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JAVMA Reports on Benefits and Dangers of Canine Joint Supplements

Without displaying any awareness of irony, the March 1, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) published two slightly contradictory...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Apr 15th 2010


Without displaying any awareness of irony, the March 1, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) published two slightly contradictory pieces on canine joint supplements.

The first was a scientific study entitled “A multicenter study of the effect of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-three fatty acids on carprofen dosage in dogs with osteoarthritis”. Carprofen also is known as Rimadyl. Osteoarthritis also is known as arthritis. Here is a relevant quote.

Objective–To determine the effects of feeding a diet supplemented with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on carprofen dosage in dogs with osteoarthritis.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance–Results suggested that in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis receiving carprofen because of signs of pain, feeding a diet supplemented with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids may allow for a reduction in carprofen dosage. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010;236:535-539)

In other words, giving fish oil to dogs that have arthritis may reduce their need for Rimadyl (and presumably for other NSAIDs such as Metacam, Previcox, and Deramaxx). That, of course, is a good thing. NSAIDs sometimes are linked to adverse events. Reducing a dog’s total NSAID consumption while still keeping him comfortable can only be good.

However, before you run to the store to load up on joint supplements, be aware that page 509 of the same issue carried a few words of caution. Two veterinarians from the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center wrote a letter to the editor of JAVMA. In the letter they described several cases of joint supplement overdose in dogs. The joint supplements were linked to liver damage (which sometimes was fatal). Although the letter didn’t point fingers at any particular brands or ingredients, the authors stated that the most common ingredients involved in overdoses included glucosamine, creatine, dimethylsulfone and omega-3s. Between the lines, the authors implied that the first three ingredients, and not the omega-3’s, were most likely to blame for liver damage.

Even if omega-3 overdoses don’t cause liver problems, human health advocates recently have become alarmed by high levels of mercury in some products.

On the whole, it appears that the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. But don’t go overboard.

Related link: a common brand of canine joint supplements has recently been recalled due to concerns about Salmonella contamination.

Photo: Fish oil capsules. By “kindrob”.