Systematic review of efficacy of nutraceuticals to alleviate clinical signs of osteoarthritis

J Vet Intern Med. 2012 May-Jun;26(3):448-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-1676.2012.00901.x. Epub 2012 Mar 9.


Background: Various treatments of osteoarthritis (OA) have been described, including use of nutraceuticals.

Objectives: To review systematically the literature about the effects of nutraceuticals on clinical signs of pain or abnormal locomotion in horses, dogs, and cats, and to discuss methodological aspects of trials and systematic reviews.

Methods: A systematic search of controlled trials evaluating the impact of nutraceuticals on OA in horses, dogs, and cats was performed, using Medline, CAB Abstracts, and Google Scholar. Scientific evidence was evaluated by means of criteria proposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and a scoring system adapted from both the CONsolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement and recommendations for assessing trials by the Center of Evidence Based Medicine of Oxford.

Results: Twenty-two papers were selected and reviewed, with 5 studies performed in horses, 16 in dogs, and 1 in cats. The strength of evidence was low for all nutraceuticals except for omega-3 fatty acid in dogs. There were limited numbers of rigorous randomized controlled trials and of participants in clinical trials.

Conclusions and clinical importance: The evidence of efficacy of nutraceuticals is poor, with the exception of diets supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids in dogs. Greater access to systematic reviews must be part of the objectives of the veterinary science in the future. Their reporting would be improved by internationally agreed-upon criteria for standards and guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Cats
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Dog Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Dogs
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Horse Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Horses
  • Osteoarthritis / diet therapy
  • Osteoarthritis / veterinary*