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How Can Marine Omega-3 Nutrients from Krill Improve Mobility in Cats and Dogs

Blog overview

Today, our domesticated pets live longer and more active, partly due to pet owners’ proactive approach to nutrition and medical treatments. Despite this, pets can still be afflicted by conditions that are difficult to treat. 

Mobility problems and joint issues are increasingly common in cats and dogs, with osteoarthritis (OA) being the most prevalent of all degenerative diseases. This disorder affects both muscles and the skeleton, and it is accompanied by a vicious circle of self-enforcing chronic inflammation which accelerates the OA condition and negatively impacts the immune system.  

At present, there is no effective cure for this disorder, which is why the therapeutic goal is to enhance the quality of life by reducing symptoms, improving motor function, and supporting immunity. To achieve this, pain relief and finding the right treatments to reduce chronic inflammation are key.


Treatment options to manage OA symptoms in pets

Medication usually recommended for OA patients is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which successfully manages pain. However, a delay in the progression of OA by the drug has not been well documented.

In addition, the long-term usage of these medications often comes with side effects, such as gastrointestinal irritation and strain on the liver and nervous system, among others. Given these potentially harmful side effects, it has become increasingly relevant to find natural ways of managing pets’ OA symptoms. 

For the past 20 years, several studies have been conducted to identify nutraceuticals that have a positive effect on OA in both cats and dogs. The most studied nutrients are probably marine omega-3s (EPA and DHA), glucosamine and chondroitin, collagen, and most recently, cannabinoids.

Read more: Krill is Nature’s Superfood for Combating Chronic Inflammation in Pets


All of these nutrients are believed to reduce chronic inflammation (anti-inflammatory), protect cells against damage (anti-oxidative), and slow down muscle breakdown (anti-catabolic). However, the question remains whether they are equally effective in reducing OA symptoms and increasing the quality of life in pets.


Nutritional management of OA in pets

Many studies are currently available on the nutritional management of OA in dogs, however, there are significantly fewer in cats. One possible reason for this is that cats are less expressive in their behavior, making pain assessment more difficult.

This is unfortunate since they are just as likely to be afflicted by OA symptoms as dogs. More feline studies are warranted, however, the few studies that have been conducted are of high quality and can give guidance as to the course of treatment.

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis on nutraceuticals for managing OA in cats and dogs (Barbeau-Grégoire et al, 2022) compared 57 different studies (54 on dogs, 3 on cats) involving, amongst others, collagen, cannabinoids, glucosamine/chondroitin and marine omega-3s.

The review aimed to evaluate their evidence for pain management by the nutrients, which were provided through therapeutic diets or as stand-alone supplements.

When looking into pain relief offered by collagen, glucosamine/chondroitin and cannabinoids in dogs the distribution of efficacy in the trials varied between these three nutrient treatments, even though they all are believed to reduce inflammation and protect body cells and muscles from damage.




The compiled results presented for collagen initially indicate that it could have the potential to reduce pain in OA management. However, the researchers point out that the collagen studies were of poor quality and diverse in parameters, making it impossible to determine whether this nutrient has a significant impact on OA pain symptoms.

Studies on glucosamine/chondroitin show strong evidence for no effect on pain, and the researchers do not recommend these nutrients as a means of OA pain management in dogs. They add that recent meta-studies on the effect of glucosamine/chondroitin in humans show similar results of no significant pain relief.

For cannabinoids, the studies were few but of good quality, showing solid evidence of an effect in dogs, according to the researchers. Whether this nutrient should be recommended for pain relief for OA in dogs remains to be seen once more studies are conducted, but the results so far are promising.  

Read more: How important is the right omega-3 in a pet's diet?


Studies on marine omega-3s for pain management in OA were conducted in both cats (3 studies) and dogs (15 studies). They were all of high quality, and the review found that these fatty acids (EPA and DHA) have a significant positive effect on pain management, regardless of whether they are delivered in the diet or as a supplement.


The diagram above shows a higher distribution of efficacy from omega-3 in supplement form compared to diet form. The cause of this is more likely due to factors like the therapeutic diet group being well–nourished from before or differences in the digestibility and availability of the nutrients provided, rather than the format in which the omega-3 is provided to the pet.

The reason for the omega-3s' efficient pain relief is most likely their strong anti-inflammatory effects, limiting the vicious circle of inflammation. Like NSAIDs, the marine omega-3s inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory components, but in a slightly different way. Instead of blocking the components that cause inflammation, as NSAIDs do, omega-3s use them to produce new components with the opposite effect.

This is effective but the notable pain relief comes less acute than with NSAIDs, since omega-3 must first be implemented into cell membranes to provide its effects. The implementation takes a few weeks and requires a steady dietary intake of marine omega-3s over time.

However, when established, a long-lasting effect on pain can be achieved. Also, omega-3s slow down muscle damage by reducing the production of harmful enzymes. This helps the cat or dog maintain better mobility and skeleton support.


Omega-3s - a powerful solution for managing pain in osteoarthritis

The review concluded that omega-3 is a highly effective nutrient for the management of feline and canine OA. By providing it daily through a high-quality complete diet, pets achieve every-day compliance to an effective treatment in addition to staying well-nourished.

The right nutrition is essential when it comes to withstanding the negative effects of OA-induced chronic inflammation in the immune system, body tissue, and vital organs. 

Formulating a diet that includes functional nutrients such as marine omega-3s and antioxidants can help improve several health conditions, including canine and feline osteoarthritis.

Read more: Why is Krill the Hero Ingredient in Pet Food


Krill is an ingredient that offers superior phospholipid omega-3s, astaxanthin, and choline, in addition to being a complete protein source. Including krill in your pet's food contributes to high-quality diets and, at the right inclusion level, may help prevent mobility issues and joint discomfort in both cats and dogs.


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Blog overview