Collagen for Dogs: Myth vs. Reality
by Tudor Nikolas on Nov 16, 2023.
Collagen is a protein found abundantly in the body of animals, as well as humans. Due to its benefits and affordability, collagen has gained significant attention in the pet wellness industry.
The main types of animals that are most likely to benefit from extra collagen are dogs and horses. These tend to be the most active in terms of joint motion and overall activity levels.
However, with popularity also comes misconceptions. In this post, I am going to use my dog nutrition background to separate the myths from the reality of collagen supplementation.
Collagen is the most abundant type of protein in all mammals. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the structure and integrity of various tissues, mostly skin, bones, and joints. Think of it as a mesh keeping everything structurally together.
Types of Collagen
There are several types of collagen, each sourced differently – from bovine to marine or even plant sources. However, the plant collagen is not actually true collage, BUT it is thought to be more of a stimulant for the body to produce more collagen.
Although in total there are 28 different types of collagen identified, there are two main ones that contribute to the majority of the functions.
Type I Collagen
Type I collagen makes up over 90% of the collagen in a dog’s body. It contributes to the resilient structure of skin, bones, tendons, joints, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue and even teeth. It’s usually sourced from both bovine or marine collagen sources.
Type II Collagen
Type II collagen is the one most responsible for cushioning joints, and is also vital for building cartilage. This also comes from bovine sources and bovine collagen is thought to be most important for joint health.
Type II bovine collagen is also the main ingredient in our own collagen for dogs supplement. We have also added other beneficial ingredients such as glucosamine and hyaluronic acid to come up with a unique and beneficial formulation.
Type III Collagen
Type III collagen is the second most abundant collagen after type I. This contributes to the healthy functioning of the muscles, organs and arteries within the body. The best source for dogs of type III collagen is bone marrow.
So what are some of the myths?
Myth #1: Collagen Supplements are Unnecessary for Dogs
A common misconception is that dogs don't need collagen supplements. However, just as in humans, a dog’s natural collagen production decreases with age. That’s not to say that they will completely stop producing it, but the lack of it can make their bones and joints worse with age. Supplementing it on the other end can give the bones and joints a kick start and help preserve their good function.
Studies such as this one from 2021 shows that collagen supplementation has shown an improvement in joint mobility in dogs with osteoarthritis. (Source) This second study from 2014 also confirms an improvement in mobility and pain control of 105 labradors diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. (Source)
Supplementing with collagen can therefore support dog’s joint health, bones and their coat too.
Myth #2: All Collagen Supplements are the Same
The market is flooded with various collagen supplements, leading to the belief that all are equal. However, the source and type of collagen, along with the manufacturing process, play a very important role in its efficacy.
For dogs with osteoarthritis, Type II collagen is often the most recommended by vets. This is ideal for joint health. The best source of type II is from healthy bovine sources.
The bovine source is important as well, because some cows are going to be healthier than others. Try and go for a manufacturer that’s based either in the UK or EU if you are buying locally.
Myth #3: Collagen is Only Beneficial for Older Dogs
While it's true that older dogs might benefit more visibly from collagen due to age-related degeneration, this doesn't mean younger dogs can't benefit.
Collagen can still support healthy joints by aiding their function and stimulating cartilage production. This could delay the onset of osteoarthritis in the first place.
If you know a supplement will help the joints once you have arthritis, why not take that same supplement to delay the onset of osteoarthritis for as long as possible?
On top of that, collagen supplementation in dogs may also contribute to a healthy coat and skin and this is going to be beneficial at any stage of aging.
Myth #4: Collagen Supplements Have Immediate Effects
Let’s face it. No dietary supplement is going to give you immediate results. If anyone says otherwise, they are lying so they can sell you their product.
Typically, improvements in joint health and skin condition after starting collagen supplementation can taken several weeks or months of consistent daily use.
One recent meta analysis (the highest level of research) showed a wide timeline in terms of benefits. The participants took collagen supplements between 10 and 48 weeks across five different studies. They all showed an improvement in arthritis symptoms. (Source)
The duration is therefore going to vary, but generally I would say that your dog should take daily collagen for at least 2 months before they can expect to get any benefits. Possibly even longer before those benefits become objectively noticeable by yourself.
Myth #5: Collagen Supplements Can Replace a Balanced Diet
Collagen supplements are just that – supplements. They are not intended to replace a balanced diet but rather to complement it. It’s still important for your dog to have the essential nutrients and protein that we would expect from nutritious dog food. While we don’t recommend any specific dog food brands, we have reviewed a few puppy dog food options including the popular ones like Royal Canin and Wainwrights.
Taking collagen also needn’t stop your dog from taking other supplements like probiotics for example. These have their own benefits and may even work better synergistically since improving gut health can improve nutrient absorption and general wellbeing.
A well-rounded diet is essential for overall health, with supplements acting as support for specific areas like joint health or coat condition.
Separating myths from reality in terms of collagen supplementation is crucial for making informed decisions about your dog's health. While collagen can offer numerous benefits, it’s important to be sensible with your expectations and give it enough time to work before deciding it’s not going to be useful.
With these myths debunked, I hope you now have a better understand of what collagen can do for your dog and where it all fits in to their daily diet.