We all know and understand the aches and pains that come with stiff and sore joints. Joint pain and arthritis make it difficult for people to walk, stay active, and enjoy life. One often-reached-for supplement that we rely on to help keep our joints in great shape is glucosamine.
And it turns out glucosamine is also recommended by many veterinarians to help our four-legged companions with hip and joint concerns like arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
So, if your dog is slowing down due to age, injury, or you have a breed prone to hip and joint problems, here’s what you need to know about glucosamine for dogs, including its benefits and how to administer it properly to your canine.
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a compound that is produced naturally in your dog’s body.
“It is a substance found in the body in articulate joints, joints that move, that helps maintain and repair cartilage,” says Dr. Tori Countner, veterinarian and owner of The Balanced Pet Vet. “It also decreases inflammatory cytokines, substances secreted by cells that cause inflammation, which helps to minimize pain associated with arthritis.”
Glucosamine is usually harvested from the shells of shellfish including crabs, oysters, and shrimp. But it can also be made synthetically from plant sources in a lab.
Is Glucosamine Good for Dogs?
“Fortunately, glucosamine is generally a very safe supplement for dogs, and toxicity is very rare,” says Dr. Maranda Elswick, veterinarian and owner of The Meowing Vet.
Adding glucosamine into your dog’s diet can have numerous benefits .
“Glucosamine is great for dogs in maintaining joint health, decreasing pain, and slowing the progression of arthritis,” says Dr. Countner.
It works by protecting joint cartilage. Dr. Elswick explains that glucosamine stimulates collagen synthesis and increases the production of hyaluronic acid. This helps to lubricate a dog’s joints and reduce friction. She also adds that glucosamine for dogs can help prevent destruction to cartilage by reducing oxidative stress and blocking harmful enzymatic activity.
Benefits of Glucosamine for Dogs
As previously mentioned, glucosamine has a host of benefits for dogs including:
- Lubricating joints
- Protecting cartilage
- Easing joint stiffness
- Reducing pain due to arthritis
- Helping to maintain connective tissue
Besides its incredible joint benefits, glucosamine can also improve your dog’s health in other ways.
“Glucosamine may also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can mitigate pain,” says Dr. Elswick.
However, Elswick and other veterinarians stress that while glucosamine can help reduce symptoms of arthritis and joint pain in dogs, it’s not a cure for the disease itself.
Can You Use Human Glucosamine for Dogs?
While human glucosamine is generally safe to give dogs, pet owners should be careful when reading labels and dosing their canine family members.
“Over-the-counter human glucosamine can be administered orally to dogs so long as [the formulations] do not contain other ingredients which can be harmful to pets,” says Dr. Elswick. “Glucosamine or glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate should ideally be the sole ingredients.”
However, dogs and humans do not have the same absorption rates, and that’s where dosing can get tricky.
“The bioavailability of oral glucosamine is much lower in dogs than in humans due to metabolic differences between species,” says Dr. Elswick. “When administering a dog a human glucosamine product, pet owners should seek the counsel of their personal veterinarians to calculate the proper dosage.”
Understanding Glucosamine Dosages for Dogs
“Most dogs require a higher dosage of glucosamine per unit of body weight than their human counterparts,” says Dr. Elswick, who adds that dogs usually require roughly 2-4 times more milligrams of glucosamine per kilogram of body weight in comparison to humans.
“The average initial dog dosage is roughly 50-100 mg per kg of body weight per day for at least 2-6 weeks to allow time for efficacy,” says Dr. Elswick. “Depending on the dog’s response, the dosage may be able to be reduced for maintenance.”
It’s always important to speak to your veterinarian about the dosing that is right for your dog. And if you’re confused or unsure about giving dogs glucosamine, you can look for veterinarian-formulated glucosamine chews and treats, which take the guesswork out of calculating the right dose. Simply follow the instructions on the product for your dog’s age and weight, and your dog should be getting the right amount of glucosamine.
Glucosamine Supplements for Dogs
Thankfully, glucosamine can be found in a number of formulations and products for your pooch.
“Glucosamine can be found in supplements, usually in combination with other joint protective additives,” says Dr. Counter. “It is usually paired with chondroitin sulfate, which reduces friction within joints by keeping the joint fluid hydrated and healthy.”
When choosing a glucosamine supplement for your dog, make sure to research the company and manufacturer or the product prior to purchasing. Look for hip and joint supplements that are formulated by veterinarians, undergo third-party testing, and use natural ingredients.
In addition to dog supplements containing glucosamine, the ingredient is sometimes added to prescription veterinary diets that are formulated for joint health. There are also prescription and injectable glucosamine options for dogs as well.
Injectable forms may have higher bioavailability than oral types,” says Dr. Elswick.
Glucosamine for Dogs: Side Effects
While glucosamine is generally considered extremely safe, there are some instances where your dog should not be taking it.
Dr. Counter explains that—though rare—some dogs have shellfish allergies and should not take glucosamine. It is also not recommended for dogs with bleeding disorders or for some dogs taking insulin, certain chemotherapy drugs, or blood thinners.
Most dogs tolerate glucosamine very well, but others may experience mild side effects, such as vomiting or diarrhea, says Dr. Elswick.
“Administering glucosamine with food can help reduce the chance for gastrointestinal upset,” she adds.
Protecting Your Dog’s Joint Health
“I urge clients to start their dogs, especially medium to large breeds, on a joint supplement early on in life that includes glucosamine,” says Dr. Countner. “Protecting their joints early will make for a better quality of life as they age.”
If you are thinking of adding it into their diet, talk to your veterinarian or look for veterinarian-formulated products to make sure you’re giving your dog the right type of glucosamine supplement.
“Pet owners should keep in mind that not all glucosamine products are made equally,” says Elswick. “Some brands may be very low in glucosamine, requiring a huge or unrealistic volume to be administered to meet a dog’s dose requirement. If in doubt, ask your personal vet.”