For anyone who has been following my blog posts, podcasts, videos, or all of the above, you will know how high a value I place on the orthopedic and rehabilitative benefit of joint health supplementation. You will also know that with these products not falling under the jurisdiction of the FDA or any other regulatory agency, that it is exceedingly important to use high quality, veterinary pharmaceutical grade supplements that not only have the ingredients that their labels claim, but also are absorbable in canine and feline guts. As far as your best source information on the best quality joint health supplements, that is your veterinarian. That established, let’s now talk about the right time to start your pet on these types of supplements.
There really is no way from strictly a health perspective that a pet owner can start a pet on joint chews too soon, as these compounds for the most part are naturally occurring dietary items refined and concentrated to provide joint and connective tissue support. From an economic perspective and allocating funds where they really are needed, as well as saving for a time when investment in pet health care is really necessary, it is best to make the investment into joint chews at a time when it is most most appropriate – not sooner than needed, but not too late.
In any case, regardless of age, whether puppy/kitten or young adult, for any dogs or cats that have inherited joint or other orthopedic deformities – hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, angular limb deformities, etc. – once the abnormality is discovered, joint chews should be started immediately. Being proactive and pre-emptive in this manner before degenerative joint disease and other chronic destructive changes set in enables your pet to be as sound as possible, as long as possible without the need for more aggressive, invasive intervention. It also decreases the potential for secondary injury to ligaments, tendons, and muscle which may require surgery to make the pet sound again.
For all other pets, I generally recommend starting joint chews at middle age. For dogs, this is about 5 years of age for most breeds, about 3 years of age for giant breeds. For cats, I recommend starting joint chews at about 7 years of age.
Choosing middle age to begin joint health supplementation, the pet owner effectively steps in at a time when joints and other musculoskeletal structures tend to begin to break down and develop chronic disease. This serves to slow the aging process and keep the pet mobile with optimal quality of life for as long as possible, significantly longer than would otherwise be possible.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.