As responsible pet owners, we want our furry friends to lead happy, active lives free from pain and discomfort. Just like humans, dogs can experience joint issues and mobility problems as they age. However, thanks to advancements in veterinary science, we now have access to various supplements that can support their joint health. One such supplement that has gained significant popularity is glucosamine for dogs.
While joint problems aren't always preventable, we can take steps to support our dogs' long-term wellness and keep their joints healthy for as long as possible. Glucosamine for dogs is one option for supporting our dog's joints.
Vets often encounter many dog owners wondering how they can slow this age-related joint damage in their dogs. This leads to questions about glucosamine for dogs along with other joint health supplements. If you’re considering giving glucosamine to your dog, here’s what you need to know first.
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a natural compound found in the body, particularly in the cartilage of joints. It plays a crucial role in maintaining joint function and promoting healthy cartilage for your dog. In recent years, glucosamine supplements for dogs have become increasingly prevalent as a way to manage and alleviate joint-related problems. In this blog, we will delve into the benefits of glucosamine supplements for dogs, their effectiveness, potential side effects, and other relevant considerations.
When supplemented in the food, both glucosamine and/or chondroitin are considered nutraceuticals that are chondroprotective. This means they are food supplements that provide a health benefit to protect joints and cartilage.
Together, glucosamine and chondroitin may repair joints and promote healthy joints and cartilage in a dog, which should relieve arthritic pain. Taken together, these mechanisms are beneficial to a canine's joints and can cause increased joint flexibility and mobility, as well as cartilage and joint repair itself.
The theory goes something like this: Glucosamine for dogs helps build cartilage in our body, so glucosamine supplementation could help protect, rebuild, or repair cartilage. We'll get into whether or not the research supports this theory below, including information from veterinary medicine.
Keeping Joints Healthy
A healthy dog's joints work like this: two bones meet to form a joint. They're separated by a very thin space and protected by a joint capsule, an air-tight envelope that surrounds the cartilage and synovial fluid in the joint. The outer layer of the joint capsule is made up of ligaments, a connective tissue that holds the bones together and helps keep them stable. Each bone has a thin layer of cartilage over its surface with a layer of synovial fluid between the two bones.
The cartilage keeps the bones from rubbing against each other, and the synovial fluid nourishes the cartilage and allows the joint to glide smoothly.
As our dogs age, the cartilage that protects their joints begins to break down. This process can be triggered by a traumatic injury, like a joint dislocation, or by an inherited condition, like dog hip dysplasia or osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease). But even normal wear and tear can slowly degrade a dog's mobility and joint function, leading to joint problems like pain, inflammation, decreased mobility, and lameness.
Much of this is part of the normal aging process — you'll notice these issues most frequently in senior dogs. They're also more common in large breed dogs (their increased weight puts increased strain on their joints) and in certain dog breeds (Labrador retrievers and German shepherds are prone to both arthritis and hip dysplasia).
Joint Pain in Dogs
While aging is a condition, not a disease, it carries with it a higher risk of health problems. Even before arthritis develops, joint pain and stiffness is a common concern for aging dogs, especially in larger breeds.
Why does this happen? Well, it’s the same for dogs as it is for humans. As our bodies age, we lose the natural ability to make healthy cartilage and thus, incur damage to our joints. Thankfully, key nutrients that aging bodies once produced naturally are now available in supplement form to support and rebuild joints. This is where glucosamine comes in. Another popular joint health supplement, chondroitin, works in much the same way.
Should My Dog Take Glucosamine?
It’s always best to look for the following symptoms in your dog (and speak to your vet) before giving them joint health supplements.
Reluctance to jump or climb stairs
Being slow to rise or walk
If these symptoms occur and increase, it’s a good time to ask your veterinarian about using these supplements, and rule out anything more serious. Early intervention is best! Many forms of glucosamine treatment come in a chewable tablet or other medications.
So, Do Dog Joint Supplements Really Help?
Recent studies performed in dogs showed that supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate had a very positive clinical effect in dogs with osteoarthritis. Therefore, it could be that nutritional supplements are beneficial in dogs who need to treat osteoarthritis.
Even young dogs that are not showing signs of arthritis or joint pain can take supplements to maintain healthy joints. This is more of a preventative measure for dogs predisposed to certain joint diseases and can be used early to prevent or delay damage.
Dogs that have recently undergone surgery may also benefit from these joint supplements in addition to other prescribed pain medication. Glucosamine for dogs has a lot of benefits.
If your dog has bone-on-bone arthritis, determined by your veterinarian, then supplements won’t do much for that joint. They can, however, still be used to protect other joints that aren’t as severely damaged, and slow down damage to joints that aren’t yet affected. Joint surgery may be necessary down the line for your dog depending on the severity.
Note: It will take at least 2-3 weeks for you to notice if these products are improving your dog’s condition.
Here are some other common active ingredients in joint supplements and their potential efficacy:
Chondroitin sulfate: another chemical that occurs naturally in cartilage. Chondroitin supplements can be derived naturally from animal cartilage or made synthetically in a lab. You'll rarely see glucosamine or joint supplements that don’t include chondroitin. So, these compounds are typically studied simultaneously — you see this in all the studies mentioned above. The efficacy of chondroitin is just as questionable as glucosamine.
MSM: another compound that occurs naturally in the body — both ours and our dogs — MSM supplements are typically made synthetically in a lab. There is even less research about MSM for dogs than glucosamine, and a review of MSM studies on humans with osteoarthritis indicates there isn't enough evidence to draw conclusions.
Hyaluronic acid: occurs naturally in the body and helps lubricates joints and skin. The hyaluronic acid found in supplements is an active ingredient usually extracted from rooster combs — the red crown on top of a rooster's head — or made in a lab. The FDA has approved these acid injections as a treatment for knee pain in human patients, and scientific evidence shows this treatment is also effective for dogs. However, we couldn't find scientific evidence to show that taking hyaluronic acid via an oral supplement improves dogs' joint health.
While there isn't convincing evidence to support the efficacy of most of the ingredients in typical dog joint supplements and dietary supplements, there also isn't enough evidence to say that they aren't effective.
These ingredients won't hurt your dog, so you're safe to try them as part of your dog's wellness plan. There are also other steps you can take to naturally support your dog's joint health, such as low impact exercise or fish oils. There are very few side effects and chances of a negative reaction.
If you’re giving glucosamine supplements or joint supplements in your dog’s treats, be sure to watch out for the added calories. Some of these treats will need to be fed in large quantities to get the right dosage. It's important to stay on top of your dog's body weight management.
Avoid supplements sourced from shark cartilage. These pose an integrity risk to our oceans and are no more beneficial than bovine cartilage sources.
Never use human glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for your dogs.
Glucosamine supplements have emerged as a popular and viable option for managing joint health and healthy joint function in dogs. They can provide significant relief from joint pain, reduce inflammation, and improve mobility, enhancing the overall quality of life for our furry companions.
While the effectiveness of glucosamine supplements may vary from dog to dog, many pet owners have reported positive outcomes. Remember, it is essential to consult with your veterinarian before starting any new supplement regimen for your dog, as they can provide tailored recommendations based on your pet's specific needs.
Glucosamine for dogs, when used correctly and in conjunction with a holistic approach, can provide valuable support to a dog with joint issues and contribute to their overall well-being.
By prioritizing the joint health of a dog and taking proactive steps, such as incorporating dog glucosamine supplements or a joint supplement, we can help them age gracefully, enjoy an active lifestyle, and cherish many more joyful moments together.