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Many dog owners don’t learn about the value of glucosamine supplements until their dogs are already showing signs of joint pain and degeneration in their senior years. That may look like stiffness in the hips when rising or laying down, decreased pep and activity, difficulty climbing stairs or getting into the car or onto the couch or bed.
“Glucosamine is a naturally occurring amino sugar in the body that helps form and repair cartilage,” explains Dr. Rolan Tripp, DVM, CABC, and founder of PetHappiness. Older dogs gradually produce less glucosamine, resulting in degeneration of joint cartilage. But glucosamine supplements given during a dog’s adult life can improve mobility and comfort in older dogs.
“Glucosamine hydrochloride is a compound that is found in the body that is a building block of cartilage and stimulates the growth of cartilage,” explains Dr. Antje Joslin, co-owner of 99th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Animal Clinic in Arizona. “There have been several well-controlled studies that show improvement in dogs with osteoarthritis of the hip and elbow that responded after taking oral glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate. Dogs showed improvement in pain scores and weight bearing activities. Although, the response to supplements took about two months to achieve.”
Look for supplements that contain both glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl) and chondroitin sulfate as these ingredients work best when given in tandem. You’ll find glucosamine supplements as chews and tablets, powders, liquids, treats, and daily food. You may have to try a couple of different types to find the delivery method that works best for you and your dog. Remember that it's always a good idea to check with your vet before introducing a new supplement to your pet's diet.
“You’ll know glucosamine supplements are working when your dog rises easily from a resting position, shows a normal gait, is happier on walks, and is more willing to go up the stairs or play,” says Dr. Tripp. Below are a few of the best glucosamine supplements available to proactively protect your dog’s mobility and improve comfort for older dogs.
Best Overall: Nutramax Cosequin Maximum Strength Joint Supplement for Dogs
Supplement Type: Chewable tablets | Key Ingredients: 600 mg glucosamine HCl, 300 mg sodium chondroitin sulfate, 250 mg MSM, 6 mg HA, 3 mg manganese ascorbate | Life Stages: All ages and sizes
Added methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and hyaluronic acid (HA)
For all ages, dose based on body weight
Some owners report their dogs have had a negative reaction such as vomiting or diarrhea
Unlike many glucosamine supplements, Nutramax Cosequin Maximum Strength Joint Health Plus MSM & HA has been scientifically researched and shown to improve mobility in dogs making it a top recommendation by veterinarians.
Manufactured in the United States, in addition to glucosamine HCl from shellfish and chondroitin sulfate from bovine cartilage, this supplement contains added methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and sodium hyaluronate, also known as hyaluronic acid (HA). MSM is a common anti-inflammatory used to treat osteoarthritis and other tendon and ligament disorders. It also promotes healthy digestion. You may recognize HA because it is common in human skincare products. In dog supplements, it keeps joints hydrated and increases the thickness or viscosity of the fluid in their joints providing a cushion between their bones.
These chewable tablets come in 60 and 120 count. They’re suitable for all ages, so large breeds will need a larger dose based on weight. Nutramax recommends an initial daily dose for four to six weeks and then transitioning to a maintenance dose that is about half the initial dose thereafter.
Owners report that after trying several different supplements, their dogs were noticeably more active and mobile after taking this brand. This brand also comes in lower concentrations of standard and double strength, in other formulations and as soft chews.
Best Budget: Happy Hips Chicken Jerky
Supplement Type: Jerky treat | Key Ingredients: 600-1000 mg/kg glucosamine HCl, 350-500 mg/kg chondroitin sulfate, chicken | Life Stages: All ages and all sizes
First ingredient is chicken
Minimum 50% crude protein
No animal by-products
Very hard when stale
Some glucosamine supplements can be spendy and there’s always a chance your dog will turn their nose up because of the wrong smell. Happy Hips Chicken Jerky is both affordable (around $0.75/ounce) and customers report that dogs love them.
Happy Hips treats are high in protein content—made from antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken from U.S. sources—to help sustain and build muscle strength throughout their active lives and long into their senior years. They’re also low in fat to prevent weight gain that can put extra pressure on sore joints.
Happy Hips are grain-free, so they're suitable for dogs that are allergic to corn or wheat. A bonus is that dogs love the taste so it’s easy to get a daily dose into even the pickiest eaters. Happy Hips is also available in a duck recipe with added chicken hearts and liver.
Best for Small Breeds: Nodens Small Dog Hip and Joint Liquid Glucosamine
Supplement Type: Liquid | Key Ingredients: 260 mg of glucosamine HCl, 50 mg chondroitin sulfate, 120 mg MSM, 10 mg HA, 1 mg manganese | Life Stage: All except pregnant animals
Contains MSM and HA
Fast absorption as a liquid
May not be appropriate for dogs with certain medical conditions
Most supplements come in doses for all sizes of dogs, meaning you might need to give your small dog a tiny fraction of a single chew or treat. You can remove the guesswork and get the exact right dose by using a liquid designed specifically for dosing small dogs. Nodens Small Dog Hip and Joint is an excellent option.
You might notice “USP” on the label ingredients list. That means those ingredients are made to meet or exceed the United States Pharmacopeia standards set by the Food and Drug Administration for human and animal consumption. Nodens also notes that although most MSM is sourced from China, theirs is of the highest purity and comes from U.S. sources.
The beef-flavored daily dose is based on weight and can be given directly into the dog’s mouth or dripped over their food. Made in the United States, one two-ounce bottle should last a 10-pound dog about 2 months.
Nodens has a 1-year shelf life and recommends refrigerating the bottle after opening. Notes that the manufacturer warns: “Consult your vet before using this product in dogs with clotting disorders, on anticoagulant medications, diabetes or metabolic disorder causing hypoglycemia, a history of urinary tract stones and allergies to shellfish.”
Best for Large Breeds: Nutriline Flex EZ Glucosamine Chondroitin Soft Chews for Dogs
Supplement Type: Chew | Key Ingredients: 900 mg glucosamine HCl, 350 mg chondroitin sulfate, 50 mg turmeric, 800 mg MSM, 20 mg Boswellia, 12 mg EPA, 8 mg DHA | Life Stage: Large and giant breed adults
Added turmeric, Boswellia, MSM, EPA and DHA
Contains added sugar and molasses
Supplements formulated for a wide range of dog sizes can require that you dose your large dog breeds with four or five chews a day. That can get spendy and you risk not getting a full dose into your dog. Nutriline Labs Flex-EZ Joint Supplement has a formula specifically designed for large and giant breeds that are 60 pounds or more in size.
In addition to glucosamine and chondroitin, Flex-EZ also contains turmeric, Boswellia, MSM, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, is an herbal extract from the Boswellia serrata tree. Research suggests this traditional medicine is can help with the stympoms of osteoarthritic disease in dogs. It also contains EPA and DHA, which are omega-3 fatty acids that occur naturally in fish.
Pork liver and fish oil ingredients appeal to most dogs, so you won’t have to struggle to get your pet to take a daily dose. The dose can be halved after the first four to six weeks.
Best Liquid: Paramount Pet Liquid Vitamins for Dogs
Supplement Type: Liquid | Key Ingredients: Minimum 300 mg glucosamine HCl, 125 mg chondroitin sulfate, min. 250 mg MSM, min. 90 mg EPA, min. 80 DHA, min. 25 mg coQ-10 | Life Stage: All ages
No artificial flavors or sweeteners
Includes comprehensive collection of vitamins and minerals
90-day shelf life upon opening
Many pet parents prefer to use a liquid over chews or tablets because it’s easy to dispense and can be dribbled over food or given directly. Liquids can also be more readily absorbed than some pills and chews. Paramount Pet Health Liquid Vitamins Skin and Coat Support Dog Supplement is one way to make sure you have all of your dog’s vitamin and mineral needs covered including glucosamine and chondroitin. Also included are several anti-oxidants—MSM, EPA, DHA and coenzyme Q10—that reduce the inflammation that can damage joint cartilage.
An added bonus, these liquid vitamins also contain a minimum of 1 billion CFU (colony forming units) of probiotics to promote healthy digestion and absorption.
Best Powder: Herbsmith Sound Dog Viscosity
Supplement Type: powder | Key Ingredients: flax seed, 2,000 mg glucosamine HCl, 800 mg chondroitin, 2,000 mg MSM, 20 mg HA, 800 mg Boswellia frankincense, 360 mg corydalis, 360 mg curcumin, 360 mg yucca | Life Stage: All ages and sizes
High concentration of glucosamine and chondroitin
Added MSM, HA plus Boswellia, corydalis and curcumin
Higher concentration makes it more expensive than many other brands
Using a powder can be an easy way to give supplements to your dog. You can sprinkle it over their food and powders are generally readily absorbed. Herbsmith Sound Dog Viscosity Advanced Joint Support has an excellent blend of ingredients that support healthy joint maintenance while also reducing inflammation and pain. In addition to high concentrations of glucosamine and chondroitin, this powder includes corydalis, a plant that has been used as a pain reliever in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. One active ingredient in corydalis is called dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB), which has been shown in laboratory studies in mice as effective against inflammatory pain and injury-related neuropathic pain. DHCB doesn’t heal the joint, but it blocks pain signals from reaching the brain the way some prescription painkillers work.
Like Nutriline Flex-EZ, this supplement also includes MSM, Boswellia and curcumin that promote healthy joint function and reduce inflammation. While the yucca plant is toxic to dogs, the yucca root in this supplement is known to reduce swelling and inflammation and promote healthy digestion.
Made in the U.S., this supplement comes in 75 g, 150 g and 500 g sizes so you can choose that amount based on the size of your dog. You can also get a similar blend from Herbsmith in small and large chews.
Best Dog Food: Diamond Naturals Dry Senior Dog Food Formula Made with Chicken, Egg, and Oatmeal
Supplement Type: In daily food | Key Ingredients: Minimum 720 mg/kg glucosamine HCl, minimum 240 mg/kg chondroitin sulfate, chicken, egg, oatmeal | Life Stage: Senior
Free-range chicken is the first ingredient
Added pre- and probiotics and antioxidants
Contains chicken meal (a by-product)
Because the importance of glucosamine has become well known among pet parents, many large breed and senior dog foods have included it, along with chondroitin, in the food. Feeding your dog a food that contains the supplements means that you don’t have to dose your dog with a separate product. But it also means that the dose your dog receives will be dependent on the volume of food they actually eat.
There are a number of high quality foods available on the market that also include glucosamine and chondroitin. Diamond Naturals Senior Dry Dog Food is an excellent choice because it’s a well-balanced food that’s also reasonably affordable compared to other foods in its class. The minimum crude protein is high, around 25 percent and that protein comes from free-range chicken and egg.
As dogs age, they are less active and some tend to gain weight. That extra weight puts added strain on joints. This food has an appropriately moderate fat content, a minimum of 11 percent.
This food is made in the United States by a family-owned company that’s been around for more than 50 years. Reading its ingredients list might make you hungry, as it includes blueberries, flax seeds, kale, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, and quinoa. It also has added probiotics, prebiotic fiber, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.
We like the Nutramax Cosequin Maximum Strength Joint Health Plus MSM and HA (view at Chewy) because its formula is backed by scientific research. We also like Herbsmith Sound Dog Viscosity Advanced Joint Support powder (view at Chewy) because it has the highest concentration of glucosamine and chondroitin among those we researched.
What to Look for in Glucosamine Supplements for Dogs
Glucosamine supplements come in a wide variety of delivery methods. Soft chews and jerky treats seem to be the most common. You’ll also find powders, liquids, chewable tablets, and foods. It may be easier to ensure your dog gets their full dose each day by using chews or treats, but be sure to read reviews before you buy as some picky eaters will turn their nose up at some chew supplements.
Liquids and powders can be added to your dog’s food and are generally easily absorbed by your dog’s digestive tract. This delivery method works well for dogs that eat all their food each day, but may be less effective for dogs that don't finish their meals.
“There is a difference between glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate,” notes Dr. Joslin. “The sulfate is better absorbed by the body but there is no evidence that it shows up in the joint tissues after being taken orally. Therefore, use a product containing glucosamine hydrochloride. It makes no sense to give your dog a product that won’t work where it is needed."
Dr. Joslin says most joint supplements also contain chondroitin which is a supplement that works by inhibiting cartilage-destroying enzymes. When glucosamine HCl and chondroitin are given together, they appear to have a synergistic effect and have been shown to lessen joint inflammation.
How do you know if your dog needs glucosamine supplements?
Ideally, supplements should be given well before you see any signs of joint degeneration. “Any large breed dog or dog that is predisposed to developing osteoarthritis should be started on chondroprotective agents as early as possible,” recommends Dr. Joslin. “They can be given to puppies as young as eight weeks of age. Dogs that have been diagnosed with early osteoarthritis will benefit from supplementation as well.”
Adds Dr. Tripp: “Glucosamine supplements are given to performance dogs and dogs with hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis to alleviate discomfort and slow down joint cartilage degeneration.”
Should you consult a veterinarian before giving your dog glucosamine?
“While glucosamine supplementation is generally safe for dogs, it is a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about which products have the appropriate type of supplement and correct dosing for your dog,” notes Dr. Joslin. “The nutraceutical market [foods with vitamin and medicinal additives] is flooded with products and it is sometimes hard to find the right supplements for your pet."
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two dog companions in her home for the past 35 years. She’s pet parented several dogs into their senior years and two have struggled with hip stiffness and pain. When researching these brands, Lorraine evaluated the type and quality of the ingredients, the company’s research and development of the supplement, and their business ethics.
Lorraine also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in environmental science. She is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally-conscious choices to protect their pets and our planet.
Dr. Antje Joslin has more than 15 years of small animal experience in both private and corporate practice. She is the staff veterinarian for Dogtopia, a group of more than 160 dog daycare centers, boarding facilities, training centers and spas throughout the United States and Canada. Dr. Joslin is also the co-owner of 99th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Animal Clinic in the Greater Phoenix, Arizona area. She earned her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University.
Dr. Rolan Tripp, DVM, CABC, is an author, speaker, inventor, and founder of the Animal Behavior Network and PetHappiness. Dr. Tripp received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from University of California Davis and is certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) in both canine and feline behavior.