Green Lipped Mussels for Dogs: How They Can Help


PetMD Editorial

Published Dec. 20, 2016

The words “green lipped mussels” might not mean a lot to you, but if you share your home with a dog suffering from arthritis, learning about green lipped mussels might be beneficial. These special mollusks can help manage inflammation and pain caused by arthritis in your canine companions.

What Are Green Lipped Mussels?

Simply speaking, green lipped mussels are a species of mussel found in New Zealand, according to Dr. Michael Petty, DMV, past president of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist. “They get their name from the green edges or lips on their shells,” Petty says.

The Benefits of Green Lipped Mussels for Dogs

The best known components of green lipped mussels are Omega-3 fatty acids, including the fatty acids EPA and DHA, explains Petty. “Omega-3s work by reducing the level of inflammation associated with diseases such as osteoarthritis,” Petty says. Although this is the same compound found in fish oil, in the case of green lipped mussels, this is combined with other compounds that also fight joint inflammation and pain.

A good example of these compounds is eicosatetraenoic acid, or ETA. “The ETA is found only in green lipped mussels and binds cyclooxygenase, which is an enzyme that causes inflammation,” according to Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, a certified and accredited veterinary acupuncturist and food therapist who combines holistic medicine with traditional Western techniques in her practice. “They also contain glucosamine, chondroitin, zinc, and magnesium, which are beneficial for joint metabolism.”

In addition, green lipped mussels have also been shown to contain glycosaminoglycans, substances with joint protective properties, according to Petty. “Many of the other substances in green lipped mussels such as vitamins and minerals could contribute to their pain-relieving properties, but more research needs to be done,” says Petty.  

The Science Behind It

Although the full benefits of green lipped mussels for dogs are still relatively unknown, there have been several studies showing their usefulness in treating osteoarthritis in pets. One of those studies, published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, evaluated the response of dogs suffering from chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis. Dogs who took a green-lipped mussel preparation for eight weeks experienced less pain and locomotion difficulties than those who took a placebo. In addition, dogs taking the supplement also needed less carprofen—a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)—to fight chronic pain.

Part of the power of green lipped mussels lies in their unique compound content. “The ETA has been shown in studies to be much more powerful at fighting inflammation than just the EPA and DHA found in fish oils,” explains Morgan. “In addition, green lipped mussels also provide polysulfated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAGs), the building blocks for cartilage and joint fluid,” says Morgan.

This effect has been confirmed through a number of studies, including one where scientists discovered that green lipped mussels seem to block the pro-inflammatory reaction without causing, and maybe even helping to reduce, the gastrointestinal irritation connected with NSAID treatment in dogs.

The verdict? Basically any chronic inflammatory condition in dogs may benefit from the use of green lipped mussels, according to Petty. “It is well known that many chronic skin diseases and inflammatory diseases like asthma respond to Omega-3's, and could respond to green lipped mussels,” adds Petty.

How to Give Green Lipped Mussels to Dogs

As fresh green lipped mussels are found only in New Zealand, most pet owners will find them dog hip and joint care products in the form of supplements that can be added to pet foods, explains Petty. “Although there are no defined doses at the moment, it is usually suggested that small dogs get 500 mg capsules, medium dogs get 750 mg capsules, and large dogs get 1000 mg total a day,” Petty says.

A powder like Super Snouts Joint Power can be easily mixed with your pet's food. It's made with 100% green lipped mussels that contain natural glucosamine and chondroitin. 

As for potential dangers of green lipped mussels for dogs, both Morgan and Petty agree that there really aren’t any serious concerns. However, dogs who suffer from shellfish allergies should not take green lipped mussel supplements.

Before adding any supplements to your dog’s diet or health care plan, it’s important to speak with your veterinarian to verify safety and confirm dosing instructions. 

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