Just about any veterinarian you meet will recommend glucosamine to support your dog’s joints … especially if she’s getting a little stiff or achy with arthritis.
Most vets have a product to sell you too … a supplement like Cosequin or Dasuquin. If your dog’s starting to lose mobility, your vet may even suggest an injectable source of glucosamine like Adequan.
But there are better ways to give your dog glucosamine.
But first, what is glucosamine and what does it do in the body?
What Is Glucosamine For Dogs?
Glucosamine is actually a combination name made up of glutamine (an amino acid) and glucose (a sugar).Your dog’s body naturally produces its own glucosamine. It’s a substance that helps create molecules that form the cartilage of your dog’s joints.
As your dog ages, her body produces less glucosamine. So her joints can stiffen up and lose their shock-absorbing cartilage. Giving extra glucosamine can help maintain her mobility.
There are three common forms of glucosamine:
- Glucosamine sulfate: this is the most common type of glucosamine used in supplements … and the one that’s been most thoroughly researched. It’s extracted from the shells of shellfish. It can also be produced synthetically in a lab. The body needs sulfate to produce cartilage.
- Glucosamine hydrochloride: also known as glucosamine HCL. It also comes from shellfish shells, but doesn’t contain sulfate. It’s more concentrated than glucosamine sulfate … but some studies show it’s less effective for joint issues.
- NAG – N-Acetyl-Glucosamine: this form of glucosamine is a derivative of glucose. That’s the body’s precursor to hyaluronic acid, part of the synovial fluid that lubricates joints. NAG can be used for both joint and gastrointestinal issues. NAG comes from the outer shell of crustaceans. It’s mostly used for gut health, not for joint repair.
In joint support products, glucosamine is often combined with other ingredients like chondroitin or MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). These ingredients together can help maintain the cartilage in your dog’s joints.
What Does Glucosamine Do?
Glucosamine is a natural anti-inflammatory. This makes it a very popular supplement for people and pets with joint pain or stiffness.
It can help improve mobility and range of motion. It can help slow the aging process in your dog’s joints.
Glucosamine is naturally produced within the joints, where it combines with collagen to produce and repair cartilage. Healthy cartilage is naturally flexible and spongy. So it acts as a shock absorber in the joints. Synovial fluid naturally lubricates the joints. Glucosamine can help maintain its viscous consistency.
With the aging process, your dog’s body makes less glucosamine. This means her cartilage deteriorates, leaving less cushioning in the joints. There’s also less lubricating synovial fluid … which is why your dog’s joints might be getting a bit “creaky” as she gets older.
So it seems like a great idea to give your dog glucosamine. But what’s the best way to do that?
Glucosamine In Kibble?
Some commercial dog foods claim to promote joint support because they contain glucosamine.
Beware these claims, because the amount of glucosamine in most kibbles is far less than your dog would need to help her joints.
A 50 lb dog would need about 1000 mg of glucosamine supplement a day. But with some kibbles you’d have to feed more than 20 cups of food a day to get this amount! Not a good choice!
So don’t be fooled into thinking glucosamine in kibble will help your dog.
Instead … glucosamine-rich whole foods get my vote. They’re less expensive than veterinary or synthetic supplements. And they can work just as well.
Glucosamine For Dogs
Your dog has naturally occurring glucosamine in her body. So do the animals she eats. This means there are some delicious foods you can give your dog to provide her with natural sources of glucosamine.
But before I list glucosamine rich foods, there are two things you need to know …
Bioavailability refers to the amount of any nutrient (or drug) that gets digested and delivered to the cells that use it.
The good news is … the glucosamine your dog gets from food is absorbed fast. So her body can use it right away. Because it’s “just food,” her body knows what to do with it. So it takes much less natural glucosamine to be effective, compared to a synthetic supplement.
2. How Much To Feed
Dogs need about 500 mg of glucosamine per day per 25 lbs of body weight.
But don’t bother adding up the grams of glucosamine your dog gets through her food. Just feed some of these foods regularly and she’ll get plenty of natural glucosamine.
For example, beef trachea is mostly cartilage, which contains about 5% glucosamine. A 1 oz piece of trachea will provide your dog with over 1400 mg of glucosamine. Or take another food, chicken feet … just one chicken foot contains about 400 mg of glucosamine.
Food Sources Of Glucosamine
Trachea is made up of cartilage, which is rich in glucosamine. Beef trachea is the easiest to find, but some raw dog food suppliers have lamb, goat or ostrich trachea.
All of these are a great chewy meal or snack fed raw. But you can also dehydrate them for a crunchy nutritious treat.
Remember earlier I mentioned Adequan, a prescription injectable (and very expensive) form of glucosamine that many vets recommend? Check out this information from the product insert.
The active ingredient in Adequan Canine is polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG). Polysulphated glycosaminoglycan is a semi-synthetic glycosaminoglycan prepared by extracting glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) from bovine tracheal cartilage.
In other words, Adequan comes from beef trachea. So you can cut out the middle man (and the expense) and just feed your dog trachea!
Give your dog a chewy beef trachea meal to provide bioavailable glucosamine It’s fun and tasty for your dog … and she’ll probably benefit just as much as getting a shot every few days!
Chicken feet are loaded with natural glucosamine. And they make a yummy crunchy snack or can be part of your dog’s meal. Some dogs like eating them still frozen. And don’t worry about the toenails – they’ll go down fine!
You can also feed other poultry feet such as duck, turkey, goose or guinea fowl.
Oxtails Or Pig Tails
Tails are made up of cartilage surrounded by some meat.
Cartilage is 5% glucosamine. So oxtails (beef) or pig tails are another good way to give your dog a healthy meal with plenty of glucosamine.
Beef Knuckle Bones
Beef knuckle bones have lots of cartilage … and dogs love gnawing on these big bones. A good knuckle bone can provide hours of entertainment … and it’s a valuable source of glucosamine.
Shellfish shells contain glucosamine too. If you can buy wild shrimp with the shells on, you can feed them to your dog. Or have them yourself for dinner and share them with your dog by giving her the shells and tails. (My dogs beg for these dinner table handouts!)
You can also make the shells into a nutritious broth by simmering them in water for a few hours.
Green Lipped Mussels
Green lipped mussels contain high levels of glucosamine. Research has proven that they reduce arthritis symptoms in and they’ve been well researched and proven to reduce arthritis symptoms in people and animals.
Green lipped mussels are rich in glycosaminoglycans (or GAGs). Some especially important GAGs are chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. You’ll see both those in a lot of arthritis supplements. But they’re naturally found in green lipped mussels.
So this means green lipped mussels can provide powerful help for your arthritic dog.
Make sure the product is cold extracted or freeze dried as heat destroys the nutrients. And if you buy a powder, make sure it still has the oil in it. Some manufacturers strip out the oil and sell it separately.
Give a 50 lb dog 800 mg of green lipped mussel powder per day. If you use oil, give 50 mg per day to a 50 lb dog.
Or follow the dosing instructions on the package. If you buy a product made for humans, assume it’s for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.
These supplements are the most effective way to give your dog green lipped mussels. But you can also buy freeze dried green lipped mussel treats and give 2 mussels for every 10 lbs of body weight per day.
RELATED: Green lipped mussels for dogs …
Making a rich, gelatinous bone broth is another wonderful way to give your dog natural glucosamine. It’s easy to make even though it needs to spend 24 hours or so simmering on the stove (or in a slow cooker). Bone broth has countless health benefits, and it’s loaded with glucosamine and other joint-supporting nutrients.
RELATED: DIY bone broth recipe for dogs …
Other Joint Support Foods
Here are a few other foods you can add to your dog’s meals to help her joints.
The bright orange-yellow spice turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help reduce joint pain.
A study in humans showed curcumin, the main constituent in turmeric, to be as effective as ibuprofen in reducing discomfort in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
Don’t use grocery store turmeric. Grocery store turmeric usually only contains 2% to 4% curcumin by weight … and may be grown using pesticides.
Instead, buy organic turmeric at a health store instead. Look for a product standardized for 95% curcuminoids. You can also buy the fresh turmeric root at a grocery store and crush it.
Give ⅛ to ¼ tsp of turmeric daily for every 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight.
Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM®)
NEM® is the natural thin membrane that’s on the inside of an eggshell.
If you feel like a labor-intensive project, you can peel it off yourself. Or you can save time and buy it as a supplement instead!
NEM® is an amazing supplement for dogs with arthritis. It can help reduce pain. It also improves joint function. Research in humans has shown excellent results in managing joint pain and stiffness. And now there’s research showing proven benefits in dogs too.
A 6-week trial on 51 dogs found a 23.6% improvement in pain compared to placebo, and a 26.8% quality of life improvement. The study also measured changes in serum levels of cartilage degradation biomarker CTX-II. This showed a 47.9% improvement.
Make sure the eggshell membrane you buy carries the NEM® registered trademark.
Give your dog 60mg per 10 lbs of body weight a day.
Blueberries contain many powerful nutrients, including high levels of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that can help minimize inflammation by fighting free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause oxidative damage in the body, leading to chronic inflammation and disease.
Most fruits contain three or four types of anthocyanins, but blueberries have a whopping 20 different kinds, making them a true superfood when it comes to keeping your dog’s joints healthy.
Give your dog a few blueberries in his food or as a treat or snack. You can give them fresh or frozen. Frozen blueberries make a nice crunchy treat! Start gradually if your dog’s not used to blueberries, as they contain lots of fiber that may cause loose stool at first.
Ginger is well known for its benefits to the digestive system, including relieving gas and nausea. But its ability to ease arthritis pain isn’t as well known.
Ginger stops the immune system from producing leukotrienes, which cause inflammation. Ginger can also increase circulation for older dogs who lack mobility.
You can use raw ginger root (available at most grocery stores). Remove the skin with a paring knife or peeler and finely mince the root. Mix it into your dog’s food, giving ¼ tsp for miniature breeds, ½ tsp for dogs up to 35 lbs and ¾ tsp for larger dogs.
The flavor is quite strong so you may want to start with a smaller dose until your dog gets used to it.
There are many natural ways to support your dog’s joints without resorting to synthetic supplements or harmful non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drugs (NSAIDs). Try a few of these foods to keep your dog mobile and pain-free!
Hielm-Björkman et al. Evaluating Complementary Therapies for Canine Osteoarthritis Part I: Green-lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009;6(3):365-373.
Kuptniratsaikul V et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Clin Interv Aging. 2014 Mar 20;9:451-8.
Ruff KJ, DeVore DP et al. Eggshell membrane: a possible new natural therapeutic for joint and connective tissue disorders. Results from two open-label human clinical studies. Clin Interv Aging. 2009;4:235-240.
Ruff KJ, et al. Effectiveness of NEM® brand eggshell membrane in the treatment of suboptimal joint function in dogs: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Vet Med (Auckl). 2016;7:113-121. Published 2016 Aug 18.
Schrager MAet al. Effects of blueberry supplementation on measures of functional mobility in older adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2015 Jun;40(6):543-9.