Maintaining healthy joints is critical for several reasons. When joint mobility is restricted or when joints become a source of pain, pets face increased difficulty maintaining an active lifestyle and a healthy weight—a vicious circle where weight gain can further compound joint issues. In addition, the animals face an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA) and degenerative joint disease (DJD).
The free digital issue, “Joint Health for Pets," examines joint health in animals and its impact on overall well-being. For many pet owners, joint health is often overlooked until there are visible signs of a problem. A better approach is developing an ongoing routine of supplementation and therapeutic foods that may help circumvent issues before they surface.
According to Mintel’s “Pet Food–US–July 2014" report, less than one-third of all pet parents buy pet supplements/vitamins for their dog or cat; neither age, income, gender or presence of children impact this usage. Even though most pet owners think of their pets as a member of the family, Mintel concluded most (68 percent) don’t buy special pet supplements or vitamins to aid their nutrition and help keep them healthy. The market research firm encouraged manufacturers to consider educating pet parents about the specific vitamin needs and potential nutrient deficiencies that can exist at different pet life stages.
A strong body of research supports the use of specific supplements/ingredients that address myriad conditions and work with the body to restore it to its natural state. Concerning ingredients for pet joint health, a few of the options include:
• Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
A source of dietary sulfur, MSM is thought to work on several levels to maintain and restore healthy joints, from OA symptom relief to cartilage support. Human studies suggest MSM reduces pain following exercise, which may indicate a reduction of pain and inflammation in animals as well. Because pets can’t discuss their ailments and pain levels, a preventive approach to joint health is recommended.
Animal and human studies also suggest MSM may increase the ability to defend against damage from free radicals, which increase oxidative stress and damage, and can lead to inflammation and pain.
• Perna canaliculus (green-lipped mussel)
An edible shellfish, green-lipped mussel helps reduce joint pain and provides the body with fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory effects. It also contains helpful levels of glucosamine.
• Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3s boast anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. They also help move oxygen through the bloodstream to all parts of the body; aid in cell membrane development, strength and function; and are necessary for strong organs and tissues.
Unique delivery systems ensure efficacy and bioavailability; however, all things must be considered—and that includes elements such as taste and product type (e.g., supplement, treat or powder). If an animal won’t ingest a joint health product, clearly it won’t be effective, no matter how powerful the formula. Treats are often easily accepted by pets, with many owners partial to products that can be combined with the pet’s food.
Manufacturers must also use caution when marketing over-the-counter (OTC) joint products/supplements. When it comes to “claim" messaging, it can’t reference a disease or a condition (such as pain) associated with disease if that condition can be treated with a drug. A structure/function (S/F) claim is permitted, such as “supporting healthy joints".
Best practices in this category suggest creating products that have the dual function of being beneficial to health—such as containing added nutrients—but are also engaging for the animal to consume/use. For discerning consumers, brand holders should ensure that new health-targeted products are validated by evidence of their efficacy. And finally, consider development into anti-aging products for pets, which will cater to increasing concerns regarding overall animal longevity.
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