Joint supplements for dogs, and other animals, are treated very differently from joint supplements for humans. Congress passed legislation in the 1990’s creating a dietary supplement category. However, the regulators declared that the legislation was for humans only and did not apply to animals. Many of the ingredients normally found in joint supplements for dogs, such as glucosamine, msm, and chondroitin sulfate are classified as unapproved drugs. For humans, they are dietary supplements and do not have the same regulatory oversight as the “drugs” for animals. Therefore, manufacturers and distributors of joint supplements for dogs must be very careful how they present and represent their products. Medicinal claims are not allowed and any reference to therapeutic validity of the product cannot be present on labels, on websites, or in advertising.
But the market is quite large for joint supplements for dogs and growing. This is because many dog owners over the years have seen changes in their animals and have reported improvement in their dogs with continued use of the supplements. It is common to hear an owner say that his dog is now jumping on the couch when he hasn’t been able to do that in a long time. So as word of mouth spreads, so does the growth of the dog supplement market.
The main ingredients which make up many joint supplements have not been widely used for that many years. In the 1980’s not much was available except for yucca powder which was widely used for horses and over time caught on for dogs. Glucosamine, MSM, Chondroitin Sulfate, and some other ingredients began to gain popularity in the 1990’s and have become well known to dog owners.
Along with the rise in use of joint supplements for dogs, drugs available thru Veterinarians have been developed. Some of the drugs are in wide use today and many dog owners are wary of the continued use of these drugs due to the side effects. Some of the side effects can be severe even leading to death of the dog. In comparison safety of the joint supplements over a long period of time has been demonstrated. Relatively few adverse events have been reported relative to the many dosages given and these are mostly minor in nature. Most vets have been reluctant to endorse the sales of joint supplement for dogs due to several reasons. Probably most important is the fact that profits on the sales of drugs from their practice is substantial. Few vets opt to sell supplements in competition with the widespread retail market. If a vet is not familiar with certain companies promoting the sales of joint supplements, they certainly will not recommend them. Nonetheless, we are hearing more and more from dog owners who say their vet recommended a joint supplement. Also, vets are beginning to give joint supplements to their own pets which lends credibility to their effectiveness.
Dog owners have many choices of joint supplements as they come in powder form, liquid, treats, or tablet. Probably the most desirable of the supplements would be a combination of the best ingredients at sufficient levels to be effective. Responsible manufacturers use only the finest ingredients and periodically test their finished product to insure they meet labels claims as well as a product that is free of e-coli and salmonella. It is not always easy for a consumer to know which products are of the highest quality and meets the standards they desire. But a little research and a phone call or two can be valuable.