Is a Cat Joint Supplement Right for Your Cat’s Arthritis and Inflammation?

This post contains affiliate links. Read more here. Not a substitute for professional veterinary help….

  • This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

If you use glucosamine, chondroitin, or any other supplements for your own arthritis and have a cat who’s suffering from joint pain, you’ve probably wondered if there are cat-specific versions of those supplements—and whether they could help your cat. The answer is: maybe. And it’s certainly worth talking with your vet about adding a cat joint supplement to your kitty’s nutritional routine. These formulas can include glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamin B12, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and omega-3 amino acids—often sold in combination.

A year ago, a friend suggested that I ask our vet about a particular joint supplement for Zoe, my elderly tabby. I shrugged it off at the time—the vet hadn’t said anything about it—but poor Zoe’s spinal arthritis kept getting worse. I could tell it hurt her to go up and down the stairs. Meanwhile, Max, our older Siberian mix, was also showing signs of joint pain. So on their next vet visit, I asked about supplements for them. The vet said that it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try. She recommended a particular brand that had worked for other cats, and I got it.

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Fast forward six months: Zoe moves like a younger cat now, seems far more cheerful, and has resumed leaping up on the sink to beg for the faucet to be turned on. Max? Absolutely no difference in mood or activity. (So we’re helping Max out with raised food and water bowls, easy-access cat trees, and a large orthopedic pet bed.)

There are few (if any) large-scale studies supporting the effectiveness of joint supplements for cats, so we don’t know why joint supplements seem to help one cat but not another. Veterinarian Cailin Heinze, an assistant professor of nutrition in the department of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says that vets are recommending cat joint supplements based on anecdotal evidence about cats like Zoe.

“The good news is that there are studies in other animals and anecdotal reports indicating that these substances may improve comfort in some situations—perhaps through an anti-inflammatory mechanism,” Heinze says in a comprehensive article on cat joint supplements for Bay State Animals. “And if you’re using a high-quality product from a reputable source—a product that actually contains what the supplier says it contains—then the safety level is pretty high.”

How to Choose a Cat Joint Supplement

When it comes to choosing a cat joint supplement, it pays to be picky. Check out online reviews and you’ll discover upset pet owners who feel their cats were harmed by contaminated or fake supplements.

Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about what, if any, supplements your pet needs. In general, be aware that ingredients in some herbal supplements can interact with medication, which is why it’s important to tell your veterinarian about all of your cat’s medications and supplements before adding a joint supplement to the mix.

Dr. Gary Richter, an award-winning vet and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, offers these helpful guidelines on choosing cat joint supplements:

  • Look for brands that have commissioned clinical studies of their products.
  • Read labels carefully to ensure quality and safety.
  • Look for a lot number on the product. This is a sign that the company uses quality control checks.
  • Choose brands with confirmed expertise.
  • Be wary of claims that sound too good to be true. Vitamin supplements are just that—supplements. They are not cure-alls or medications.
  • Do not give human supplements to your cat, as they may contain ingredients that are harmful to cats.
  • In general, the best options will be available through your veterinarian.

The bottom line about joint supplements for cats: Talk to your vet first before introducing any nutritional supplement into your pet’s diet.

A Variety of Cat Joint Supplements

You can buy cat joint supplements in liquid, chew, capsule, or powder form (many of the capsules are designed to be opened, and you can sprinkle the oil or powdered contents into food). They can include just a few ingredients, or a long list of components such as glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamin B12, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and omega-3 amino acids. Here are some that get top ratings from pet parents; unless otherwise noted, they are made in the U.S.:

Cosequin cat joint supplement

The only cat joint health supplement brand that published, controlled U.S. studies have shown to be effective, safe, and bioavailable (having an active effect), Cosequin is manufactured following standards similar to those practiced by the pharmaceutical industry. Cosequin helps support cartilage production and protect existing cartilage from breakdown. You can give your cat a capsule, or sprinkle the capsule contents onto their food.

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Vetoquinol Omega liquid cat joint supplement

Add omega-3 fatty acids to your cat’s food with this liquid-format cat joint supplement that has fish oil as its main ingredient. The pump bottle makes for an extra-convenient supplement dispenser; made in Canada.

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Naturvet cat joint supplement chews

This chew-type supplement includes glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), vitamins, and omega-3. You’ll want to give your cat the chew with or after a meal to reduce the chance of stomach upset.

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Glycoflex cat joint supplement chews

Glycoflex bite-size chews are joint supplements formulated specifically for cats and are based on the stage of the cat’s joint issues. This Stage II product contains glucosamine, Perna canaliculus (from the green-lipped mussel), and other joint-support ingredients.

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Nordic omega-3

Nordic Naturals offers an omega-3 cat joint supplement made from sustainable anchovies and sardines. The dropper allows you to measure the dosage based on your pet’s body weight. It stays fresh for three months after opening and contains fish oil and d-alpha tocopherol.

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VetriScience omega cat joint support formula

This comprehensive fatty acid formula for cats and dogs is rich in ALA, GLA, EPA, and DHA, from borage seed, flaxseed, and fish. It combines the health benefits of all the important omega fatty acids: 3, 6, and 9. The recommended dose for cats is a capsule every other day—the capsules can be opened and the contents mixed with food.

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Nutrimax capsules

This supplement delivers omega-3 fatty acids in a soft gel capsule. Twist or break it and squeeze the oil onto the cat’s food.

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Further Reading

Featured image by Sterna Is/Unsplash