Many humans take joint supplements on a daily basis, and nowadays there are lots of dogs receiving them too. But, did you know that there are joint supplements available for cats too? As cat owners, we want to do everything that we can to support our feline’s health and feeding your cat joint supplements can provide them with long-term joint support. This article aims to explore the world of joint supplements for cats, whilst focusing on evidence-based medicine.
Table of contents
- What are joint supplements?
- What are the benefits to using joint supplements and when should they be used?
- As Veterinary professionals, we regularly recommend joint supplements for our patients, but have their benefits been scientifically proven?
- What supplements are available?
What are joint supplements?
Dietary or joint supplements (also known as nutraceuticals) are intended to add to or supplement the diet and are regulated by the FSA (Food Standards Agency) as food, not drugs. The FSA assesses their safety, not their efficacy. Feeding joint supplements to your cat is generally considered to be very safe with few or no side effects.
What are the benefits to using joint supplements and when should they be used?
Joint supplements are products taken daily which maintain joint health and aid in the treatment and management of joint diseases. Joint supplements can be fed alongside other types of medications and can become part of a multi-modal approach to managing a cat’s joint pain. The mainstay goals to feeding your cat joint supplements include maintaining joint health and reducing pain and inflammation.
There are many occasions where joint supplements are beneficial, the following list will explore some of these occasions (this list is not exhaustive):
Managing Osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease (DJD)
Pain and decreased mobility as a result of OA has a negative impact on your feline’s quality of life, comfort levels and daily functioning (Bhathal et al, 2017). Clinical signs of OA may include stiffness, slow gait and difficulty jumping onto high up surfaces. Joint supplements can promote joint lubrication and support mobility and are usually recommended alongside other medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Trying to prevent joint disorders
There are many large breed cats such as Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats that, like their canine counterparts, grow in body size rapidly. Larger-breed cats are more prone to developing joint diseases and feline hip dysplasia is overrepresented in Maine Coons (Low et al, 2019). This is why it is recommended to start them on a joint supplement as early as possible.
Maintenance of a high-risk but currently healthy joint
If your cat has been unfortunate enough to have been through joint/orthopaedic surgery, they may be more likely to develop early onset OA. Introducing joint supplements as early as possible in these cases is highly recommended.
As Veterinary professionals, we regularly recommend joint supplements for our patients, but have their benefits been scientifically proven?
There still remains little data on their efficacy in cats but anecdotally there have been some very positive reviews. Despite the lack of evidence, the use of Veterinary supplements continues to increase (Finno, 2020).
Please contact your Vet to discuss whether your cat is an ideal candidate to receive joint supplementation.
What supplements are available?
There are many joint supplements now available on the market and the ingredients and contents can vary between them. Feline joint supplements often come in tablets, capsules or liquid formulations and they are often tasty to your cat which aids their palatability.
Two of the more well-known ingredients within many joint supplements are chondroitin and glucosamine
Chondroitin and glucosamine have been thought to provide both physiological and functional benefits in companion animals. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two of the components of joint/synovial fluid and the idea is that supplementing these will improve the quality and quantity of joint fluid, providing lubrication and supporting overall mobility. They are often referred to as the ‘building blocks’ to repair damaged joint cartilage. Evidence is limited in cats, but in dogs, some studies have shown that feeding these supplements as a combination has a positive clinical effect in dogs with OA (McCarthy et al, 2006). In contrast to this, published studies have shown no significant difference between placebo trials and glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation (Moreau et al, 2003).
Canine literature is more widespread than feline literature in most areas within Veterinary research. There still remains limited supportive evidence that glucosamine and chondroitin nutraceuticals show significant statistical improvement in cats with OA (Barbeau-Gregoire et al, 2022). Furthermore, in the human field, glucosamine and chondroitin have a role in improving the function of people suffering with osteoarthritis (Towheed et al, 2005).
Other ingredients within joint supplements include omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and green-lipped mussels
There is even less evidence currently available to confirm how effective these actually are in cats.
Choosing a joint supplement can be challenging due to the wide range of products now available, therefore I advise seeking advice from your Vet to help you to decide which supplement is the correct choice for your feline friend.
To conclude, clinical trials in Veterinary patients are currently limited, but clinical trials and research into the benefits of taking joint supplements in people have concluded encouraging results. With the continued advancement of Veterinary medicine, more scientific evidence may be on the horizon. Joint supplements still remain an important role in the management of joint disease in felines and they are frequently recommended by Veterinarians.
- Barbeau-Gregoire, M. Otis, C. Cournoyer, A. Moreau, M. Lussier, B. Troncy, E. 2022. A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis of enriched therapeutic diets and nutraceuticals in canine and feline osteoarthritis. International journal of molecular science. 23:18.
- Bhathal, A. Spryszak, M. Louizos, C. Frankel, G. 2017. Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canine osteoarthritis: A review. Open Veterinary Journal. 7:1.
- Finno, C, J. 2020. Veterinary pet supplements and nutraceuticals. Nutrition today. 55:2.
- Low, M. Eksell, P. Hogstrom, K. Olsson, U. Audell, L. Ohlsson, A. 2019. Demography, heritability and genetic correlation of feline hip dysplasia and response to selection in a health screening programme. Scientific reports. 9.
- McCarthy, G. O’Donovan, J. Jones, B. McAllister, H. Seed, M. Mooney, C. 2007. Randomised double-blind, positive controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. Veterinary Journal. 174: 54-61.
- Moreau, M. Dupuis, J. Bonneau, N. 2003. Clinical evaluation of a nutraceutical, carprofen and meloxicam for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. Veterinary Record. 152: 323-329.
- All You Need to Know About Joint Supplements – Vet Help Direct
- Towheed, T. Maxwell, L. Anastassiades, T, P. Shea, B. Houpt, J, B. Welch, V. Hochberg, N,C Wells, G, A. 2005. Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis, Cochrane database of systematic reviews. Issue 2.
- Canine Arthritis Management