Glucosamine for Dogs: The Complete Guide

By Jennifer Dempsey / September 24, 2018

Watching your beloved four-legged companion get older can be one of the hardest things that a pet owner will experience. Activities that were once simple are now a challenge. Even something as mundane as laying down or getting into bed can seem impossibly difficult for a dog suffering from arthritis or joint pain. As a pet parent, you will do whatever it takes to keep your fur baby as pain-free as possible, but where do you start? Are painkillers worth the potential adverse reactions? Is there another way? What about preventative measures?

In this article, we’ll cover all there is to know about a popular joint supplement known as glucosamine and the ways that it can help your aging dog. We will also discuss alternative options to conventional pain medications and ways to prevent premature joint damage. While we (unfortunately) can’t stop the circle of life, there are ways to make sure that our dogs are living long healthy lives, free of joint pain. Let’s get started!

glucosamine for dogs

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound made of a sugar (glucose) and an amino acid (glutamine). The compound promotes the growth and repair of cartilage and synovial fluid that protect the joints. The dog’s body already produces glucosamine naturally. However, increasing glucosamine levels by means of a supplement can help improve overall joint health as well as serve as a preventive and slow progression of arthritis.

Due to the fact that glucosamine is a natural compound, it is referred to as a nutraceutical, differing it from a pharmaceutical. In other words, you are able to purchase glucosamine for dogs without a prescription. Many pet parents prefer nutraceuticals as they are typically associated with significantly fewer potential adverse reactions. 

Simply put, glucosamine supplements aim to slow the progression of the disease, improve mechanical joint function, and stimulate the body’s ability to repair the joints.

Chondroitin for Dogs

Chondroitin is a naturally occurring compound that is a key component of cartilage. It is often paired up with glucosamine in supplement form as a means to protect the cartilage and promote overall joint health. When choosing a glucosamine supplement, you’ll want to make sure it also contains chondroitin. More on that in a minute!

Where Does Glucosamine Come From

Glucosamine supplements are typically extracted from crab, lobster, or shrimp shells. However, glucosamine is also found naturally in many raw meats. 

Glucosamine Side Effects

Because glucosamine is a nutraceutical, the side effects are considered minimal and generally only limited to:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Allergic reactions (particularly shellfish allergies)
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive thirst and urination

With that being said, all dogs are different. It is important to always closely monitor your fur baby whenever introducing a new supplement into their diet, regardless of whether it is all natural. When it comes to Fido, it is always better to be safe than sorry. 

What is Arthritis in Dogs 

Glucosamine is commonly recommended for dogs suffering from arthritis. It is imperative that dog owners know all that they can about the disease in order to recognize early symptoms and begin treatment that will help slow the progression. Arthritis is a progressive disease that is characterized by joint inflammation. However, if you know anything about arthritis you know that it is much more than merely swollen, achy inflamed joints. Even with treatment, arthritis can still lead to total loss of joint mobility, stiffness, and lameness. The disease can cause your dog a severe amount of distress and pain.

What Causes Arthritis in Dogs 

It is possible for an acute event such as an injury, an infection, or an underlying condition, such as a joint deformity or obesity, to lead to the development of premature arthritis. However, this progressive disease is typically associated with aging due to a lifetime of increased stress on the joints and surrounding ligaments. Degenerative arthritis is also referred to as osteoarthritis.

Dog joints are built the same way as human joints. A thin layer of cartilage covers the ends of each bone and acts as a shock absorber for the bones as they move. It also serves to protect each bone from the other. A liquid called synovial fluid surrounds the bone and cartilage and acts as a lubricant, making joint movement pain-free.

Arthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage and synovial fluid, and makes simple movements stiff and uncomfortable. Furthermore, the breakdown of the cartilage causes bone-on-bone rubbing which can lead to bony outgrowths (osteophytes or bone spurs) to develop on the bone ends. As you can imagine, this makes movements even more painful.

glucosamine for dogs can help arthritis in dogs

Glucosamine for Hip Dysplasia

Glucosamine is also commonly recommended to help treat a common orthopedic disease known as hip dysplasia. It is a deformity of the hip that occurs in growing animals and results in laxity of the joint. The joint laxity leads to osteoarthritis due to the loss of cartilage, development of scar tissue and osteophytes.  Hip dysplasia can lead to immobility and cause your dog an exorbitant amount of pain when attempting simple activities. Hip dysplasia is often found in large breed dogs but can affect dogs of all sizes.

Conventional Arthritis Medication vs Glucosamine 

If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with arthritis, be it caused by hip dysplasia or aging, they will typically prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to help reduce inflammation and decrease any pain that your dog is in. Pain relief is something that all pet owners typically want to jump on ASAP. However, NSAIDs can have many side effects and need to be used cautiously in dogs with liver and kidney disease

Conversely, the side effects associated with glucosamine are typically very minimal and tend to subside as your dog’s body adjusts to the supplement.

With that being said, there are cases of arthritis and other joint and bone diseases where conventional pain medication may be mandatory. We encourage our readers to talk to their veterinarian about glucosamine and all their treatment options prior to making a decision on pain medications. There are other ways to treat many diseases that do not involve potentially irreversible adverse reactions.

how does glucosamine for dogs help?

Signs Your Dog Needs Glucosamine

Although arthritis in dogs is common, early detection is often difficult. It is important for dog owners to be able to recognize the warning signs of the disease in order to prevent it from quickly progressing.

Pet owners should be on the lookout for the following signs of early-stage arthritis:

  • Stiffness
  • Lethargy
  • Increased sleep
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Disinterest in going on walks
  • Slow or reluctant to stand
  • Decreased mobility, (i.e can no longer jump onto the bed)
  • Abnormal movements
  • Intermittent lameness, particularly if arthritis is affecting one specific joint
  • Visible joint deformities or swollen joints
  • Visible inflammation
  • Pain or aggression when joints are touched
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Irritability

Additional Factors to Consider

Pain and stiffness typically increase when waking up or when the dog has been laying down for an extended period of time. Cold weather is also known to cause an increase in discomfort for dogs suffering from joint pain. Additionally, several symptoms of arthritis can also be indications for other disease processes. It is important to discuss the potential of arthritis with your vet so that they are able to make an accurate diagnosis and begin an appropriate treatment plan.

sick dog

Best Glucosamine For Dogs

With the (fairly) recent studies proving just how powerful and effective glucosamine can be, many pet stores are stocking their shelves with the dietary supplement. In fact, you’ll easily be able to find glucosamine in kibble form, oral supplements, injectable supplements, as well as raw meats. So how can you ensure that you’re purchasing the best supplement possible?

Glucosamine in Kibble

As far as kibble is considered, the glucosamine levels are likely not high enough to make a significant difference in your dog’s life. Many kibble brands have been adding glucosamine to their senior lines of dog food. However, studies show that, on average, dogs need a daily intake of 20-25 mg of glucosamine per pound of bodyweight. If you look at the amount of glucosamine in kibble (even kibble that advertises high levels of glucosamine), you’ll quickly find that your dog isn’t eating nearly enough to make a difference as far as glucosamine intake is concerned. With that being said, your veterinarian may recommend a formulated kibble for extra support, but often in conjunction with another glucosamine supplement.

glucosamine for dogs in kibble

Oral & Injectable Supplements

The most popular kind of glucosamine comes in the form of oral supplements. The supplements can be chewable tablets, powders, or liquids.

Additionally, some pet owners chose injectable form of glucosamine for dogs. These fast acting supplements deliver the glucosamine directly to the suffering joints and aid in quick relief. Your vet may prescribe the popular brand, Adequan. The active ingredient in this medication is polysulfated glycosaminoglycan. It helps with joint lubrication, protects the joints from further degradation and helps repair damaged cartilage.  Pet owners can administer the injectable supplement twice weekly for up to four weeks.  

Glucosamine in Raw Food Diets 

Finally, as a naturally occurring substance, glucosamine is found in many raw meats. Your vet may recommend switching to a raw food diet or incorporating a variety of raw meats into your dog’s diet.

The following meats are known to have high levels of glucosamine:

  • Trachea
  • Chicken feet
  • Oxtails
  • Pig tails
  • Beef knuckle bones
  • Shellfish shells
  • Bone broth
  • Green-lipped mussel

How to Choose a Glucosamine Supplement 

If your beloved four-legged friend is diagnosed with arthritis, a glucosamine supplement will be apart of their treatment plan. Yet, with so many options available, how do you choose the appropriate one? Ultimately, your veterinarian will be able to guide the treatment plan in order to cater to your dog’s individual needs. However, it is important to have a good understanding of the available options.

Chewable Tablets 

Your veterinarian will likely recommend a chewable tablet containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. The tablet will be veterinary grade and potent enough to make a significant difference in your dog’s life. Most pet owners report that their dog had no qualms with the taste of the chew, however, we know first hand that some dogs are picky eaters. If this is the case, we recommend using something to coat the tablet such as peanut butter for dogs.

Raw Food Diet 

In addition to an oral supplement, we want to stress the power of switching to a raw food diet. Raw food is one of the best things that pet parents can do for an arthritic dog. These specialized diets are also known for their high levels of nutrients and contain fewer grains and preservatives, making them a healthy alternative for all dogs and an effective way to promote weight loss and reduce inflammation.

With that being said, switching to an all raw food diet can be a huge commitment and incredibly daunting for a pet owner. Trust us, we understand how nerve-racking it can be to think about preparing a raw meal twice a day. However, raw food doesn’t necessarily have to be all or nothing. In fact, simply implementing a raw food snacks or a small raw food supplement on top of your dog’s kibble can prove to have impressive results.

raw dog food contains glucosamine for dogs

Synthetic Source of Glucosamine

When choosing a synthetic source of glucosamine for your furry companion, you will have the option between an over-the-counter supplement or an injectable supplement. It is no secret that injectable supplements are fast acting and the most effective. However, injectable supplements will prove to be very expensive over time and may not be the right choice for everyone’s lifestyle.

With that being said, if you choose to purchase an over-the-counter glucosamine supplement, there are a few things to be aware of.

Reputable Source

First, it is important for dog owners to know that pet supplements (and pet treats for that matter) are not regulated as dog food is. For this reason, it is imperative that you purchase any and all supplements from reputable companies. It is entirely possible that a product may be branded as a glucosamine supplement, yet only contain small amounts that will not be effective. Do your homework and always ask for a Certificate of Analysis whenever possible.

Glucosamine Sulfate

Next, experts recommend choosing glucosamine sulfate over glucosamine hydrochloride. Studies have shown that glucosamine sulfate is often more effective. When it comes to natural relief of your pup’s ailments, you want to make sure you are buying a product that will deliver effective results.

Glucosamine with Chondroitin

Additionally, it is important to purchase a joint supplement that not only contains the appropriate levels of glucosamine but one that also contains chondroitin. Chondroitin is a naturally occurring substance that aids to repair cartilage damage and works hand in hand with glucosamine to promote overall joint health.

Talk to Your Vet

Finally, when choosing an over-the-counter supplement it is still important to seek the guidance of your vet, even though it is not a prescription. You will have the option of a chewable tablet, a powder, or a liquid and you want to make sure that you are purchasing exactly what your dog needs.

Glucosamine Dosage For Dogs

glucosamine dosage for dogs

As we previously mentioned, studies show that most dogs need a daily dose of approximately 500 mg of glucosamine per 25 pounds of body weight. For this reason, kibble alone will almost never be enough to make a substantial difference in your dog’s life. That’s where dietary supplements come into play.

Additionally, a great feature of glucosamine comes from the fact that it is a naturally occurring substance. As with many naturally occurring substances that are made into supplements, a glucosamine overdose or toxicity is nearly impossible. However, it is still important to follow your vet’s recommendations to ensure that your dog is receiving enough glucosamine as well as to make sure they aren’t receiving too much which may lead to an upset stomach.

Finally, it is common for your vet to recommend a trial period when introducing glucosamine into your dog’s diet. The trial period is typically around three months and will be able to show your veterinarian how your dog is responding to the new dietary addition.

Should I Give My Dog Glucosamine?

At the end of the day, having an open conversation with your veterinarian is one of the best things you can do as a pet parent. Based on your dog’s breed, age, weight, and overall health, your vet will be able to determine their potential for joint issues and whether or not a glucosamine supplement is something worth considering.

CBD for Dogs

If you love staying up to date on the latest and greatest in holistic wellness, you’ve likely heard of CBD. Derived from the hemp plant, CBD is making substantial headway in the ways that pet owners are able to medicate dogs and cats. CBD presents a safe way to make sure our animals are living their best lives possible.

CBD Joint Support

If your pup isn’t as spritely as they used to be, you may want to consider trying the Joint Support CBD Soft Chews. In addition to 250 mg of a premium CBD blend, the poultry-flavored soft chews also include lab-quality glucosamine (500mg), chondroitin, and boswellia.

Although not a cure, the soft chews are ideal for dogs that experience joint stiffness associated with normal, daily activity.

Recommended Dosage:

Dogs from:

  •  5-25lbs: 1/2 chew daily
  • 26-50lbs: 1 chew daily
  • 51-75: 2 chews daily
  • Over 75lbs: 3 chews daily

Additional Information 

* Soft chews per container: 30

* Each soft chew contains 8.3 mg of CBD

* THC-Free

Prevention is Key

As with all diseases and ailments, prevention is truly everything. While we certainly can’t prevent the circle of life and the aging process, as pet owners, we do have control over other aspects of our dogs’ lives. Understanding breed-associated health risks is paramount in the early detection of many diseases. For instance, time and time again studies have shown that large breed dogs are highly prone to hip dysplasia.

Additionally, talk to your vet regarding glucosamine and joint support. There are ways to slow down any joint degeneration, help rebuild any damage that has been done, and prevent additional joint issues from rapidly developing.

Glucosamine for Dogs: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, we know that you want the very best for your dog. Recognizing that they are in pain can be incredibly difficult for a doting pet parent. However, understanding that there is a problem is a crucial first step in treating it. Glucosamine supplements for dogs are an effective, safe, and proactive way to help naturally ease your dog’s joint pain and help restore mobility. We encourage our readers to talk to their vet about implementing a glucosamine supplement into their dog’s diet.

Furthermore, when paired with additional, all-natural supplements such as CBD oil or turmeric, glucosamine can help to make a world of difference in your fur baby’s life. All things said and done, we truly hope your pup feels better soon.


About the author

Jennifer Dempsey

Dr. Jennifer Dempsey is a small animal veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) She has resided in the Orlando area since graduation and has gained years of experience helping cats and dogs live happier and longer lives. As a general practitioner, she has found client education to be one of the most important aspects of day to day life in veterinary medicine. Medical writing has helped her to connect with a larger audience and make sure that pet owners are fully aware of their loved one’s medical condition. She currently shares her home with two rescued mixed breed dogs named Primo and Morgan.