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Best Dog Food for Joint Health: Dietary Support for Aching Joints!

Best Dog Food Reviews By Kate Brunotts 15 min read November 22, 2021

best dog foods for joint support

Unfortunately, many of our furry friends suffer from joint issues as they age (and some even suffer from them while they’re still young).

This is obviously pretty rotten news for Rover, but there are a number of ways you can help your marvelous mutt manage his symptoms. You’ll want to work closely with your vet to devise a good overall treatment strategy, but one of the key components of your overall joint-care plan should usually include feeding your pooch a food designed to nurture his ailing joints.

Below, we’ll share a few of the best dog foods for joint health and discuss some of the other things you can do to help protect your pet’s joints! 

Best Dog Food for Joint Health: Quick Picks

  • #1 Merrick Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato [Best Overall Food for Joint Health]: A pretty impressive food in general, this Merrick recipe is great for dogs with joint issues, as it is fortified with glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3-rich ingredients.
  • #2 Blue Buffalo [Best Prescription Dog Food for Joint Health]: This supplement-rich kibble is designed to help dogs with joint issues and weight management. Plus, most dogs adore this prescription food’s taste, making it a tail-wagging good pick.
  • #3 DOGSWELL [Most Affordable Dog Food for Joint Health]: While this food doesn’t have as many joint support supplements as some of the other options, it’s still worth considering as an excellent doggie diet. This dry food will support your pooch without emptying out your wallet.
  • #4 Nom Nom [Best Fresh Food for Joint Health]: If your pooch needs a more customized plan or simply doesn’t like dry food, Nom Nom’s turkey or beef recipes are an amazing pick. These premium mutt meals are sure to earn you some extra puppy kisses

What Makes a Dog Food Good for Joint Health? 

joint supplements for dogs

Wondering what makes a food good for supporting joint health? Here are three things to look for when looking for the right food for Fido. 

  • The best foods for joint health are fortified with joint-supporting supplements. Ideally, your dog’s diet should include joint-supporting supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin. Other helpful ingredients include omega-3s (often provided in the form of fish oil supplements) and taurine to help manage canine inflammation.
  • The best foods for joint health feature an appropriate calcium to phosphorus ratio. Your pooch not only needs to consume enough calcium and phosphorus, he must also get them in the proper ratio. This is especially important for large breed dogs, and it’s also one of the leading reasons vets discourage the use of homemade diets. 
  • The best foods for joint health encourage your pooch to maintain a healthy body weight. Excess weight can put unnecessary pressure on your dog’s joints, so it’s imperative that his diet promotes a healthy body weight for your furry friend. 
Don’t Forget About the Basics!

While you’ll want to look for foods that meet the specific criteria discussed above, it’s still important to select a food that satisfies all of the general dog-food-selection criteria all owners should consider.

Check out our complete guide to picking a dog food to learn more, but a few of the most important criteria include things like picking a food that meets the AAFCO guidelines for your dog’s life stage, limiting your choices to foods that are cooked in the USA, and seeking a food that appeals to your pup’s palate.

Additionally, always make sure your vet is on board with the food you select.

The 6 Best Dog Foods for Joint Health

Now that you know what to look for in a joint-supporting dog food, we can talk about some of our favorites. Here are six of the best foods to support joint health. Just remember that you need to work with your vet to devise a comprehensive joint-care plan and make sure he or she gives the green light to the food you select.

1. Merrick Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe

Best Overall Dog Food for Joint Health

This is a sponsored placement, in which an advertiser pays a fee to be featured in this article. Learn more

Merrick Joint-support food

Merrick Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe

A premium, grain-free food that’s loaded with chondroitin, glucosamine, and inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids.

About: Despite being a mainstream food that’s not specifically marketed as a joint-supporting recipe, Merrick Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato is a great choice for dogs with joint issues. Featuring most of the hallmarks of a great all-around food, plus three different kinds of joint-supporting ingredients, this is the best choice for most dogs with arthritis or other joint problems.

Features:

  • Real, deboned beef is the first listed ingredient 
  • Fortified with chondroitin, glucosamine, and omega-3s for joint support 
  • Cooked in Merrick’s own US kitchens
  • Full of tasty ingredients, including beef liver, salmon oil, and blueberries

Ingredients List

Deboned Beef, Lamb Meal, Salmon Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes...,

Peas, Potato Protein, Pork Fat, Natural Flavor, Whitefish Meal, Pea Protein, Sunflower Oil, Beef Liver, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Apples, Blueberries, Organic Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Choline Chloride, Salmon Oil, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Niacin, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement) Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Citric Acid for freshness, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.

Pros

  • This recipe is packed with four different animal proteins.
  • It’s fortified with three different joint-supporting ingredients (chondroitin, glucosamine, and omega-3s).
  • Probiotics are included to support digestive function.

Cons

  • This is a grain-free dog food, which may present concerns about your dog’s heart health.
  • Because it is a multi-protein food, it may be a bad choice for dogs with food allergies.

2. Blue Buffalo Prescription Mobility Support

Best Prescription Dog Food for Joint Health

This is a sponsored placement, in which an advertiser pays a fee to be featured in this article. Learn more

Blue Buffalo Prescription Mobility Support

Blue Buffalo Prescription Mobility Support

A veterinarian-designed prescription diet that’s formulated with joint supplements and a ton of Omega-3s.

About: Some dogs need a little more joint support than over-the-counter kibbles can provide. Blue Buffalo’s W+M Recipe is a great choice for these situations, so it’s worth discussing with your vet. You’ll need a prescription to order this food, but this salmon and chicken recipe is worth the effort, as it’s fortified with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin. 

Features:

  • This joint-supporting food may also help your pup lose weight 
  • Fortified with omega-3s, vitamins, minerals, and joint supplements 
  • Whole fish is the first ingredient
  • Made in the USA
  • A fiber-rich recipe, this food will also promote proper digestive function

Ingredients List

Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Powdered Cellulose, Peas...,

Tapioca Starch, Natural Flavor, Pea Starch, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Fish Oil (source of EPA-Eicosapentaenoic Acid), Gelatin, Cranberries, Dried Tomato Pomace, Canola Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Shrimp Meal (source of Glucosamine), Potassium Sulfate, Pea Fiber, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Betaine Hydrochloride, Calcium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Chicory Root (source of Soluble Fiber), Taurine, Calcium Sulfate, Potatoes, Turmeric, Pomegranate, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, L-Threonine, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, L-Tryptophan, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, L-Carnitine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Chondroitin Sulfate, Garlic, Vegetable Juice for color, Salt, Blueberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Lysine, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Copper Sulfate, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.

Pros

  • Several owners reported improved mobility and weight loss after switching to this food.
  • Most dogs absolutely loved the taste of this food (which isn’t always the case with prescription diets).
  • A couple of owners noted how their dogs seemed more energetic after switching to this food. 

Cons

  • Like most prescription diets, this food is relatively pricey. 
  • This is a grain-free diet, which may give some owners pause.

3. DOGSWELL High Protein Kibble

Most Affordable Dog Food for Joint Health

This is a sponsored placement, in which an advertiser pays a fee to be featured in this article. Learn more

Dogswell Nutrisca Hip & Joint Dry Dog Food, High Protein Chicken & Oats Recipe

DOGSWELL High Protein Kibble

A protein-rich kibble that’s specifically designed to support joint health and available at an affordable price.

About: If you’re looking for a kibble that will support your dog’s joint health without breaking the bank, this dry food from DOGSWELL is a great choice. The kibble — which is specifically designed to support your pet’s hips, elbows, and knees — is made with joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as “superfoods” like blueberries and sweet potatoes. 

Features:

  • Formulated with glucosamine and chondroitin  
  • Made without corn, wheat, or soy
  • Whole chicken is the first ingredient
  • Includes taurine, which can help limit inflammation
  • Made in the USA with globally-sourced ingredients

Ingredients List

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oats, Barley, Brown Rice...,

Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Flaxseed, Tomato Pomace,Apples, Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Blueberries, Carrots, Peas, Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, Enterococcus Faecium, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Choline Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin, Iron Proteinate, Pantothenic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Garlic Powder, Chicory Root Extract, Manganese Proteinate, Folic Acid, Chondroitin Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Proteinate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols (Natural Preservative), Sodium Selenite, Rosemary Extract.

Pros

  • Pooch parents loved that this food was affordable and still provided joint-supporting ingredients.
  • Most dogs — even reportedly picky pooches — enjoyed the taste of this kibble.   
  • Some owners noted improvements in their dog’s energy levels and mobility after switching to this dry food. 

Cons

  • A couple of owners found the smell of this food to be pretty strong. 
  • While this food has all the hallmarks of quality, it isn’t an especially well-known brand.

4. Blue Buffalo Large Breed Chicken & Rice

Best Large Breed Dog Food for Joint Health

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Blue Buffalo Large Breed

Blue Buffalo Large Breed Chicken & Rice

A grain-inclusive dry food specifically designed for large breeds and fortified with joint supporting ingredients.

About: In addition to having nutritional requirements that differ from small and medium-sized dogs, many large-breed pups are particularly susceptible to joint issues. But fortunately, there are options — such as Blue Buffalo Large Breed Chicken & Rice — designed specifically for canines in this category. And in addition to the included joint supplements, this recipe is made with an array of impressive ingredients to support your pet’s overall wellbeing.

Features:

  • Designed specially for large breed dogs
  • Includes glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3-rich ingredients
  • Made in the USA
  • Protein-rich, grain-inclusive dog food recipe
  • Made with Blue Buffalo’s antioxidant-packed LifeSource Bits

Ingredients List

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley...,

Pea Starch, Peas, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (Source of Omega 3 And 6 Fatty Acids), Pea Fiber, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Fish Oil (Source of Epa-Eicosapentaenoic Acid), Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dl-Methionine, Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Vitamin E Supplement, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Garlic, L-Carnitine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice For Color, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Chondroitin Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.

Pros

  • This food is loaded with joint-supporting supplements and inflammation-fighting omega-3s.
  • This is a grain-inclusive recipe containing lots of impressive ingredients.
  • Proper calcium to phosphorus ratio for large breed dogs.
  • Fortified with five probiotic strains for gut health.

Cons

  • This food is designed specifically for large breed dogs, so it’s not appropriate for small dogs.
  • Some dogs tend to pick around the LifeSource Bits. 

5. Hill’s Diet Prescription Joint Food

Best Weight Loss Food for Joint Health

This is a sponsored placement, in which an advertiser pays a fee to be featured in this article. Learn more

Hill’s Diet Prescription Joint Food

Hill’s Diet Prescription Joint Food

A veterinarian-designed, prescription-only dog food that aims to support joint health and promote weight loss.

About: It’s important to watch your woofer’s weight if he’s suffering from joint problems. Fortunately, this specialized food from Hill’s Diet makes this easy, as it is designed to support your dog’s joint health while helping portly pups slim down a bit. Just note that this is a prescription food, so you’ll need approval from your veterinarian before the food is shipped to your doorstep. 

Features:

  • Clinically designed to support weight and joint management
  • Includes Omega-3s to combat inflammation  
  • Includes glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health
  • It’s a great source of fiber
  • Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients

Ingredients List

Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Pea Fiber, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Flaxseed...,

Soybean Mill Run, Dried Tomato Pomace, Powdered Cellulose, Wheat Gluten, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Liver Flavor, Fish Oil, Coconut Oil, L-Lysine, Lactic Acid, Pork Liver Flavor, Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Iodized Salt, Carrots, Dicalcium Phosphate, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Lipoic Acid, Choline Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, minerals (Manganese Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Chondroitin Sulfate, Beta-Carotene

Pros

  • Owners reported that even picky pooches seemed to enjoy this recipe. 
  • Some owners saw improvements in their dog’s weight and energy levels after switching to this food. 
  • Unlike Blue Buffalo’s prescription diet, this is a grain-inclusive recipe.

Cons

  • This food doesn’t include any whole meat protein. 
  • This food is relatively expensive since it is part of a prescription diet plan. 

6. Nom Nom Turkey

Best Fresh Dog Food for Joint Health

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Nom Nom

Nom Nom Turkey

A delicious fresh dog food that’s made with premium, US-sourced ingredients and customized for your canine

About: Unfortunately, none of the leading fresh dog foods are specifically designed to support joint health. However, many owners may still find them quite appealing, given the premium ingredients they feature and the lip-smackin’ taste they provide.

Nom Nom is likely the best choice for owners who want a fresh option for dogs with joint issues. The brand’s science team typically recommends their turkey or beef recipes for dogs in these situations, though you should still fill out their entire questionnaire to make sure you end up with the best recipe for your specific dog.

Want more info about this brand? Make sure to also check out our full hands-on review of Nom Nom!

Features:

  • Fresh food is customized for your canine companion’s needs
  • This premium food is made in the USA in small batches
  • Food is fresh-frozen and shipped to your doorstep
  • Most dogs, especially picky eaters, tend to love the taste of Nom Nom’s recipes
  • This recipe is full of omega-3s to help support joint health 

Ingredients List

Ground turkey, brown rice, eggs, carrots, spinach...,

dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, citric acid, potassium chloride, salt, water sufficient for processing, fish oil, choline bitartrate, natural flavor, vinegar, iron amino acid chelate, taurine, zinc gluconate, vitamin E supplement, copper gluconate, niacin (vitamin B3), manganese gluconate, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), selenium yeast, riboflavin (vitamin B2), cholecalciferol (source of vitamin D3), potassium iodide, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement.

Pros

  • Made exclusively with US-sourced ingredients (a rare trait among dog foods).
  • Contains omega-3-rich fish oil to help reduce joint inflammation.
  • Few other foods are as tasty as Nom Nom’s fresh, human-grade recipes.
  • You’ll receive a food that’s specifically formulated for your pooch.

Cons

  • Like all fresh foods, Nom Nom’s meals are very expensive.
  • This recipe is not fortified with glucosamine or chondroitin.

What Kinds of Joint Problems Do Dogs’ Suffer? 

Unfortunately, joint problems are fairly common in dogs. Here are some of the more common conditions that your pooch may experience: 

  • Arthritis: Arthritis (technically termed osteoarthritis) is characterized by the chronic inflammation and degeneration of the cartilage in a dog’s joints. 
  • Dysplasia: Dysplasia occurs when a dog’s joint does not fit correctly into its socket, causing abnormal growth, inflammation, and lameness. 
  • Luxating Patella: A luxating patella is when a dog’s kneecap moves out of place which can be more common in smaller breeds. 
  • Osteochondrosis: This condition occurs as a result of abnormal cartilage development in large breed dogs. 
  • Trauma: Dislocation, fractures, and cruciate ligament tears can all lead to joint problems for pooches. 

The takeaway? Joint problems for dogs can stem from a variety of issues. So, it’s important to see a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of your pooch’s problems so that you can properly address the issues at hand. 

Are Some Breeds More Susceptible to Joint Problems Than Others? 

Labrador Retrievers can have joint problems

Some breeds are more susceptible to joint issues than others based on their build and genetic history. A couple of those breeds include: 

  • German shepherd
  • Dachshund 
  • Labrador
  • Great Dane
  • Mastiff
  • St. Bernard
  • Rottweiler
  • Golden retriever
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • Bernese mountain dog

Signs and Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs 

Are you unsure whether your dog is struggling with joint pain? These are some telltale signs that your dog may be dealing with joint pain. 

  • Limpining
  • Lameness
  • Inability to move
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive licking of one or more joints
  • Yelping when touched 
  • Swollen joints
  • Muscle loss
  • Irritability
  • Hopping when running
  • Slowing down or lack of interest in activities
  • Stiffness

If your pooch is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it’s time to head to the veterinarian. 

How Are Joint Problems Treated for Dogs? 

how to treat bad joints in dogs

There are a number of ways to address joint problems, which you’ll need to discuss with your vet. However, in many cases, feeding a dog food that supports good joint health is a valuable component of your approach. Your veterinarian may provide additional support for Spot through the following methods: 

  • Supplements: Joint support supplements can be a preventative measure for at-risk pups and also help dogs with joint issues feel their best. The two most common supplements are glucosamine and chondroitin. 
  • Medications: Your pooch may be prescribed medication to help cope with chronic pain or inflammation. 
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help strengthen a pooch’s joints and range of motion and is especially a great option for pups who aren’t eligible for surgical intervention. 
  • Management Solutions: Your veterinarian may recommend several lifestyle adjustments to limit your dog’s pain. This could include diet changes or adjustments to your pup’s usual routine or exercise plan. There are a vast array of arthritis treatment solutions for dogs, but a common first step is to work on management options like reducing stairs access, adding ramps to the home, and utilizing back waist slings.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgical intervention – such as an ACL surgery, may be able to correct the source of your furball’s joint issues. 
  • Weight Loss: Your dog’s joint issues could be caused or exacerbated by excess weight. Weight loss can help alleviate some of your dog’s symptoms and make for a happier furry friend. 

***

Unfortunately, plenty of pooches are affected by joint issues at some point in their lives. Thankfully, these joint supportive dog foods can help your furry friend feel his best while managing his joint problems. 

Does your dog suffer from joint issues? Has your pooch tried any of these joint-friendly foods? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below! 

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Written by

Kate Brunotts

Kate is a dog-loving content specialist with over a decade of canine-care experience. She is currently a professional dog walker and pet sitter, with previous experience working at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in Manhattan. When not spending time with four-footers, she can usually be found crafting top-notch dog-care articles that pet parents can trust. Kate loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, but Bernese Mountain Dogs hold a special place in her heart.

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