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Dog Arthritis Glucosamine: How it Can Help

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

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Osteoarthritis in dogs is not a life-threatening disease but has an adverse effect on the dog’s quality of life because it causes significant joint pain and impaired mobility.

Managing arthritis-related pain and preventing fast disease progression requires more than anti-pain drugs and clinical treatment.

Canine osteoarthritis entails a multimodal treatment, including maintaining proper body weight, providing the right food, practicing strict exercise regimens, and using joint supplements.

Keeping your dog’s joints healthy is a complex task and requires close collaboration between you and your trusted veterinarian. Today, with the advances in the veterinary medicine field, providing support for your dog’s joints has never been easier.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring chemical. In simples words, it is an amino sugar – contains both glutamine (which is an amino acid) and glucose (which is a sugar).

As a naturally occurring amino sugar, glucosamine supports joint cushioning and building healthy and strong cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, thus promoting overall joint health and mobility.

Glucosamine exists in three different forms:

  • glucosamine sulfate
  • glucosamine hydrochloride
  • N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG).

Glucosamine Sulfate

Glucosamine sulfate is the most common type of glucosamine used in supplements for dogs. Therefore, it is also the most thoroughly researched.

The glucosamine sulfate used in joint supplements is extracted from shellfish shells, but it can also be synthetically produced in laboratory settings.

The sulfate part of the glucosamine sulfate complex is essential for joint health because the body needs sulfur for cartilage production.

Glucosamine Hydrochloride

Glucosamine hydrochloride is popularly known as glucosamine HCL. The glucosamine hydrochloride is also extracted from shellfish, but this form does not contain sulfate.

Glucosamine hydrochloride is more concentrated than glucosamine sulfate but less efficient in promoting joint health in dogs.

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N-acetyl Glucosamine (NAG)

N-acetyl glucosamine is derived from glucose and is a hyaluronic acid precursor. Hyaluronic acid is critical for the formation of synovial fluid – the fluid lubricating the joints.

NAG is extracted from the shell of crustaceans and can be used for promoting joint health and gastrointestinal health.

 

Why is Glucosamine Good for Dogs?

Glucosamine for dogs is good because it promotes joint health and alleviates joint pain. This is because glucosamine stimulates cartilage production and renewal.

In 2007, a group of veterinarians from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia reviewed 16 clinical trials of canine osteoarthritis treatments. They concluded that glucosamine supplements provide a “moderate comfort level” in dogs with arthritis and published this result in the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Journal.

Based on the data in another study, “Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review,” published online in an open veterinary journal, vets frequently recommend using glucosamine and chondroitin supplements in the treatment of osteoarthritis for dogs who develop adverse effects to NSAIDs. Although the clinical benefit of glucosamine and chondroitin cannot be clearly established based on current data, they are doubtful to cause adverse effects and likely to have some level of efficacy.

Finally, the decision to use joint supplements in the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs and all other canine dietary supplements should be evidence-based. Fetch DVM 360 offers high-quality data regarding the safety and efficacy of different joint health supplements.

How does Glucosamine Help Dogs with Arthritis?

Arthritis is a serious health issue that manifests with inflammation of the joints. In normal joints, the cartilage act like a cushion preventing the two bone surfaces from rubbing. This cushioning effect allows smooth joint movements and normal mobility.

In dogs, same as in humans, with age, the cartilage starts degenerating due to natural wear and tear. When damaged, its cushioning efficacy declines, and the bone surfaces start rubbing.

As a result, dogs with damaged cartilage develop arthritis. In dogs, the most important clinical signs of arthritis are impaired mobility, limping or lameness, and joint pain.

However, cartilage is not the only joint structure affected by age. Over time the glucosamine production declines, and the natural glucosamine is vital for joint health.

A dog with arthritis has significantly compromised health and decreased life quality. Adding glucosamine will help your dog with its arthritis because it substitutes the lack of natural glucosamine synthesized within the dog’s body.

However, supplement your dog with joint health supplements should not be done without veterinary monitoring.

Possible Side Effects of Glucosamine

Glucosamine for dogs is a relatively safe joint supplement. However, just like all drugs and nutraceuticals, adverse reactions are a possibility. Pet owners have reported the following side effects:

  • Allergies (in dogs allergic to shellfish)
  • Lethargy
  • Nose bleeds
  • Insomnia
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination frequency
  • Bloody diarrhea.

These side effects are significantly rare and occur only if the glucosamine supplement is administered in a particularly high dosage.

Considering glucosamine is sugar, some pet owners are afraid of the potential side effects the glucosamine supplement may have in the treatment of diabetic dogs. However, there is no risk of side effects because glucosamine for dogs does not interfere with the sugar pathways in the body.

When to Start Glucosamine for Dogs

There are many different dietary supplements for dogs but, based on a study, joint supplements are the most commonly bought type by pet owners in the United States.

This is probably since 20% of the dogs older than one and over 80% of the dogs older than seven years suffer from stiff and painful joints or arthritis.

Over time as dogs age, it is expected for the cartilage to start degenerating. However, arthritis and osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) are not always the result of old age. Dogs (particularly of certain breeds) are born with hip or joint issues, like, for example, hip dysplasia.

A dog with hip dysplasia or arthritis will show the following clinical signs and symptoms:

  • Reluctance to move
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty getting up and sitting down
  • Difficulty jumping and climbing stairs
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lameness or limping
  • Stiff and swollen joints
  • Pain upon touch
  • Popping sound in the hip joints on movement.

Sometimes, these signs and symptoms are due to natural age-related changes. However, it is better to ensure your dog’s hip and joint health before any of these issues appear, especially if your dog belongs to one of the arthritis predisposed breeds.

If your dog is predisposed to canine hip and elbow dysplasia (or any other joint disease), it will benefit from the early use of supplements protecting the joints. Dr. Matt Burke, DVM, says you can start hip and joint supplements in puppies as young as 8 weeks of age.

Plus, the pain and other clinical signs and symptoms of arthritis are more severe in certain large and giant dog breeds. Finally, the efficacy of most supplements is higher if their use is initiated before the canine arthritis onset.

Call your trusted veterinarian and schedule an appointment for your dog. The veterinarian will examine your dog and give you tips and instructions for arthritis prevention based on its individual needs.  

How to Give Glucosamine to Dogs

When it comes to glucosamine supplements for pets, the market offers a plethora of choices. Most dietary supplements for dogs are oral – available in flavored tablets or chews, pills, liquids, or powders.

However, before starting your dog on a supplement, consult with your vet. The vet will explain which joint supplement is best for your dog and calculate the correct dosage based on its body weight (as already explained, administering the correct dosage is vital for preventing side effects).  

The vet will also review whether your dog is receiving some other drugs that should not be combined with dog joint supplements and assess its overall health status.

Most veterinarians prefer combining glucosamine with other joint supplements.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

The benefit of chondroitin sulfate for dogs with osteoarthritis lies in this compound’s ability to inhibit the naturally occurring cartilage-destroying enzymes, thus protecting the cartilage.

Chondroitin sulfate is hard to source and extract, which affects its price of the chondroitin supplements. Plus, as a large molecule, the absorption of chondroitin sulfate is highly variable. Therefore, some joint supplement companies manufacture a low-molecular-weight version that is more easily absorbable. This also affects the chondroitin supplements’ price.  

When used together with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate has a synergistic effect and has an anti-inflammatory effect if used before the joint damage. Because of the synergistic effect, most joint supplements contain both glucosamine and chondroitin as one complex commonly referred to as glucosamine chondroitin.

Glucosamine chondroitin is a commonly prescribed joint supplement for managing osteoarthritis in dogs. Glucosamine will regulate the collagen synthesis in the cartilage and offer an anti-inflammatory effect, while chondroitin sulfate will prevent the enzymes from destructing the cartilage. When used together, glucosamine and chondroitin support the production of cartilage building blocks.

Glucosamine and CBD

The use of CBD in the veterinary medicine field is quite novel. Pet CBD oil is a natural and herbal supplement extracted from organic hemp. It is 100% THC-free and has wide safety margins, meaning it is implausible to cause adverse effects even if accidentally given in a high dose.

CBD oil promotes healthy joints and reduces the severity of canine osteoarthritis symptoms. The benefit of pet CBD oil for dogs with joint disease lies in its ability to:

  • Promote healthy bones
  • Support healthy joints and flexibility
  • Ease joint stiffness due to normal daily exercise and activity
  • Provide connective tissue support
  • Support a normal inflammatory response in the body
  • Reduce joint pain and discomfort related to daily exercise and activity.

You can mix some CBD oil into your dog’s food, or you can use CBD-infused chews. There are even CBD chews enriched with other joint-friendly supplements, like glucosamine and chondroitin. You can learn more about these healthy chews here.

Before adding CBD oil to your dog’s food, talk to your trusted vet. You should not use some drugs combined with this supplement, so it is important to check with your veterinarian. Plus, the vet will help you determine the right CBD oil dose for your dog.

Glucosamine Chondroitin with Other Joint Supplements

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Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids offer lots of health benefits for dogs. They are good for the heart, kidneys, skin, coat, and joints. The two most important omega 3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties and are good for managing joint pain and swelling.

The best natural omega source for your dog is fish oil. Ideally, the fish oil needs to be sourced from wild-caught coldwater fish. According to Dr. Matt Brunke, DVM, the safety of farm-raised fish is questionable, and dogs do not benefit from it as it has inadequate omega 3 to omega 6 ratio.

MSM and Dog Food

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) will benefit dogs with joint disease because it has anti-inflammation and anti-pain effects.

Plus, MSM supplements support normal collagen production because of its sulfur content, and collagen is vital for healthy cartilage.

MSM can be naturally found in grains, milk, vegetables, and fruit. When used together with glucosamine, MSM can reduce joint pain in dogs with arthritis.

Because of its efficacy in arthritis treatment, many dog food manufacturers add MSM to their food formulas.

Joint Pain Management

The golden standard in the treatment of joint pain in dogs with osteoarthritis is non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

The use of joint health supplements does not exclude the need to use these drugs. However, if used together, supplements like Green Lipped Mussels, omega 3 fatty acids, MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin can decrease the necessary NSAID dosage for your dog.

Our Final Thoughts

The use of glucosamine for dogs with osteoarthritis is a widely debated topic in the veterinary and pet parents community.

On the one hand, there are much data and evidence that support the benefit of this supplement in the treatment of canine osteoarthritis. On the other hand, there are also inconclusive data and evidence putting its use in question.

As noted, the treatment of canine osteoarthritis requires a multimodal approach. Most veterinarians recommend using supplements as long as their use is not related to adverse effects.

Glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or combined with omega fatty acids, Green Lipped Mussel, MSM, collagen, and hyaluronic acid, promote healthy joints and high-quality mobility without triggering serious adverse effects.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does glucosamine help dogs with arthritis?

As an amino sugar, glucosamine helps lubricate the joints and builds strong joint structures – cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, thus improving mobility. There is much evidence supporting the use of glucosamine supplements for managing osteoarthritis in dogs in the veterinary field.

How much glucosamine do I give a dog for arthritis?

It depends on the type of joint supplement your dog is using. Different supplements contain different amounts of glucosamine, and some contain additional ingredients. The exact dosage you need to give your dog also depends on the severity of your osteoarthritis and whether it needs a loading or maintenance dose. Your vet will give you the right administration instructions.

Can I give my dog human glucosamine?

No, pet owners must not share their human glucosamine supplements with their dogs. This is because human joint supplements have an artificial sweetener – xylitol. Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs.

What is the best supplement for dog arthritis?

When it comes to osteoarthritis, glucosamine supplements are an excellent choice for your dog. Glucosamine can be used alone or combined with other joint-friendly dog supplements like chondroitin sulfate, Green Lipped Mussel, omega 3 fatty acids, MSM, collagen, or hyaluronic acid.