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About the Joint Health Report

In November of 2018, we launched our health assessment, an in-depth survey that 15,000+ pet parents like yourself have completed to date, creating one of the largest and most extensive repositories of dog and cat data anywhere. The information shared with us has helped contribute to peer-reviewed pet science, develop new products and better understand your unique needs. Now, it’s time for us to give back to everyone who’s generously taken the time to tell us about their pets.

Tackling joint health

While joint issues are a common issue for many dogs, some dogs are predisposed to particular issues due to a combination of age, size, genetics and potentially microbiome makeup. In our joint report, we track the prevalence of common joint issues by different risk factors that your dog may have, so you can get a better idea of which joint issues may appear in your pet, how to prevent or delay them and how to manage current discomfort.

Signs of these conditions usually appear the same to a pet parent, and often include stiffness, lameness, and a lack of desire to engage in physical activities. However, these symptoms may not be very evident in more stoic dogs, which is why it's important to know the risk factors. A trained veterinarian can make a correct diagnosis through a physical examination, though sometimes x-rays may also be required. 

Arthritis was the most common issue, affecting 12% of all dogs in our survey, arthritis is much more common in older and larger dogs, typically appearing in two forms: 

  • Osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage in the joints break down due to age, injury, or stress. 
  • Immune-mediated polyarthritis (IMPA), the canine equivalent of rheumatoid arthritis which occurs when the immune system mounts an inflammatory response within the joints. 

In our dataset, we found that current overweightness and obesity significantly increased the likelihood of developing arthritis, especially as dogs age. We found that previous weight issues are also related, even when controlling for current weight. This means that parents of dogs with current or past weight issues should be especially alert for symptoms of joint issues. 

Dysplasia, which may occur in the hip or elbow, is another condition that increases in likelihood with size. Unlike osteoarthritis, it's a developmental condition, meaning that the age of onset is often younger. Dysplasia occurs when the ball of a bone and the socket where it rests don't grow at equal rates; this causes looseness or dislocation in the joint.

Luxating patella is another relatively common congenital condition in dogs, however unlike arthritis and dysplasia, it's more likely to occur in small dogs. Luxating patella occurs when the knee cap becomes loose or dislocated and can occur in four grades, with more serious cases requiring surgery.

What our data says

While these three conditions are distinct, developing one condition could make it more likely for another to follow suit. In our database, we found that dogs with dysplasia are six times more likely to have arthritis, and dogs with a luxating patella are four times more likely to have arthritis, as compared to dogs without any other joint issues. 

Our joint issues report has further suggestions for prevention and management: Even without surgery, these conditions can often be managed through a combination of physical therapy, drugs such as anti-inflammatories and low-impact exercise for weight control. Adding a joint health supplement is also a common way to prevent or manage joint issues. 

Our guide to evidence-based joint health is a great place to build your understanding of how these ingredients can help.