In recent years, with the explosion of Amazon and other large online retailers like Chewy, there has been a massive surge in the number of dog joint supplements marketed directly to consumers like yourself.
It used to be that when you noticed a problem with your dog’s joints, you would simply go to your veterinarian. They would recommend and sell you a joint supplement which, in their expert opinion, was a trusted, quality product – and that was that.
Nowadays, online shopping has become the norm. Pet owners are far more inclined to hop on their computers to look for supplements rather than schedule an appointment with their veterinarian. And honestly, we get it. The problem is, that the sheer amount of dog joint supplements on the market can be completely overwhelming.
So how do you know which product to choose? How can you be sure a product works? And finally, how do you know who you can trust?
Here’s everything you need to know to be 100% certain you’ve made a quality choice when purchasing your dog’s joint supplements online.
Why Are There So Many Dog Joint Supplements to Choose From?
This is a great question and one I asked myself a few years back when an influx of products was hitting the market. If you’ve ever done even a quick search on Amazon for dog joint supplements, you’ve seen that there are hundreds of products on the market being promoted to consumers for dog joint health (112+ pages of products and more than 200+ “brands,” to be exact).
So why is this?
The reason is referred to as “the low barrier to entry,” i.e. the internet has made it easier than ever before for anyone to create their product to sell directly to consumers – whether they’re qualified to or not. “Barriers to entry” basically describe how easy or difficult it is for new entrants (aka startups) to establish a profitable business in a particular market. For example, starting an eBay business has a low barrier to entry, while starting a luxury car company has a high barrier.
Unfortunately, to sell dog joint supplements in the age of the internet, you no longer have to be a trained veterinarian selling to patients at your office or an established, trusted manufacturer selling out of the storefronts of reputable businesses like Petco. You no longer need training, reputability, a storefront, or even a basic understanding of the science of canine joint health. You don’t even need to worry about FDA standards, as dietary supplements are not controlled by the FDA.
Because of this low barrier to entry, many of the “brands” (for lack of a better word) you can find online are not legitimate companies with doctors and scientists on staff who are committed and qualified to work on animal health, nutrition, or pain management. Sadly it is often the exact opposite – unqualified individuals or groups working out of their homes, just trying to make a quick buck.
How Do You Know If You Can Trust What They Say, or What Their Reviews Say?
Unfortunately, many of these illegitimate “brands” are very skilled at marketing their subpar products, creating beautiful labels, and using all the right catchphrases (“Made in the USA,” “Treats arthritis,” “Safe and effective,” etc.). Many will even go so far as to pay outside individuals to go on sites like Amazon and post fake product reviews, helping to build their review numbers and lure consumers into their false credibility.
As I’m sure you’ve gathered, this is a subject that deeply saddens me. It just kills me that thousands of pet owners across the country, who want nothing more than to help their beloved animals, are being misled – potentially giving their loved ones the wrong supplements, or even worse, products that could damage their pets’ health.
Let me show you one example I found on Amazon to illustrate my point. The image below, posted by a user who had bought the product, shows the extreme variability in the size of chewable dog joint supplements they received. Why is this a problem? The huge difference in size means there is no way you would be able to give your dog consistent quantities of active ingredients with each dose – which is not only potentially dangerous, it is simple Quality Control 101.
So How Do You Know Which Product to Trust?
Now that we understand the potential risk in choosing a joint supplement for your dog online, the question is: As a pet parent, what do you need to know to make the right decision?
The first thing you need to understand is these two truths:
- Not all dog joint supplements are created equal. This also holds for all supplements.
- Not all ingredients used in dog joint supplements are created equal. Even if two supplements have many of the same ingredients, there can be shocking differences in the quality and safety of these ingredients. Again, this is true for most consumable products. For example, chocolate chips cookies from both Company X and Company Y may both have flour, sugar, etc., but one may have organic stone-ground wheat flour while the other has refined white flour.
Pricing Should Be a Red Flag
So how do you tell which supplements have quality ingredients? Your first clue is pricing. In truth, it’s highly unlikely that a dog joint supplement that costs $15 for 60 tablets is the same quality as a dog joint supplement that costs $35 for 60 tablets, even though the label may list many of the same ingredients.
While it’s true that companies with more efficient manufacturing processes or large producers that can make stock in bulk can save on manufacturing costs – and therefore come down somewhat on their prices – here’s the general rule: quality products, made with quality ingredients, are more expensive to manufacture.
Due to the influx of inexpensive, low-quality raw materials from overseas, manufacturers can pump out subpar products at a much lower cost to create products that can compete on price and price alone. Unfortunately for our beloved pets, quality is often an afterthought.
What’s more, many manufacturers who use ingredients from overseas can market their products as “Made in the USA,” as long as their product is assembled in the USA. For dog joint supplements, this means that as long as the ingredients are mixed into the final product in the USA, they’re able to market it this way.
Sadly, this unethical marketing behavior has made it increasingly difficult for consumers to make the right choices for their pets, and equally as hard for manufacturers with integrity to get their message out.
Know the Company, Trust the Company
The most important advice I can pass on to you is this. At the very least, you must make the effort to get to know the company whose supplement you are choosing to give to your dog – and ensure that they are trustworthy.
The simplest way to get to know the company is:
- Search for the product on Google.
- Find the company website. Many untrustworthy companies don’t even have websites, only Facebook Fan Pages – a huge red flag that this is not a real company.
- Briefly read over the site – you can get a good sense of their credibility even by simply doing this. Don’t only look at the about us page but check out their blog and resource centers. Do they blog about joint health issues? Do they have helpful educational resources for you as a pet owner?
- See if you can find an address or a phone number with which you can speak to a live person. The vast majority of illegitimate companies never want you to find them or contact them, because they are not real companies, with real employees.
- Call the company and ask the following questions:
- How long have they been in business?
- What is their background in animal nutrition?
- Where do they source their raw materials from?
The Quick Take Away
At the end of the day, you and your alone are your dog’s advocate. We live in an incredible time in which we have access to everything at our fingertips. This can be extremely empowering, and also extremely dangerous. Therefore it is critical that as we consume information and purchase products online (especially those we or our loved ones ingest), we proceed with caution about who we listen to and trust.
At TopDog Health, we truly believe integrity is everything. Without integrity, you have no foundation on which to build. Our core mission is to help dogs Get Better, Feel Better, and Stay Better™. The best way we know how to do this is to create quality products that truly help the dogs we love so much and to educate and serve pet parents like yourself.
When TopDog Health develops any new product, I put my time and effort into making sure it is the best it can be. For example, GlycanAid HA was formulated after I observed time and time again that the joint supplements on the market were not working for my rehabilitation clients and senior dogs. Then I created the formula for our dog joint supplement Flexerna through meticulous testing and sourced the highest-quality ingredients I could find, including the omega-3 powerhouse called the green-lipped mussel, found in New Zealand in some of the purest waters of the world. You can learn more about Flexerna and the green-lipped mussel here.
When it comes to our pets’ health and well-being, relying on the training and expertise of professionals (i.e. veterinarians) who have invested their time and dedicated their lives to animal health is always a failsafe option. But if you do choose to get your dog’s supplements online, doing your research about the company that manufactures the product can make all the difference. It will be well worth your time, and your dog will thank you in the long run.