We hate to bring this up, but every dog ages (boo!) and as part of the whole ‘getting old’ package, achy and creaky joints become commonplace.
Though we can’t time travel at Pooch & Mutt (yet), we do know of a secret ingredient that fights the effects of ageing when it comes to joints - and that’s glucosamine. We love it so much, we use it in both our dog joint care food and joint care supplements, because its essential cartilage-building properties are too good to miss.
So why exactly is glucosamine for dogs so fantastic? Read on for a full guide to glucosamine and how you can use it to make your dog’s joints stronger and healthier.
In technical terms, glucosamine is an amino sugar that comes in three forms: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride and N-acetyl glucosamine. Researchers have found glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride to be most effective for protecting joints (1), so that’s what you’ll see listed on most joint supplements for dogs.
Though glucosamine is produced naturally in a dog’s (and human’s) body, it can also be found in the natural world - for instance, from the shells of crustaceans like oysters, mussels and crab.
The great thing about glucosamine is it forms the building blocks of cartilage; the tough, shock-absorbing substance that cushions two bones at the joint. Cartilage erodes over time, meaning as a dog gets older, their bones rub more closely against each other and inflame the joint, commonly leading to osteoarthritis.
Dogs naturally produce less glucosamine as they age, so their body becomes less effective at rebuilding this cartilage, essential for healthy, comfortable movement. Therefore, bolstering a dog’s diet with glucosamine-rich foods or a supplement containing glucosamine can give your dog’s joints the extra protection they need to stay happy and mobile - particularly when combined with other powerful joint-building ingredients such as chondroitin (2).
All dogs aged 12 weeks and over can benefit from taking glucosamine to ensure healthy, lubricated joints or as a preventative measure - particularly if your dog’s breed is prone to joint diseases in old age, or if they’re a busy working dog.
On the other hand, glucosamine for senior dogs can provide much-needed pain relief to improve their quality of life - especially if they’re finding it harder to walk, struggling to climb stairs, or seem slower getting to their feet these days. It can also ease discomfort for a dog with a joint injury, or one who’s recently had surgery.
Glucosamine won’t reverse the effects of arthritis or hip dysplasia, though vets will often recommend it for pain relief alongside traditional medication. It’s a good idea to check with your vet before using glucosamine for dogs, just to be safe.
Glucosamine comes with a doggy bag full of treats for all things joints…
Glucosamine introduced via your dog’s diet will replace the cartilage-building functionality their body loses over time, so they’ll maintain their youthful energy and stay vivacious, bouncing and carefree for years to come.
If used as a preventative measure for joint pain, glucosamine should maintain your dog’s ability to move freely; so they can jump, prance and roll around without resistance or discomfort.
It’s never fun to see your dog struggling to get around, especially when they were very active before. As arthritic or ageing dogs can’t use crutches or wheelchairs, it’s even more important to halt pain at the source to ensure they’re comfortable. Glucosamine helps reduce inflammation - so their stiff and achy limbs will feel eased.
If your dog has recently undergone surgery in their bones or joints, glucosamine (along with traditional painkillers) can contribute to a healthy, speedy recovery - so they’ll be back to their usual tail-wagging self in no time.
If your pooch has started to lack energy as they age, they’ll become perkier and more high-spirited once their glucosamine-rich diet has alleviated those dull aches and pains! With longer walks and more time outside, their quality of life will be boosted, too.
You can give your dog glucosamine every day, but as with all doggy diet changes, the recommended dosage depends on their weight:
Remember: if your dog is fed glucosamine-rich foods (see below) they may not require a supplement that day; whereas if your dog is injured or recovering from surgery, it’s ok to give them a bit more than usual.
Glucosamine is a natural material - present in animal bones, bone marrow and the shells of shellfish, so your dog could be receiving its benefits from a range of raw foods. Beef, lamb and goat trachea, chicken’s feet, ox’s and pig’s tails and green-lipped mussels, for instance, are all great natural glucosamine sources that dogs dig.
Natural glucosamine is better absorbed into your dog’s body, which is why if you opt for supplements, it’s important to choose ones that use naturally derived ingredients rather than synthetic alternatives.
Green-lipped mussels aren’t exactly something you can pick up with bread and milk, so many dog owners sneak an easy glucosamine supplement into their dog’s daily feed instead.
Our tasty Mobile Bones for Dogs supplement, for example, contains other nutritional ingredients that supercharge glucosamine’s joint-boosting power - such as yucca, fish oil and selenium. Just feed them to your dog directly or crumble into food using the dosage guidelines on the pack.
Glucosamine is often present in joint supplements alongside chondroitin, as together they form a cartilage-building power duo.
Though rare, there is a risk of side effects with these two ingredients. Keep a lookout for the following symptoms in your dog - it could mean they’re getting too much glucosamine and/or chondroitin, or may be allergic.
This is likely the most common side effect of glucosamine, so if you notice your dog’s toilet habits significantly change or they have tummy trouble after taking it, cut glucosamine from their diet and chat to your vet.
Is your pooch uncharacteristically dragging their paws? A drop in energy is a sign to cut the glucosamine and see if things change.
At the other end of the sleepy scale, pay attention if your dog is suddenly fidgety and can’t settle down for a kip - especially if they’re usually a mutt that drops and snores on cue.
Lots of dogs seem to lift their leg every minute come walkies, so this can be a tough one to spot - but be aware if your dog is peeing more or is much thirstier than usual.
If your pup starts to hyperventilate, choke or wheeze after taking glucosamine, take them to a vet immediately for a check-up.
Though humans and dogs get the same benefits from glucosamine, we have quite different digestive systems. The main risk with feeding human glucosamine supplements to dogs is the other ingredients that may be included - for example, xylitol, an artificial sweetener deemed toxic for dogs; or zinc, which will cause them significant distress. As we’re much bigger than most dogs, human dosage guidelines are also variable.
It makes more sense to use a glucosamine supplement specifically designed for canines - just to be sure of your dog’s comfort and safety.