to let you know you came to the right place for complementary options for your pet!


We are certified by the AVCA which is a top notch and rigorous certification program of 200+ hours class time followed by a written and practical board exam. We take 10 yearly hours of continuing education because we value knowing the most in order to provide the best.


When choosing chiropractic for your pet, choose someone licensed, trained, and certified.





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