It’s heartbreaking to watch a dog struggle with mobility issues, whether it’s hip dysplasia, arthritis, or other health conditions. Their natural inclination is to run. However, the pain of getting around often deters them. Almost 25 percent of canines will develop arthritis at some point in their lives.1 The disease is most common in Golden and Labrador Retrievers.2
Keeping your pup’s weight under control is one of the most effective ways to lessen the effects of mobility problems. It relieves the unnecessary pressure of added pounds on his joints. That fact gives you many options for improving your pet’s quality of life by modifying his diet. Any trip to the pet store or online shows you that there are numerous choices. It’s hard to know which one is best.
Our guide will tell you what you need to know to make an informed choice. We’ll discuss what makes a dog food appropriate when dealing with these issues. We’ll also provide tips for managing your dog’s weight. Along with a healthy diet, you’ll have an excellent plan for reducing your pup’s discomfort. Our roundup of reviews will arm you with the information you need to pick the right food for your pet.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2022
The 10 Best Dog Food for Arthritis, Hip Dysplasia, Joint Health
1. Royal Canin Large Joint Care Dry Dog Food – Best Overall
The Royal Canin Large Joint Care Dry Dog Food is another entry on the manufacturer’s emphasis on targeted nutrition. This one is tailored for medium to large breeds. It consists of a variety of protein sources, including corn, chicken, and pork. The calorie count is appropriate to deliver nutrients without a lot of extra calories.
The food has decent fat content, too that is well within the recommended range. It uses several sources, including chicken and fish. We liked the diverse collection of ingredients to ensure that your pooch won’t get bored with it. It also contains rice high on the list to provide digestive support. It relies on both chondroitin sulfate and collagen for healthy joints.
All in all, we think this is the best arthritis dog food available this year.
2. Purina ONE SmartBlend Classic Ground Entree Canned Dog Food – Best Value
The Purina ONE SmartBlend Classic Ground Entree Canned Dog Food is our pick for the best dog food for arthritis, hip dysplasia, joint health for the money. It comes in chicken or beef, both of which are supplemented with pork and egg for the protein sources. It is a no-nonsense product with a straightforward list of ingredients.
The dog food also contains brown rice for digestive system support. It also contains oat and none of the problematic grain substitutes like lentils. However, it lacks added taurine, an essential nutrient for heart health. The calorie count is in line with veterinary recommendations for optimal weight control, the best kind of joint health support.
3. Hill’s Prescription Diet Joint Care Dry Dog Food – Premium Choice
Hill’s Prescription Diet Joint Care Dry Dog Food has clinical evidence to support its effectiveness in managing these health issues. Therefore, you’ll need a prescription from your veterinarian to purchase it. The product has chicken as its primary protein with pork for fat. It also contains several ingredients to help with mobility issues, such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine.
The food is also a nonsense formula with no added people foods to sell the product. The protein and fat content is adequate, too. It has a reasonable number of calories per cup for weight management. On the downside, there are only two size bags with no middle one. It’s either 8.5 or 27.5 pounds. This dog food is also very expensive when compared to similar products.
4. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Joint Mobility Dry Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Joint Mobility Dry Dog Food stands out for its unique protein mix of trout, salmon, chicken, and egg for a 30% minimum. The product also has excellent nutrient support with omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine. The latter is higher than we usually see. Overall, the calorie count is a bit higher. However, it also means your pup will stay sated longer.
Like the last product, this one is very expensive. However, it comes in three sizes to make it more affordable. It is pea-free, too, which is another ingredient associated with heart issues. The food gets results. Unfortunately, it is a bit rich for some dogs.
5. Hill’s Prescription Weight & Joint Care Dry Dog Food
Hill’s Prescription Weight & Joint Care Dry Dog Food takes a two-pronged to joint health by managing that issue, along with weight control, to avoid worsening the problem. This product has clinical evidence to support both claims. The main protein is chicken. There are also added nutrients, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. It includes taurine for heart health, too.
The protein and fat content are decent, as is the number of calories per cup. It has enough fiber for digestive support, which complements the high protein. On the downside, the food has a strong odor that some may find offensive. It comes in three sizes, including an 8.5-pound bag to allow you to try it first. That’s a good thing, considering the price of the large one.
6. Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility Weight & Joint Care Canned Dog Food
Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility Weight & Joint Care Canned Dog Food also tackles joint health on several fronts to make your pet more comfortable. The protein sources are pork, tuna, chicken, and egg. It has a decent amount of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, along with glucosamine. While the fat content is adequate, it also is a bit rich for pups with sensitive stomachs
Not surprisingly, the food is expensive, especially for larger dogs. While the clinical evidence supports its efficacy, we can see owners of big breeds looking for a different product. On the positive front, even picky dogs will likely enjoy it. It has a stew-like consistency that you can easily mix with kibble.
7. Royal Canin Large Joint Care Canned Dog Food
Royal Canin Large Joint Care Canned Dog Food is geared toward larger breeds that tend to have these types of health issues. Unlike the last product, this one is a blended pate if you prefer giving your pup food with this consistency. Pork and chicken form the protein base, which is high to keep your pooch feeling full.
The food contains fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids, along with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. It also has taurine, which appears closer to the top on the list of ingredients that we usually see. That means a higher concentration. This product bills itself as an appetite stimulant. We wonder whether it’s necessary for canned food, but it’s one way to ensure that your pup gets enough of the good stuff.
8. Dogswell Happy Hips Dry Dog Food
Dogswell Happy Hips Dry Dog Food is a hit and miss. It succeeds in using good protein and fat sources, based on chicken. It fails with obvious human-appeal ingredients like blueberries and sweet potatoes. It has others that are questionable at best, such as chicory root. The inclusion of garlic is a red flag for us, considering that it is toxic to dogs.
On the positive side, it contains excellent omega-3 fatty acids sources like flaxseed. The fat and protein content is in line with the nutritional guidelines. It also contains brown rice, which is a good source of fiber that will keep your pet feeling full. That’s a great way to help control your pooch’s weight for optimal joint health support.
9. Stella & Chewy’s Hip & Joint Boost Dinner Morsels Dog Food
Stella & Chewy’s Hip & Joint Boost Dinner Morsels Dog Food has an identity problem. It bills itself as an addition and a complete diet. Likes the latter, it’s expensive at only 13 ounces (oz). We also question its marketing message. We didn’t realize that dogs didn’t like gluten or soy. The label also touts the health benefits of New Zealand mussels with no evidence to support that statement.
On the positive side, the food contains many of the ingredients that are effective for joint health like glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids. The high protein and fat content are problematic if you feed your pet this food as a complete diet. Also, ingredients like lavender had us scratching our heads about how helpful they really are for pets.
10. Blue Buffalo True Solutions Jolly Joints Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo True Solutions Jolly Joints Dry Dog Food starts reasonably with excellent protein sources like chicken, shrimp, and egg. The protein percent at 26% and the fat at 15% well exceeded the recommended amounts. The latter is at the high end of the spectrum, even though it comes from high-quality sources like flaxseed.
We think that it puts the benefits of these ingredients out of balance. It adds a lot to the calorie count, too, which is a contributing risk factor for mobility-challenged dogs. It’s also grain-free, which is problematic for some breeds. The marketing message with the name is also a concern because it implies something that the product may not deliver.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Dog Food for Joint Health
Dog food that supports joint health must do two things. First, it has to provide adequate nutrition with the proper number of calories to maintain a healthy weight. It is one of the best and, fortunately, easier ways to treat these issues. Second, it should contain ingredients that will improve your pup’s mobility while providing pain relief. Here’s how to choose the best dog food for hip dysplasia, arthritis, and joint health.
It’s essential not to skimp on your pooch’s diet just because he needs to lose weight. You should always feed him a high-quality food to support overall good health. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides recommendations for the nutrient content of commercial products for all life stages of dogs and cats. It’s the first place to start when choosing what to feed your pet.
The minimum requirements for nutrients for an adult dog as a percentage of the weight of the food are 18% for protein and 5% for fat. The nutrition profiles also have recommendations for vitamins and minerals, some with a maximum amount. You can tell if a product meets these standards if there is a statement about saying it does with the phrase, complete and balanced.
Complete means that everything that should be there is present and balanced in the correct proportions. Many manufacturers employ Ph.D. nutritionists on their staff to ensure that their products meet or exceed these requirements. To clarify, the AAFCO does not regulate pet food. Instead, it works with the FDA to develop standards for the role that agency plays in enforcement.
However, if a product meets these standards, you can rest assured that your pup’s nutritional needs are met.
The calorie count per serving is the money shot. Here is where you can take an active role in helping your dog’s mobility issues while ensuring good joint health. Your pup’s body condition is the best indication of weight. Fortunately, it’s easy to assess. You can feel the ribs of a pooch that is at the ideal weight. If you look down at him from above, you’ll see his waistline.
Many factors come into play when it comes to arriving at the so-called magic number of calories per day, especially when dealing with a pet with a chronic health condition. Your dog’s activity level, of course, is a big part of it. The environment also affects how much he’ll need. A pup outside during cold weather will need more calories to stay warm than a pooch that lies on the couch all day.
Then, there is the dog itself. A spayed or neutered pet will need fewer calories than one that is intact. Age also plays a role as does breed. An excellent way to estimate your pooch’s needs is to use a calorie calculator, such as the one by the Pet Nutrition Alliance. You need to know your pet’s current and ideal weights. The tool will provide a recommended daily caloric intake, broken down by food and treats.
Other Ingredients for Joint Health
In addition to vitamins and minerals, other ingredients may provide relief for your pooch. Some of the more popular ones include glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and omega-3-fatty-acids. The latter is also effective for promoting healthy skin. Bear in mind that it takes time for these additives to work. It may be two or more weeks before you see noticeable results.
A definitive dosage doesn’t exist yet. However, most studies and reviews recommend at least 475 milligrams (mg). We suggest checking the guaranteed analysis on the package. Some manufacturers may boast of joint health properties yet contain only scant amounts of these additives.
A Word About Grain-Free Dog Foods
It’s hard to stumble upon a grain-free dog food when choosing a diet for your pup. However, it might not be the wisest choice for your pet. In recent years, veterinarians have documented a spike in cases of dilated cardiomyopathy. This disease affects your pooch’s heart function. While treatable, it is also sometimes life-threatening.
The concern rests with feeding pets a grain-free diet. That has prompted an investigation by the FDA to determine what role these foods have with this condition. Unfortunately, veterinarians have diagnosed the most cases in breeds that are also the most prone to arthritis. We recommend that you discuss this matter with your vet.
Choosing a Dog Food
The most important thing when choosing a food for your dog is that it provides a complete diet with a reasonable number of calories. Many products tout the fact that they use whole meats in their foods. It is typically the first ingredient you’ll see in high-quality items. However, don’t let the contents fool you. Everything in the food is listed by weight with the largest first.
While whole meats are healthy sources of protein, they also contain a lot of water. Dog foods that contain by-products or meals are not necessarily inferior. Some are more nutrient-dense.
You’ll also see a lot of people foods in the ingredient list, with things like sweet potatoes, carrots, blueberries, and a host of other yummy-sounding ingredients. However, that doesn’t always mean they’re better, at least not from a nutrition standpoint. Many have minuscule traces of these foods. Their primary purpose is to sell you the product, not your dog.
Wet or Dry? That Is the Question
Whether you choose wet or dry dog food is often a matter of preference. Some people find the smell and look of canned products offensive. Others appreciate the convenience of kibble. Both are valid reasons to choose one over the other. However, many pet owners combine them both because kibble is often cheaper than wet foods.
It’s imperative that whatever product you choose that you measure what your pet is eating at every meal, especially if your pooch has a weight problem already. Here is one reason to consider canned foods. You know exactly how much you’re feeding him every time. You also know how many calories he’s getting every day to manage these conditions more effectively.
If you prefer dry food, we recommend that you do not free-feed your pet and leave kibble available all the time. It’ll make it more challenging to get his weight under control without knowing how much he’s eating. We suggest that you leave his food down for about 30 minutes. Then, pick it up. That way, you’ll know how much he’s getting, and you’ll teach him to finish his meal promptly.
We hope that we’ve helped you navigate the pet food aisle a bit easier and more well-informed. After completing our reviews, the Royal Canin Large Joint Care Dry Dog Food came out on top as the best overall product for dogs with mobility issues and for joint health. It is part of the manufacturer’s tailored nutrition products. It succeeds by ticking off all the boxes for a complete diet.
On the best value side of the coin, the Purina ONE SmartBlend Classic Ground Entree Canned Dog Food scored high marks for its protein content and its ingredient list that contains no fluff. Its strength is the ability to control your pup’s weight with food that he will enjoy. That is the single best thing you can do as a pet owner to support good joint health.
No one likes to see a dog in pain. While mobility issues are sometimes inevitable, taking charge of your pup’s diet is one way you can help make him more comfortable. We recommend monitoring your pooch’s weight from day one. It will help prevent problems that will have more serious consequences as he ages.
Featured Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock