Glucosamine for Dogs: What is it & How Does it Work?

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 6/4/20242-4 minutes
woman kneeling down to pet miniature schnauzer dog

You may have heard about glucosamine for dogs if your canine companion has joint problems. Years of running, jumping and active playing can take their toll on dogs’ bodies. Similarly, injuries to canines of any age may lead to pain and mobility issues.

No matter the reason, if your pet’s joint health is suffering, your veterinarian may recommend glucosamine supplements for dogs. (Chondroitin, another common ingredient in joint supplements, may also be helpful.)

Keep reading to learn more about glucosamine and chondroitin for dogs, including how they work, and if they have any potential side effects. 

What is Glucosamine for Dogs?

Glucosamine is a natural compound found in cartilage, the protective tissue surrounding the ends of bones.

Cartilage acts as a cushion for bones, absorbing shock from physical activity. Over time, cartilage can deteriorate. However, glucosamine can rebuild some amount of lost cartilage. 

As a supplement, glucosamine for dogs can be sourced from shellfish shells or made from plant-based materials in a lab. 

Glucosamine supplements are part of a group of nutraceuticals known as chondroprotective agents (cartilage protectors) and are commonly used to treat osteoarthritis in humans, horses and dogs alike. 

What is Chondroitin for Dogs?

Glucosamine can be paired with chondroitin sulphate, a supplement which stimulates cartilage repair in the joints.

Usually made from cow or pig cartilage or plant-based sources, chondroitin may promote water retention and the elasticity of cartilage to help with shock absorption and nourishment of the joint lining.

Additionally, chondroitin may inhibit destructive enzymes in joint fluid and cartilage and reduce clots in small vessels.

Is Glucosamine Good for Dogs?

Yes, glucosamine can be helpful to dogs with joint problems. Here are some of the benefits associated with glucosamine:

  • Repairs damaged cartilage, namely the articular cartilage between joints 
  • Reduces inflammation 
  • Relieves joint stiffness 
  • Supports structural integrity of joints and connective tissues 
  • Alleviates arthritis caused by joint instability (e.g., following ligament damage), trauma (e.g., fractures), damage to cartilage or abnormal development 
  • Aids in the treatment of hip dysplasia and spinal disc injury 
  • Eases recovery following joint surgery 
  • May help keep performance dogs in peak condition

Does Glucosamine for Dogs Work?

Some studies demonstrate a positive benefit to dogs taking a glucosamine supplement such as significant improvement in joint pain. While these studies show positive results, however, more research is needed to verify all of the effects of glucosamine for dogs.

The Side Effects of Glucosamine for Dogs

The side effects of consuming glucosamine are rare, but they are possible.

Side effects may include allergic reactions. Depending on how glucosamine is formulated, this may be more common if your dog is known to have a fish/shellfish allergy.

Mild gastrointestinal effects such as loose stools and flatulence may also occur.

How Can I Give Glucosamine & Chondroitin to My Dog?

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are available from many pet product retailers. They may come as a powder, which you can simply sprinkle into your dog’s food. They’re also available in tablet and liquid forms.

Remember, before giving your dog any supplement, speak to your veterinarian first. Using vet-recommended glucosamine for dogs reduces health risks for your pet. They’ll help you determine if the supplement is appropriate, and if so, assist with figuring out the right dosage.

Typically, glucosamine supplements need to be taken daily for several weeks in order to have an effect. 

Natural Glucosamine for Dogs

Glucosamine occurs naturally in several common dog food ingredients—usually proteins. If your pet eats a high-quality, complete-and-balanced diet, they already consume some amount of it.

If you’re looking for a supplement that has natural glucosamine for dogs, it’s important to know there is no legal definition of the word “natural” when it comes to supplements.

That said, glucosamine used in supplements can be produced in a laboratory or derived from food ingredients. While both options can be effective, some pet owners may feel more comfortable choosing a supplement with ingredients associated with joint health, such as hemp seed oil, fish oils and green-lipped mussels.

Glucosamine & Green-Lipped Mussels for Dogs

Some dog joint supplements use green-lipped mussels as a source of glucosamine. A shellfish found off the coast of New Zealand, green-lipped mussels contain high levels of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which can lubricate joints and provide cartilage support. 

Research suggests dogs fed a diet containing green-lipped mussels experienced reduced inflammation of their joints.

Additionally, green-lipped mussels for dogs can also provide high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids and other vitamins and minerals that promote healthy skin.

Can Dogs Take Human Glucosamine?

Never give your dog glucosamine or chondroitin intended for human use without guidance from your veterinarian. Glucosamine supplements formulated for people may contain quantities above what is safe for your pet.

If your dog has arthritis, hip dysplasia or other joint problems, supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin may help reduce their pain. Ask your veterinarian if these are appropriate for your pet and find out if they have other recommendations for promoting joint health.

Want more expert tips on caring for your canine companion? Explore our other dog health articles.

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