Why Your Dog Needs Collagen
by Tudor Nikolas on Sep 15, 2023.
I remember when I first took the dog nutrition course. It was only about 2 years ago. Although relatively recent, no one had ever mentioned to me about supplements with collagen for dogs. It just wasn't a thing back then.
Although collagen in humans has become mainstream, collagen in dogs is still very novel.
In fact, when we launched our collagen for dogs food topper, there were only two other products on the market. Even more, none of these had other complementary substances such as hyaluronic acid (which ours does by the way).
I was going to go tell you why your dog could really benefit from this relatively novel supplement.
What is collagen?
Collagen is basically one of the most abundant types of protein in mammals. It plays a pivotal role in forming and supporting connective tissues like skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones, and even blood vessels!
Interestingly, the word 'collagen' comes from the Greek word "kólla", which means glue. This function of keeping together the various structures describes it perfectly.
While collagen supplementation in animals is pretty uncharted territory, it is very common in humans.
Where does collagen come from?
Collagen comes mainly from meat and fish that contains connective tissues. Animal byproducts, which are commonly used in dog food, will contain a fair amount of collagen as well.
Bone broth for example is also a prime source of collagen.
Fish skins, chicken skins and feet, beef tendons and ligaments are also rich in collagen and make brilliant sources.
Are there different types of collagen?
Both us humans and dogs have different types of collagen. In total, there are about 28 different types, but the following four are by far the most common.
Type I: The collagen that provides tensile strength. This is found in skin, tendon, bones and ligaments.
Type II: This increases resistance to pressure and is found in cartilage (the areas around a joint).
Type III: This type supports the structure of organs and muscles. it is found in skin (the largest organ), muscles and blood vessels.
Type IV: This is a permeable type of collagen that enhances filtration. It is also located in the different layers of the skin.
Our bodies, and those of our close companions create our own collagen. However, our ability to create it from the nutrients that we ingest, decrease as we age.
Environmental factors such as sun exposure, lack of sleep, stress, smoking and alcohol also affect its production.
Not only that, but the environmental exposures themselves damage the existing collagen fibres, thus reducing their thickness and strength. This is the process that leads to wrinkled or mottled skin.
Why is collagen vital for dogs?
We wouldn't be alive without collagen. Nor would our dogs.
Here are four main roles for collagen in dogs:
As mentioned above, collagen acts as a biological glue. It provides the much needed structure to their skin, joints, bones, and various internal organs.
You can see it as the component that keeps everything together in one place.
Healing and regeneration
Wound healing and restoring the skin integrity are vital functions that collagen plays a key role in. (source)
When your dog gets a cut or scrape, collagen aids in forming the scar tissue to mend the wound.
In older dogs for example, wound healing may take longer than in younger puppies. The lack of collagen as we age is one of the key reasons for this.
Type II collagen ensures that the cartilage surrounding the joints is protected. This ensures smooth movement of the joint, which is especially important at the hip and knees. These two are the primary sites for osteoarthritis formation because the joints support the whole weight of your dog.
By ensuring the cartilage is thick and healthy, you are also preserving these vital joints. This may reduce the risk and progress of osteoarthritis as we age.
In a study conducted on athletes over a period of 24 weeks, collagen supplementation showed some benefits. These were mainly related to parameters such as joint pain. If it works for humans, it's therefore very likely to also work for dogs. Imagine if collagen in dogs was to reduce osteoarthritis related joint pain! (source)
Hair, Skin and Nail Health
Collagen supports hair and nail growth, ensuring your dog's coat remains lush and their nails strong to prevent breakages.
Healthy collagen in the skin also helps ensure the skin barrier remains intact, and aids wound healing. (source)
Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM explains in more details what arthritis is and how it can affect your dog or cat. Tune in here on YouTube.
Collagen supplements: Yay or Nay?
As a dog nutritionist, I have started recommending collagen to dog owners.
Although the jury is out as to how much collagen can get absorbed from dietary supplements, I strongly believe that it's better than doing nothing
At least you're trying to help.
Keep in mind these rules when choosing a collagen supplement:
- Ensure it's high quality, with minimal additives and no fillers
- Ensure the manufacturers adhere to strong regulations and have tested the collagen supplements. Although not conclusive, it has been postulated that CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) could be transmitted from an infected organism through collagen supplements. (source)
- Check the origin. Where does the collagen come from? Is it bovine, porcine, marine or poultry? Consider any dietary or ethical concerns you might have. For instance, pescatarians might opt for marine collagen If you are concerned about sustainability, then you can also only choose marine collagen from fishery by products.
Can you naturally boost your dog's collagen production?
One way of increasing the collagen present in your dog's body is to supplement it with natural collagen from various supplements. These can come in the form of food toppers or capsules/ tablets.
But are there ways of boosting the organism's natural collagen production too?
Yes! Let's take a look to see how we can achieve this. Your dog will love you for it!
Vitamin C from natural sources. Vitamin C has been shown to increase the body's production and storage of collagen.
Foods that I always recommend and are high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli. These foods are all safe for dogs as well in moderation.
Proline and Lysine are essential amino acids that help collagen production. They are usually found in animal products, but they can also come from plant food like legumes and soy.
Silica is also believed to boost collagen production and help skin health. It is naturally found in green beans, garbanzo beans, strawberries, cucumber, mango, celery, and asparagus.
Antioxidants in general help protect the existing collagen from oxidative free radical damage. Superfoods such as Spirulina, Chlorella and other flavonoids and polyphenols found in various fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants.
This was a quick whizz tour about why your dog needs collagen and what it's actually for. Remember that the best cure is prevention, so let's all work together and try to prevent osteoarthritis in our canine companions.
While it's not guaranteed to work, I always believed that supplementing your dog's diet with extra collagen is better than doing nothing.
Next, why not learn about why Spirulina, another superfood is beneficial in dogs and where you can get it from!