Glucosamine For Dogs: Why Is It So Important?

Any pet owner watching their dog struggle with the misery of arthritis knows how heart-breaking this condition can be.

But did you know a safe, non-prescription product is available that may protect your dog’s joints? In addition, it is side effect free and compatible with most drugs, which is why you should know about glucosamine for dogs.

What Is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine belongs to a group of food supplements called nutraceuticals. Much like vitamins, nutraceuticals are food-like substances that have a drug-like action in the body and greatly aid health and well-being.

The good news about nutraceuticals is because they mimic substances occurring naturally in the body, and are very safe with limited (if any) side effects. Glucosamine itself is a sugar molecule derived from the chemical break down of chitin in the shells of crustaceans, such as prawns and crabs. This again is great news, because most glucosamine for dogs is made from animal waste which would otherwise be thrown away.


One of the exciting things about glucosamine is that it improves joint health. Glucosamine provides the building blocks required to manufacture the ‘health guardians’ of joints, substances called glycosaminoglycan’s (GAG) and hyaluronic acid. Both of these are the equivalent of the bricks and mortar needed to repair a damaged wall, only here the bricks are cartilage and the mortar is joint fluid.

It is true that food provides some building blocks, but most are destroyed by the stomach’s digestive juices and never make it to the joints. Giving a supplement of glucosamine is like despatching an on-site factory (making GAG and hyaluronic acid) to where it’s needed most (the joints) to make urgent and on-going repairs.

What can glucosamine do for my dog? Glucosamine for dogs acts in several ways. Firstly, it improves the quality of joint fluid. This fluid, much like the oil lubricating a car engine, makes for smooth movement. But just like engine oil, over time it degrades and ceases to do its job properly. Glucosamine helps turn this around and encourages the production of thick, slippery joint fluid for better-lubricated joints.

Secondly, studies show glucosamine protects the precious cartilage lining of the joints. Glucosamine nourishes the chondrocytes (the cells that produce cartilage), reduce inflammation and encourage repair. Healthy cartilage is vital to good joint health, to allow bones to glide across each other without grating. It is when cartilage becomes inflamed or chipped, that the pain develops we associate with a sprain or indeed arthritis.

Backing up this claim, experimental studies looked at inflammation in the joints of two groups of dogs – those given a glucosamine supplement and those given a placebo (fake pill). The results showed those given glucosamine recovered more quickly from a sprain and with less damage to the joint. [1]

One implication of this is that a glucosamine supplement potentially protects the joints of normal, energetic dogs from the accidental damage which can lead to arthritis later in life.

Which Is The Best Glucosamine For Dogs?

Laurel and Hardy, Savage and Hyneman, some things work better as a double act. This is also the case when glucosamine is paired with chondroitin. The latter is another nutraceutical, but one that is great at mopping up toxic enzymes (natural chemicals) in joint fluid that occur because of inflammation. The upshot is that glucosamine chondroitin for dogs is a perfect partnership when it comes to controlling degenerative joint disease.

But if the thought of two supplements seems too much like hard work, don’t worry – these days most glucosamine supplements come pre-combined with chondroitin.

When choosing a glucosamine supplement, look for one combined with chondroitin. If your dog is good at taking tablets consider NaturVet Glucosamine DS or try a chewy tablet such as Cosequin chewable tablets (as recommended by vets).

Alternatively there are dog chews formulated to contain glucosamine, including Spring Valley Soft Chews or OsteoPet Soft Chews. The final option is a liquid supplement designed to add to food, for example TerraMax Pro Joint Supplement.

Can Dogs Take Glucosamine With Other Medication?

The chances are a dog with sore joints is already on pain relief medication. Unfortunately, these drugs, especially non-steroidals, are notorious for having side effects when combined with other drugs. But because glucosamine occurs naturally in the body, there are no unpleasant drug interactions and so yes, glucosamine is safe in combination.

Glucosamine for Dogs - Side Effects

Studies show glucosamine is safe for diabetics [2] and has no effect on other organs such as the thyroid gland [3] Occasionally, some dogs develop flatulence and soft stools, but this is rare, and there are no known serious side effects. [4]

Glucosamine Dosage For Dogs

What's the right glucosamine dosage for dogs? Each product has a dose recommendation on the pack, but because glucosamine is so safe there is huge leeway. A recommended glucosamine dosage for dogs is between 13 to 30 mg/ kg, which means an average healthy Labrador taking between around 400mg to 900 mg of glucosamine and chondroitin a day (double this for arthritic dogs).

When considering how much glucosamine for dogs to give, one idea is to start with the higher dose, build blood levels for one month, and then reduce to a lower maintenance dose.

How Long Before My Dog Feels A Difference?

Glucosamine is not a quick fix, and experts advise it takes 6 – 8 weeks to notice a difference. It takes time for the glucosamine to get where it’s needed and then repair the damage. Going back to our brick wall analogy you could say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’!

How Long Does My Pet Take Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a supplement for life. This isn’t because it’s addictive (it isn’t) but because the body undergoes wear and tear every day, so you need to top up the blood’s glucosamine levels…which is a great investment in your dog’s long term joint health.


[1] Scintigraphic evaluation of glucosamine and chondroitin as treatment for acute synovitis in dogs. Canapp & McLaughlin. Am J Vet Res 60 (12)

[2] Effects of Glucosamine-chondroitin …on Serum Fructosamine Activity of Healthy Dogs. Lenox & Lun. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2010 Jan, 15

[3] Effects of the Oral Administration of …a Nutraceutical on the Thyroid Function of Dogs with Osteoarthritis. Sauve & Paradis. Can Vet J. 2003 June

[4] Nutraceuticals in veterinary medicine. Part II Safety and efficacy. Boothe. Comp Contin Educ Prac Vet 20 (1)

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