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3 natural foods for ultimate joint care

Dogs are busy creatures and just like us, they experience joint degeneration as they age. As a result, they can experience prolonged pain and immobility. Did you know that joint pain due to arthritis affects 1 in every 5 dogs? The prevalence of this disease has many dog owners wondering what wholesome remedies and natural ingredients they can give their dog to help them live a pain free life.

Flaxseed

Some call it flaxseed, some call it linseed. Whatever name you use, flaxseed is one of those ingredients that many people keep in their pantry. Whether that’s for baking, as a superfood or a fibre source, flax has many health benefits. One of those benefits is the ability to help with joint function and mobility! Another perk of flax is that it can be purchased at your local grocery store in many forms, including as whole seeds, milled flour and oil.

How does it work?

Flaxseeds are so good for joint care because they contain a high omega 3 content (up to 1.8g!). Chances are you’ve heard of omega 3 essential fatty acids and all of the health benefits for you and your dogs. There are a few different types of omega 3s and flaxseed is specifically rich in an omega 3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). 

ALA is an essential fatty acid that is a component of cell membranes, which is the part of the cell that is responsible for protection and regulation. Clinical studies have shown that supplementing your dog with foods that contain ALA helps with blood circulation to nerves and reduces oxidative stress that causes an inflammatory response and arthritic pain.

How to feed flaxseed to your dog

Flaxseed can be kept in your dry storage pantry or cupboard for up to 1 year (pro tip: keep your flaxseed in the freezer to keep it fresh for longer!). Sprinkle 1 tsp (for small dogs) to 1 tbls (for big dogs) of flaxseed on top of your dog's food at meal time.

Black Cocker Spaniel looking at bowl of seeds sitting in a ceramic bowl


Blueberries

A fruit native to North America, blueberries are a healthy superfood for your pup. Blueberries are a great source of antioxidants and can be fed to your doggo either fresh, frozen or blended!

How does it work?

As mentioned above, blueberries are a source of antioxidants which can help to reduce joint degeneration and pain. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, a compound that has been shown to have antioxidant properties. Anthocyanin is also what gives the blueberry its purplish-blue color! 

As if one antioxidant wasn’t enough, blueberries are also an excellent source of ascorbic acid (also known as Vitamin C). Unlike humans, dogs can actually synthesize their own Vitamin C in their liver and do not require supplementation in their diet. Even still, food rich in Vitamin C can still provide some antioxidant benefits for your dog. 

Studies have shown that antioxidants prevent joint damage and pain by preventing and repairing oxidative damage done by free radicals. As a result, feeding your dog antioxidant-rich blueberries helps to fight off joint pain caused by inflammation from oxidative damage.

How to feed blueberries to your dog

In addition to being a healthy superfood, blueberries are also the perfect low calorie treat. Supplement your dog’s diet with blueberries by adding a handful to your dog’s meal or using them as treats for training. The veterinary recommended amount of blueberries is 8-10 per day, depending on your dog’s size.

Black Cocker Spaniel looking at single blueberry sitting on the floor

Rosemary

Isn’t rosemary usually used to flavour food? This one may come as a surprise to many pet owners but rosemary actually has some great health benefits in addition to making food extra tasty.

How does it work?

Like blueberries, rosemary is also a source of a number of natural antioxidants. Joint inflammation is no match for rosemary as it has chemical compounds that function together to fight against reactive oxygen species and free radicals. These compounds include the antioxidants, carnosol, carnosic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, and caffeic acid.

How to feed rosemary to your dog

The easiest way to incorporate rosemary into your dog’s diet is by adding either dried ground rosemary or rosemary extract/oil. For ground rosemary, add ¼-½ tsp to your dog’s meal once per day. Even a few sprigs of fresh rosemary will do the trick too!

Rosemary oil is much more concentrated, so less is required. Add ⅛ of a teaspoon of rosemary extract (for every 20 pounds your dog's body weight) to their food or directly onto their tongue. This dosage can be given up to three times daily.


Black Cocker Spaniel sniffing rosemary

Other natural remedies for dogs with joint pain

If your dog has progressive joint pain and degeneration, chances are there isn’t a home or herbal remedy that will completely alleviate their discomfort. The most effective solutions for pain management and joint care in dogs are not usually found in your pantry or around the house. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to turn to conventional medicine or give your dog prescription medication for the rest of their life. The good news is that there are over the counter supplements that you can give your dog that are all natural!

  • Glucosamine: a sugar compound found in bones and as a building block of cartilage. Naturally occurring in most animals, glucosamine is responsible for rebuilding cartilage and connective tissue in joints. Over time, the levels of naturally occurring glucosamine begin to decrease and need to be replaced. Joint supplements generally include either glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine hydrochloride to boost the natural glucosamine levels that have been lost through aging. These glucosamine supplements are generally derived from the shells of shellfish and act as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing swelling and pain in the joint. 
  • Chondroitin: another naturally occurring sugar found as a component of cartilage and provides resistance to compression. In joint supplements, chondroitin sulfate is included to replenish the chondroitin lost over time. The supplement source is usually derived from cow or pig cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate prevents the breakdown of cartilage and can also stimulate repair mechanisms. Additionally, it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent to alleviate joint pain, swelling and cartilage degradation biomarkers.
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): a naturally occurring sulfur found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk. MSM inhibits an immune protein complex in the body called Nuclear Factor kappa-B. Veterinarians suggest this protein as it is responsible for initiating an inflammatory response, contributing to joint pain. MSM inhibition of this protein helps to reduce oxidative damage responsible for sore joints.
  • Animal cartilage: a substance in the body that provides structural support. Usually found as bovine, porcine or fish cartilage powder, this natural supplement works by providing the compounds needed for rebuilding natural cartilage and prevents further breakdown of cartilage.
  • Green lipped mussels: a mussel native to New Zealand that contains high levels of glucosamine and omega 3s and have the same natural mechanisms as supplementing glucosamine or fish oil.

Dog lifting it’s from paw from having sore joints
Dog lifting it’s from paw from having sore joints

View Sources

Watson, A. G., H. E. Evans, and A. De Lahunta. "Gross morphology of the composite occipito‐atlas‐axis joint cavity in the dog." Anatomia, histologia, embryologia 15, no. 2 (1986): 139-146.

Morgan, Joe P., Alida Wind, Autumn P. Davidson, and Lars Audell. Hereditary bone and joint diseases in the dog: osteochondroses, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia. Schlütersche, 2000.

Packer, R. M. A., I. J. Seath, D. G. O’Neill, S. De Decker, and H. A. Volk. "DachsLife 2015: an investigation of lifestyle associations with the risk of intervertebral disc disease in Dachshunds." Canine genetics and epidemiology 3, no. 1 (2016): 8.

Setnikar, I., C. Giacchetti, and G. Zanolo. "Pharmacokinetics of glucosamine in the dog and in man." Arzneimittel-Forschung 36, no. 4 (1986): 729-735.

Adebowale, Abi, Jianpin Du, Zhonming Liang, James L. Leslie, and Natalie D. Eddington. "The bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of glucosamine hydrochloride and low molecular weight chondroitin sulfate after single and multiple doses to beagle dogs." Biopharmaceutics & drug disposition 23, no. 6 (2002): 217-225.

Canapp Jr, S. O., R. M. McLaughlin Jr, J. J. Hoskinson, J. K. Roush, and M. D. Butine. "Scintigraphic evaluation of dogs with acute synovitis after treatment with glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate." American journal of veterinary research 60, no. 12 (1999): 1552-1557.

Herschler, Robert J. "Methylsulfonylmethane and methods of use." U.S. Patent 4,296,130, issued October 20, 1981.

Donato, Lisa J. "An Integrated Conventional and TCVM Approach to the Treatment of Suspected Cervical Disc Disease in a Weimaraner Dog."

Petlab Co. “Natural remedies for joint pain in dogs” (2020). https://thepetlabco.com/blogs/dogs/3-natural-foods-for-ultimate-joint-care 

Web MD, “Bovine Cartilage - Uses, Side Effects, and More”. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-155/bovine-cartilage 

US Department of Veteran Affairs. “Supplements that help pain” https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTHLIBRARY/tools/supplements-for-pain.asp

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