Report: Dietary supplements gaining popularity as aging dogs fight arthritis

The Morris Animal Foundation has been tracking 3,000 golden retrievers since 2012, seeking information about common health conditions in dogs and how they're treated. One of the most widely reported problems in large-breed dogs is osteoarthritis, and now the foundation has gained some early insight into one of the most popular remedies sought out by dog owners to manage this painful condition: dietary supplements.

According to an epidemiologist who studied the questionnaires filled out regularly by dog owners who participate in the research, called the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, about 14% of participants give their pets some sort of joint supplement. That number tracks closely with data reported in 2012 by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), which found that 12% of people give their dogs supplements, with joint-health pills the most sought-after choices.

The most popular joint supplements for dogs are chondroitin and glucosamine--the combo that is also the most widely used among participants in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, according to a Morris Foundation blog entry. Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 20% of dogs in their lifetime, reports Morris, and veterinarians report that their clients often ask for advice about using supplements alone or as adjuncts to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) that are most frequently prescribed to treat the condition.

There will likely be many more alternatives to NSAIDs available to dog owners in the future, as several animal-health companies are researching new treatments for osteoarthritis in pets. They include Parnell Pharmaceuticals ($PARN), which is seeking FDA approval for Zydax, its drug that inhibits an osteoarthritis-causing enzyme called aggrecanase-1. Parnell also markets a nutraceutical called Glyde to treat the disease.

Still, Morris predicts the supplement market for dogs will continue to expand--growth that it expects will be reflected in the group of golden retrievers it is tracking. The foundation plans to collect data on the dogs in the study for 15 years. "We anticipate that other joint conditions, such as cruciate ligament rupture and hip dysplasia will occur as our study population ages," the blog item says, "and we expect the number of dogs receiving joint support supplements to increase over time."

- here's the Morris Foundation report