Arthritis Friendly Dog Diet

dog-with woman eating icecream- diet

When managing your arthritic dogs’ health, an arthritis friendly dog diet containing specific dog food for arthritis is really important. Diet is the cornerstone of good health – this we know. It applies to all living creatures, from man to dogs to salamanders! If the body is not properly nourished, it cannot function to its fullest potential.

With our modern lifestyles we do our best to provide our dogs with the best health we can. For most of us, our furry friend is like another child, sometimes our only child! We can provide proper nutrition throughout their life stages with the help of balanced dog food formulations and veterinary guidance.

Commercially Available Dog Arthritis Diets

There are many different preparations on the market that can help dogs with arthritis. Over-the-counter (OTC) brands and prescription brands are both available. Most of these diets are made with added antioxidants, essential fatty acids (such as omega-3s) and contain GAGs (such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine) to help support joint health.

There is a difference between a prescription dog food for arthritis and an OTC brand and it is not just the price. OTC food is typically appropriate for dogs with very mild arthritis. Think of it as preventative dietary management.

Prescription diets are for dogs that have more moderate arthritis symptoms. Hill’s Science Diet Prescription Diet® Canine j/dTM “contains increased levels of EPA and DHA (types of Omega-3), glucosamine, chondrotin sulfate, Vitamins C and E, and L-carnitine” as do other brands.2

However, dog food companies such as Hill’s Science Diet have invested in studying how their formula affects dogs on the molecular level. Their aim is to include high levels of ingredients found in joint supplements to improve mobility and pain level. Often, prescription diets are fed along with other nutritional supplements and medications.

A prescription arthritis diet can be a good alternative for dogs that are difficult to give supplements or medication. Many OTC joint supplements are in pill or chew forms and they are not necessarily to all dogs’ tastes. Prescription food for arthritis has everything in there and it makes things easier for certain families.

A Custom Diet Plan for Canine Arthritis

Using diet as a way to treat or prevent disease is not a new idea. It is an important part of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). Certain foods have properties that have an effect on the body. If you are interested in creating a custom diet based on TCVM, it is best to have a qualified practitioner diagnose your dog’s arthritis, as this process is different from that in Western-style veterinary practice.

Warming foods are commonly used to treat arthritis in TCVM, such as: chicken, lamb, oats, white rice, tomato, sweet potato, pumpkin, ginger.

It is important to receive a proper TCVM diagnosis and advice on a suitable meal plan. Simply adding warming foods to your dog’s normal diet won’t make a big difference. Your TCVM vet may also recommend continuing or adding specific nutritional supplements for joint support.

Home Cooking Alternatives

Dog food for arthritis can be made at home. Many pet parents don’t have access to TCVM practitioners and still want to provide balanced, holistic, home-cooked meals for their dogs. It can still be done and can encompass the best of both worlds. Balanced recipes can be formulated by veterinary nutritionists (the author prefers the University of California-Davis Nutrition Support Service).

Excellent ingredients that can be incorporated into a balanced home-cooked arthritis diet include:

  • Salmon
  • Whole eggs
  • Rolled oats
  • Quinoa
  • Green-lipped mussel
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Blueberries

A variety of foods, in a variety of colours, should be included in home-cooked dog food for arthritis. The more variety-the more beneficial nutrients, such as Vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids, will be present.

Foods to Avoid

Arthritis diets for dogs should not contain certain foods. Things that are good for humans are not necessarily good for dogs. Some are toxic or could cause chronic health problems. It is best to stay away from commercially available diets and home-cooked recipes that include: macadamia nuts, avocado, chocolate, onions, garlic, foods containing xylitol, citrus, coconut and coconut oil, raw/undercooked meat or eggs.

If you are ever not sure, check the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website before feeding a “people food” to your dog.

Food for Thought: What it Boils Down To

A dog food for arthritis can help with managing pain and improving mobility in certain dogs. It doesn’t hurt to start with a good foundation of nutrition and go from there with your pets treatment plan. Talk to your veterinarian if you are interested in a prescription diet or a referral for a TCVM or balanced home-cooked arthritis friendly dog diet.

For more information check out our review on the Best Dog Food for Arthritis.

Canine arthritis
Deborah with Danger


Written by Dr Deborah Shores, DVM (Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine). Deborah is a freelance writer, consultant and veterinarian with a special interest in pet nutrition.






  1. Forrester, D. Nutritional Management of Impaired Mobility in Dogs. Australian Veterinary Association Proceedings. 2011. Veterinary Information Network.
  2. Frantz, N., Hahn, K. Effect of Prescription Diet® Canine J/DTM on Whole Blood Gene Expression I Dogs with Osteoarthritis. ACVIM Proceedings. 2010. Veterinary Information Network.
  3. Silver, R. The “Natural” Diet: Navigating Pet Food Trends to a Healthy Diet. Wild West Veterinary Conference Proceedings. 2015. Veterinary Information Network.