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Arthritis in German Shepherds

Arthritis in German Shepherds

Large and giant dog breeds are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that leads to a loss of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bone.

The breakdown of cartilage results in inflammation, pain, and further degeneration of the joint. Like their human counterparts, this can reduce quality of life and make enjoying regular activities more difficult.

german shepherd arthritis supplement

Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis in German Shepherds

The German shepherd is the second most popular breed among the 193 registered breeds of the American Kennel Club. The characteristics of the German shepherd can be summed up as highly intelligent, courageous, confident, and steady. The German shepherd is commonly used in roles such as herding, guarding, police, military, and guide-dog.  Similar to other large breeds the German shepherd has specific vulnerabilities that predispose them to osteoarthritis.

  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) – German shepherds rank lower in the incidence of hip dysplasia. However, at 19.8% its occurrence is significant and should still be monitored as part of routine health checks (OFA, 2020).

Although rare the following conditions can masquerade as CHD and should be ruled out (OFA, 2020):

  • Canine Myasthenia Gravis is a neuromuscular disorder that results in muscle weakness and fatigue with mild exercise

  • Degenerative Myelopathy is a neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord leading to weakness and paralysis

  • Hock Walking The hock of a dog is the equivalent of the human angle. Hock walking is an over angulation of the hock that places strain on the hips and leads to an irregular gait. Breeding geared towards angulation of the hock in German shepherds can result in this condition (Veterinarians.org, 2022).
  • Elbow dysplasia – Elbow dysplasia shows a strong genetic link in German shepherds and can become apparent before 6 months of age. The incidence of elbow dysplasia is estimated to be between 12 – 21% (UFAW, 2011)

*Hip and elbow dysplasia should be regularly screened by a veterinarian, since this can leave this breed vulnerable to osteoarthritis and other health concerns.

Other risk factors that predispose your dog to osteoarthritis include:

  • Body Weight – German shepherds are not a breed inclined to overeat. However, too many treats can lead to an overweight companion of any breed. The German shepherd is highly rewards motivated which can make it tempting to offer a few too many treats. Consider offering verbal praise, a favorite toy, or a trip to the dog park instead of treats.  A healthy male should weigh 65 to 90 pounds, while a healthy female should weigh 50 to 70 pounds (AKC, 2022).

  • Age, particularly middle-age to senior or older dogs

  • Repetitive stress from athletic activities such as agility, flyball, or diving

  • Injuries such as fractures or ligament tears

  • Prior diagnosis of hip or elbow dysplasia

  • Infections that affect the joints, such as Lyme Disease

  • Improper nutrition

Recommended Health Tests for German Shepherds include:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation

*(AKC, 2022)

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Signs of Osteoarthritis in German Shepherds

Several signs may indicate your pet has osteoarthritis. Keep in mind that our companions are genetically inclined to hide their discomfort so regular checkups at the vet are important for the early detection of osteoarthritis. If you notice your dog exhibiting signs of osteoarthritis, have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian, who will perform a full physical examination which includes palpation of the joints, range of motion assessment, and X-rays of the affected joints.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin problems
  • Bunny hopping gait
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Enlarged shoulder muscles
  • Exhaustion
  • Grating in the joints 
  • Hind-limb lameness, whether intermittent or permanent
  • Joint laxity 
  • Loss of balance
  • Lowered energy levels
  • Narrowed stance
  • Pain while walking, running, etc.
  • Unable to play as before
  • Reluctance to run, jump, or go up and down the stairs 
  • Stiffness
  • Swaying while walking
  • Trouble rising


Supporting Joint Health

Joint functionality is impacted by many factors such as weight, activity, and nutrition. Additionally, supplementation with PCQ Pet has been shown to provide significant benefits that result in a better quality of life for your companion. Remember, before beginning any new regimen discuss all treatment options with your veterinarian to ensure the best outcome for your pet.

  • Weight control plays the most significant role in OA management. In addition to the increased wear on joints due to excessive weight, fat releases inflammatory compounds that further contribute to joint degeneration. An ideal body weight allows you to 1) feel your dog’s ribs but not see them; 2) see an hourglass figure when viewed from above; 3) see a tucked-up belly when viewed from the side*.
  • Limit high-impact activities such as running or jumping which can lead to more inflammation and pain. Replace these activities with controlled activities like leash walks. Encourage joint stability and muscle strengthening with low impact consistent exercise*.
  • Range of motion exercises, therapeutic exercises, and aqua therapy such as an underwater treadmill or swimming, can help to improve joint mobility, increase muscle mass, and exercise endurance*.


*(ACVS, 2022)

Supplements for German Shepherds

Common supplements for supporting joint health include glucosamine and chondroitin. A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin was shown in a randomized, double-blind, positive controlled, multi-center trial of 35 dogs to improve scores for pain, weight-bearing, and severity of the condition by day 70 (McCarthy et al, 2007).


  • DHA and EPA from marine sources were shown in one study to suppress matrix degradation in cartilage explants. However, they were not able to reduce the expression of inflammatory cytokines IL1B and (TNF)-a (Buddhachat et al, 2017).


  • Supplementing with Vital Pet Sciences PCQ Pet™. The breakdown of cartilage leads to an inflammatory cascade that causes further loss and degeneration of the joint.

    Good nutrition provides important building components for joints. However, inflammation will continue to contribute to joint breakdown if it is not adequately addressed. The mechanisms involved in inflammation involve multiple pathways. Therefore, effective supplementation will be multimodal in action.

    PCQ Pet™ impacts three major mediators of inflammation: nuclear factor (NF)-kB, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-a, and cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 via peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-a. 



In January 2020, preliminary data was announced from a landmark study on PCQ Pet™ in older dogs at Texas A&M Veterinary School.

In the clinical study, older dogs taking PCQ Pet experienced the following:

  1. 58% reduction in pain interference
  2. 57% improvement in quality of life
  3. 32% reduction in pain severity

The university findings were considered astonishing by the scientific research team, who stated that the effects were "better than glucosamine". 

The preliminary findings on the effects of PCQ Pet by the university researchers also included:

  • Older dogs taking PCQ Pet™ experience lower inflammation within weeks, as measured by level of physical activity.*
  • Older dogs taking PCQ Pet™ are active for almost an hour a day.*
  • Older dogs taking PCQ Pet™ do not experience a decline in activity level over time.*
  • Many dogs taking PCQ Pet™ show a significant increase in activity after taking PCQ+ Ultra.*
  • Older dogs taking PCQ Pet™ remained active and healthy, especially through the winter months.*
  • Dogs preferred taking PCQ Pet™ when sprinkled onto their food.*


After years of research and extensive market trials, the conclusions on the patent-pending formula in PCQ Pet are clear:

  • Dogs taking PCQ Pet™ experienced a significant increase in physical activity and exercise*.
  • Dogs taking PCQ Pet™ were more likely to stay active and healthy through their middle age and golden years*.


Vital Pet Sciences’ PCQ Pet™ anti-inflammatory supplement for dogs is university-researched to quickly reduce inflammation in dogs. 

PCQ Pet™ is different than other supplements for dogs, because it contains the body’s own anti-inflammatory, PEA, along with other anti-inflammatory ingredients, like standardized turmeric extract. PCQ Pet contains a specific ratio of PEA, turmeric and quercetin that was found to have synergistic activity on inflammation in university research, and was found to be an effective supplement for large and small dogs who suffer from pain and inflammation.

*Findings based on clinical and in vitro assays finding synergistic reduction in inflammatory markers, including a pilot clinical study on 7 older dogs with osteoarthritis of hip and knee, conducted at Texas A&M University Veterinary School.

Disclaimer: The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.



Smith, G. K., Mayhew, P. D., Kapatkin, A. S., McKelvie, P. J., Shofer, F. S., & Gregor, T. P. (2001). Evaluation of risk factors for degenerative joint disease associated with hip dysplasia in German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 219(12), 1719–1724. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.2001.219.1719