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2017 | Nutrition & Health | Dr Joanna Schirrman, Royal Canin Australia SAS

It is a well-accepted fact that larger breed dogs and highly active breeds tend to be at a higher risk of developing joint issues such as arthritis.  Whatever your pet’s size, however, it is important to recognise that you can proactively support your dog’s joints in many ways and a multi-faceted approach is the best option.  Nutritional support is one of the cornerstone treatments to help support dogs with mobility issues, and even help delay the onset of clinical signs of arthritis.

Arthritis is defined as a degenerative, inflammatory and painful condition affecting any joint in the body.  Startlingly, 20% of dogs over the age of one year will show signs of arthritis and more than 90% of dogs over five years of age are affected.  With large and giant breed dogs being over represented in these categories, it is not surprising that ROYAL CANIN has incorporated particular nutraceuticals into their diets to help support the joints of these dogs.

The Healthy Joint
It is actually impossible to talk about joints without thinking about the skeleton as well.  Indeed the main role of joints is to connect all the bones together and facilitate coordinated movement.   If we didn’t have joints, we would be very stiff and unable to move very well at all! 

The surfaces of the bones involved in the joint structure are covered by a specialised supportive tissue called cartilage.  Cartilage provides a smooth, even surface for the bones to glide past the other whilst also behaving like a shock-absorber.  Cartilage is made up of specialised compounds called proteoglycans and collagen.  The chondrocytes (cartilage cells) are responsible for continuously rebuilding the cartilage by synthesizing proteoglycans and collagen.

Joint Ageing
Normal day-to-day activities such as walking, running, jumping and playing will put mechanical load through the joints.  However, this normal wear-and-tear is balanced through the body’s ability to repair the damaged cartilage.  However, when this equilibrium is out of balance, such as through increased body weight, excessive force is placed through the joint surfaces and the rate of repair cannot counter the rate of damage to the cartilage.  A similar phenomenon occurs with large and giant breed dogs.  Their sheer size puts additional load through these vulnerable structures resulting in greater loads, and greater wear-and-tear on the cartilage. 

When the cartilage becomes damaged, the underlying bone is exposed and triggers an inflammatory response.  This results in the release of enzymes designed to clear away the damaged cartilage.  However, the repair mechanisms (and resynthesis of cartilage) is often too slow resulting in further inflammation and pain, thus termed “Joint Ageing”.


How Diet Can Help
For over 45 years, ROYAL CANIN has been producing tailor-made nutritional solutions to meet the individual needs of each dog and cat.  Of particular interest is the inclusion of specific nutrients including glucoasamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been shown to be key in helping support joint health.  Another key factor is maintaining an ideal body weight which will help reduce biomechanical loading through the joints.  Diets designed for large and giant breed dogs should thus be moderate in calories.

Chondroitin is one of the major building blocks of the proteoglycans that make up cartilage.  It’s main role to maintain cartilage elasticity and hydration.  Supplementation with chondroitin has shown to delay signs of arthritis due to its protective effects.  When combined with glucoasamine, the protective benefits are further improved.  Glucosamine is also a building block for the structural components of cartilage as well as the synovial fluid within the joint.  Specifically, glucosamine helps stimulate cartilage and collagen regeneration and helps slow further cartilage degradation.

In addition, it is a well-known concept that supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil, has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.  Specifically, studies have shown that supplementation with EPA and DHA slows and decreases both the degradative and inflammatory processes associated with arthritis.

All of our diets, designed specifically for large and giant breed dogs, are supplemented with glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.  These include products from our breed-specific range:  Boxer, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador and Rottweiler.

A Final Word
When it comes to our pets’ health, prevention is far better than cure!  Nutrition plays a crucial role in helping to maintain the health of the joints, in particular, keeping our pets at their ideal body weight.  Various nutraceuticals have proven to have a protective effect on joint cartilage so choosing a diet that contains glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil is a great place to start.  Remember, if you have any concerns about your pet’s joints, please consult your veterinarian.


[1]Servet et al.  Dietary Intervention Can Improve Clinical Signs in Osteoarthritic Dogs.  Journal of Nutrition, vol.136, no.7, July 2006. 

[2[ Curtis et al.  Effects of n-3 fatty acids on cartilage metabolism.  Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2002), 61, 381-389.

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