Is Glucosamine Good For Dogs?

As soon as you start researching tips for improving your dog’s hip or joint health, you’re likely to stumble across this interesting and very common supplement. 

But is glucosamine actually good for your dog? 

Have there been studies to prove that it works? 

And are there any known side effects that may harm your furry friend? 

All these questions and more will be answered in this article.

None of us enjoy the thought of our dog being in pain. So, when conversations about arthritis and hip dysplasia in dogs start surfacing with our vet, we’re quick to search for answers. And glucosamine is usually at the top of the list. There’s good reason for that. Glucosamine has shown to provide a long list of benefits for the dogs and humans who can tolerate it. But how much do we know about this interesting compound? And does this common hip and joint supplement for dogs provide ample support? 

Table of Contents:

  • What is Glucosamine?
  • How Does Glucosamine Work in Your Dog's Body?
  • What Types of Glucosamine Are Best?
  • What are the Benefits of Glucosamine for Dogs?
  • Should You Give Your Dog Glucosamine?
  • What are the Side Effects of Glucosamine?
  • Foods Highest in Glucosamine
  • What to Look for in a Glucosamine Supplement for Dogs
  • Treatments That Can be Combined with Glucosamine
  • Glucosamine for Dogs: Our Recommendation

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound already present inside the bodies of most mammals, including your beloved pup. Unfortunately, internal glucosamine tends to diminish over time as your dog ages. When this happens, your dog’s natural ability to heal themselves slows down. It can take longer to recover from simple injuries and strains, and their overall movement may slow down altogether. That’s one reason why supplementation is usually a good idea.

glucosamine for dogs

How Does Glucosamine Work in Your Dog’s Body?

Glucosamine is chondroprotective, meaning it helps protect and strengthen joints. Your dog’s joints are made up of cartilage—the squishy flexible substance that acts as a “shock absorber” between bones. Cartilage naturally breaks down because of wear and tear, but supplementing with glucosamine has actually shown to help repair cartilage, or at least delay its degeneration [1].

Doctors aren’t completely certain how glucosamine operates in the body to produce these joint-supporting results, but it seems to boost the production and utilization of glycosaminoglycans, which is one of the main building blocks in healthy cartilage [2].

What Types of Glucosamine Are Best?

Glucosamine usually comes in one of three forms... glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL), glucosamine sulfate, and N-acetyl-glucosamine [3]. Most of the supplements used today are made from the chitin in crustacean shells. That’s right, shellfish. Here’s what you should know about each kind:

Glucosamine sulfate: This is the most commonly used and most widely researched form. The majority of studies done on glucosamine were conducted with the sulfate form. Sulfur is an important building block for the body, so it’s no wonder this form has been so effective at repairing cartilage.

Glucosamine hydrochloride: This is the second most commonly used form. It’s a more concentrated version of glucosamine, so although it’s missing the sulfur, most studies find little to no difference between the effects of the HCL and sulfate forms of the supplement [4].

N-Acetyl-Glucosamine: This version is also created from shellfish, but can also be produced in a lab. While it still offers joint support, it’s more commonly used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal conditions.

Most vets will recommend using the first two, either glucosamine sulfate or HCL. You’ll likely see these supplements combined with other powerful nutrients like MSM or ingredients like turmeric. When combined, these compounds can have a synergistic effect on your dog’s body, helping to ease their joints in less time. That’s why we combined some of our favorite joint-healthy ingredients into glucosamine dog treats.

What Are the Benefits of Glucosamine for Dogs?

Vets often prescribe this nutritional supplement for joint support, pain relief, and digestive health. Here are a few ways glucosamine has been used in anecdotal and clinical trials for dogs [2][5].

Reducing inflammation: The lower your dog’s whole-body chronic inflammation, the better they will feel on a daily basis. When inflammation rises, it can cause pain and pressure throughout their entire body, especially in weight-bearing points—such as the hips and shoulders. Glucosamine can help reduce inflammation. 

Building cartilage in joints: Cartilage is the vitally important cushion-like tissue that makes up healthy joints. As a dog ages, this cartilage breaks down and their ability to reproduce it slows down. It can be a struggle for your dog to keep up with the “wear and tear” of life, so adding glucosamine to their regimen can help tip the scales in their favor.

Boosting mobility: When joints are healthy and plenty of cartilage is present, your dog will be able to move more freely. Reducing joint pain is important, but so is restoring your dog’s ability to get up, lie down, run, and navigate stairs. The healthier their joints, the better they’ll be able to move around the house.

Improving performance: Many owners of competitive or high-performance canines will give their dogs glucosamine, even without the presence of a pre-existing condition. If your dog is competing for speed or responsible for saving lives (such as a service or military dog), you might consider including glucosamine into their daily meals.

Speeding up recovery after joint surgery: It’s possible your dog’s joints were beyond home treatment and needed surgery. If that’s the case, they’ll need all the help they can get to recover quickly. While your vet may prescribe medication for your dog’s acute pain, ask if they recommend supplementing with glucosamine to aid in the recovery process and speed up the rebuilding of connective tissue.

Possible alternative to NSAIDs: If your vet prescribes an NSAID (also known as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), it’s usually best to follow that advice. But these medications often come with a handful of side effects. They also only mask the pain without repairing cartilage. So it’s wise to ask your vet if glucosamine can be used instead of or in addition to these drugs.

Should You Give Your Dog Glucosamine?

This hip and joint supplement can be used during most stages of a dog’s life. If they are already suffering from hip dysplasia or arthritis, you might consider giving them a direct supplement or a treat filled with glucosamine. It’s been shown to significantly relieve symptoms, especially when combined with chondroitin sulfate [6].

If your dog has not yet shown signs of hip pain or other joint problems, you might still consider giving them glucosamine on a regular basis. Prevention is always easier than treatment. Once a problem becomes too severe, it can be difficult to reverse the hands of time. Glucosamine is often safe for most dogs, even as puppies.

Of course, it’s usually wise to only give your dog glucosamine after you consult with your vet. They will know your dog best and can provide you with the professional advice needed to keep them moving freely and keep that tail wagging for as long as possible.

What Are the Side Effects of Glucosamine?

Fortunately, there are very few side effects of glucosamine [2]. The only major side effects are those related to an allergy. If your dog doesn’t have an allergy to glucosamine (or shellfish), they likely won’t have trouble digesting and absorbing this supplement.

But if they do have an allergic reaction, be on the lookout for these symptoms [7]:

  • Constipation or diarrhea 
  • Itchy skin
  • Bald spots
  • Excess gas
  • Vomiting
  • Constant licking

Foods Highest in Glucosamine

It is possible to find edible foods that are naturally high in glucosamine, though it can be difficult to find them from a quality source. The cartilage and bones from other animals (like beef, lamb, chicken, and goat) have a naturally high level of glucosamine. Ideally, you’ll want to acquire them from healthy, pastured animals, instead of your typical factory-farmed livestock. Remember, a sick animal is less likely to provide quality nutrients. So if you can find quality sources of these foods, you might want to consider adding them to your dog’s diet. Otherwise, you can supplement with an all-natural tasty treat.

Natural sources highest in glucosamine include chicken feet, oxtails, pigtails, beef knuckle bones, trachea, green lipped mussels, and wild caught shellfish (which is the original source of most glucosamine supplements) [3]. It’s important to note that you should never give your dog cooked bones. Always give it to them raw.

What to Look for in a Glucosamine Supplement for Dogs

Not all supplements are created equal. When shopping for glucosamine, you have to be aware that the cheaper brands are likely sourcing their glucosamine from China or synthesizing it in a lab. 

The problem with glucosamine for dogs made in China is the lack of regulation in place. This means harmful chemicals may be entering the production line and slipping past U.S. borders. The FDA is currently investigating thousands of cases of dogs becoming sick or even dying because of these harmful chemicals [8].

When it comes to the synthetically made products, your dog’s body simply can’t process and absorb it as well as natural glucosamine from living shellfish. We are not what we eat; we are what we absorb. And the same is true for your pup. Investing in a high quality, natural source of glucosamine will provide far more benefits than a cheaply produced synthetic version.

The most important thing to look for when choosing a glucosamine supplement is that they are made in a GMP-certified facility and ideally produced in the USA, where regulations are stricter than many countries overseas. If you can find a supplement that is free of corn, wheat, sugar, and preservatives, this is even better—since many of these ingredients can cause inflammation over time.

If you want to supercharge your pet’s glucosamine, find a supplement that also includes ingredients like MSM, turmeric, and omega-3 fatty acids. These have all been shown to help improve joint health and digestion, and usually work well in combination with glucosamine.

Treatments that Can Be Combined with Glucosamine

While your dog may find enough relief from glucosamine alone, it can be a good idea to combine it with other forms of treatment. Below, you’ll find a few options to help bolster your dog’s joint function and health in addition to a glucosamine supplement.

Additional Supplements: One of the best ways to boost the efficacy of glucosamine is to combine it with other natural ingredients that provide additional hip and joint support in dogs. We’ve mentioned MSM, turmeric, and omega-3 fatty acids already for a reason. Each has been shown to be a powerful ally in your dog’s journey toward recovery. Looking at omega-3’s alone, one double-blind study found a significant improvement to hip pain and arthritis in dogs of various breeds [9]. (That’s one of the reasons we created our delicious Salmon dog treats.) Green Lipped Mussel which contains omega-3’s is even more effective [10] and is found in our PureMobility Supplement Chews. 

Exercise and Physical Therapy: With your vet's approval, certain forms of low impact exercise–like swimming and walking–in combination with glucosamine can be very beneficial for your dog’s mobility. If your dog is experiencing arthritis or hip dysplasia, you might consider finding a professional canine physical therapist to assist in their recovery.

glucosamine for dogs

Improving the Home Environment: Sometimes we forget that everything seems bigger to our furry companions. We might be able to navigate beds, stairs, cars, and couches with ease, but if your dog is dealing with weak joints, these can all be a challenge. Adding ramps around the house is an easy way to take some pressure off your dog’s joints and keep them from slowing down.

Glucosamine for Dogs: Our Recommendation

Studies have shown that glucosamine alone is not the most effective natural treatment for hip and joint issues in dogs. When combined with other ingredients, however, glucosamine can become much more powerful giving you and your dog better, faster and more visible results. 

We’re passionate about keeping pets healthy at every stage of their life. And we know how many dogs are affected by stiff joints, arthritis, and hip dysplasia. So we created a handful of high quality, supplements to help improve your dog’s mobility and joint health. 

The first is our Advanced Hip and Joint Snacks. These delicious, chicken flavored treats are made from all-natural ingredients and sourced right here in the USA. The high-quality glucosamine HCL is combined with anti-inflammatory turmeric and MSM, an essential building block for your dog’s joints. Some pet owners tell us this is the only glucosamine supplement their dog will take. (Because what pup can deny something that tastes as good as chicken?)

Secondly, but equally as effective, is our 10-in-1 Multivitamin. Powered by glucosamine, omega-3, probiotics, and vitamins A, C, and D3, this daily supplement has become a staple for canines across the country. We call it 10-in-1 because of its 10 core benefits, including hip and joint support, digestive aid, brain boost, fur and coat improvement, immune system support, heart health, antioxidants, anti-inflammation, improved flexibility, and energy boost.

Both of these supplements are made in a GMP-certified facility and produced in the United States. They’re made with all-natural ingredients and come with a 100% money-back guarantee. If you’ve been thinking about introducing a glucosamine supplement into your dog’s routine, these are both a great option.

Wrapping Up

By now, you’ve learned where glucosamine comes from, the essential benefits, the common side effects, how to find a quality supplement, and a few other ways to improve your dog’s joint health. As always, we recommend consulting with your vet before making any drastic changes to your dog’s routine. But if you get the green light, you’ll see why dog lovers across the country are giving their four-legged friends a healthy dose of glucosamine.

Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150191/
  2. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/glucosamine-for-dogs/
  3. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/the-best-sources-of-glucosamine-for-dogs/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686334/
  5. https://www.1800petmeds.com/education/glucosamine-important-dogs-2.htm
  6. http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/joint-supplements-dogs-helpful-vs-hype
  7. https://wagwalking.com/condition/glucosamine-allergies
  8. https://www.rheumatoidarthritis.org/dogs-best-glucosamine/
  9. https://www.americanveterinarian.com/news/omega3s-significantly-improved-canine-arthritis-in-doubleblind-clinical-trial
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17638133

 

Camille Arneberg and her dog
Camille is a co-founder of PetHonesty and VP of Pup Parent Education. After watching her own family dog suffer from joint issues for years she became passionate about improving dogs' quality of life. With the help of a team of veterinarians and dog nutritionists she now helps educate other dog owners about the small but powerful things they can do to positively impact their dogs' health and wellness! She lives in Austin, TX and loves cuddling puppies, being outside and reading.