This Month in Dog Health: November 2022

Cover Image for This Month in Dog Health: November 2022
Brennen McKenzie, MA, MSc, VMD
by Brennen McKenzie, MA, MSc, VMD

1. Dog Aging Project Investigates Joint Supplement Use in Dogs

Nutritional supplements, for humans and for dogs, are big business, with products available targeting many different health conditions. The most common type of supplements taken by people, and also given to dogs, are intended to support joint health and combat one of the most common diseases of aging in dogs—arthritis. Whether these supplements actually help is controversial, but they are very popular.

A recent study by the Dog Aging Project (DAP) investigated characteristics of companion dogs associated with the use of joint supplements. About 37% of dogs in the study were given a joint supplement, which is more than the 20% of humans who take these products. Dogs more prone to arthritis, including those who were older, larger, and overweight, were the most likely to be receiving a joint supplement. About 70% of dogs with a diagnosis of arthritis were given one of these supplements, again more than the 34% of people with arthritis who take them.

The Dog Aging Project is a large, ongoing research study into healthy aging, so many of these dogs will be followed over time. Future DAP studies may help us to understand not only who uses canine joint supplements and why, but whether they can actually help prevent or treat arthritis.

Read the full study on DAP’s research into joint supplements.

2. Cannabis for Dogs?

Most people associate cannabis with its recreational use in humans, and all the controversy around that. But one of the chemicals in cannabis, CBD (cannabidiol), has some exciting potential medical uses.  There is some evidence this compound might help with arthritis pain in dogs, though not all the studies show this effect. Research has demonstrated that CBD can help suppress seizures in children with certain kinds of epilepsy, and there is interest in the potential use of CBD in canine epilepsy patients.

A study published in 2019 failed to find much benefit from CBD alone, but a recent paper using a cannabis extract with a mixture of compounds is more encouraging. Though only fourteen dogs were included, and all were taking multiple other medications for their epilepsy, the cannabis extract did seem to reduce the frequency of seizures compared with a placebo. Hopefully, future research will clarify which compounds from cannabis are useful and which epileptic dogs they may help.

Here’s more information on cannabis in dogs.

3. Helping Rescue Dogs find a Forever Home

Many of us know the joy of finding a lifelong friend at an animal shelter or through a dog rescue organization. For both dogs and humans, a successful adoption can be life changing. Unfortunately, not all rescued dogs stay forever with their adoptive humans, and understanding why some adopted dogs are returned can help rescue organizations do a better job of preparing both dogs and humans for a successful adoption. A recent study from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Queensland Australia adds some useful insight to this topic.

The good news is that only about 15% of adopted dogs were subsequently returned, meaning the vast majority of adoptions were successful. Most dogs returned after adoption were brought back within the first two weeks after adoption, often due to concerns about behavior. This suggests that more aggressive support for new owners might reduce adoption failure rates. Larger dogs were more likely to be returned, and also dogs with certain coat colors, such as white and brindle. Breed may also influence the success of adoptions, though the relationship between size, coat color, and breed to adoption success is complicated. Many rescue dogs are mixed breed, and appearance often does not accurately reflect breed, so it is difficult to be certain how important this factor is in ensuring a good fit between dogs and owners.

One encouraging finding is that dogs who spent time in foster homes were more likely to have a successful adoption. The experience of living in a foster home may be a critical element in preparing rescue dogs for successful adoption. Finally, this study did not find any evidence that dogs adopted during COVID-19 lockdowns were likely to be returned when these restrictions were lifted, suggesting many “pandemic puppies” are still living happily in their forever homes!

See the full analysis on adopted dogs in this study.

4. Does Your Dog Love You More than Food?

Dog lovers are prone to boasting about how much our dogs love us. How could we doubt it when they show us every day? Despite this, sometimes skeptical curmudgeons like to suggest that it is not us our dogs really love, but the food we give them. Is there any scientific evidence to help us resolve this controversial debate? Well, just a little.

A recent study has taken a stab at this by giving dogs a choice between their owners and a bowl of food, after they had been deprived of both for a few hours. The dogs, as always, did their best to spare our delicate human feelings. About 70% of the time, they approached and greeted their owners first, before investigating the bowl of food. After that, though, they spent about the same amount of time enjoying the meal as interacting with their humans. So diplomatic!

The researchers also gave hand-reared wolves the same choice. While wolves have been shown to bond to familiar people, domestication has clearly made our dogs much more invested in us than their lupine cousins. The wolves in this study went straight to the food 75% of the time, and they spent about 80% of their time chowing down rather than hanging with their humans. Clearly dogs are still humankind’s best friends.

Dive deeper into this study on dogs vs wolves and their bonds with humans.


  1. Hoffman JM, Tolbert MK, Promislow DEL and The Dog Aging Project Consortium (2022) Demographic factors associated with joint supplement use in dogs from the Dog Aging Project. Front. Vet. Sci. 9:906521. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2022.906521
  2. Garcia GA, Kube S, Carrera-Justiz S, Tittle D and Wakshlag JJ (2022) Safety and efficacy of cannabidiol-cannabidiolic acid rich hemp extract in the treatment of refractory epileptic seizures in dogs. Front. Vet. Sci. 9:939966. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2022.939966
  3. Thumpkin, E.; Paterson, M.B.A.; Morton, J.M.; Pachana, N.A. Adoption Can Be a Risky Business: Risk Factors Predictive of Dogs Adopted from RSPCA Queensland Being Returned. Animals 2022, 12, 2568. ani12192568
  4. Isernia L, Wynne CDL, House L, Feuerbacher EN. Dogs and wolves differ in their response allocation to their owner/caregiver or food in a concurrent choice procedure. Peer J 10:312834;, 2022.
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