Glucosamine for Dogs: Glucosamine Dosages & Benefits

Medical articles
This cute pup in the image is lying down in a cage, most probably on his way to the vet. He has a bandage on his leg, most likely indicating that he has difficulty standing up, can a glucosamine be used as a supplement to help this?

Glucosamine is a hot topic in both human and veterinary health care these days, and with good reason. Glucosamine is considered a building block of joint cartilage, something that can degrade with time, creating considerable inflammation and pain while potentially hindering movement. While glucosamine is naturally produced by the body, production tends to decrease with time. This potentially opens the door for giving supplemental glucosamine as a way of increasing cartilage production, and therefore, joint health. 

What Dogs May Benefit from Glucosamine? 

Glucosamine’s main function is cartilage production and support, so it would make sense that any dog experiencing joint issues may benefit from taking some extra glucosamine—this includes dogs with arthritis, injured joints, or who have had orthopedic surgery on or near a joint. 

Signs that your dog may need glucosamine include: 

  • Lameness 

  • Stiffness 

  • Difficulty standing after sitting or lying down 

  • Difficulty climbing stairs or jumping 

  • Decreased activity 

Keep in mind that decreased activity is a relative phrase as some dogs are just less energetic than others. If your dog is naturally mellow, it could be that they are one of a group of low energy dog breeds

A higher proportion of older dogs need glucosamine supplements because joint cartilage can naturally break down with age and use. Getting your dog started on regular joint care, potentially including glucosamine supplementation, should start at an earlier age. Early introduction of glucosamine can give your dog a head start on maintaining healthy joints, potentially reducing the risk of pain and stiffness down the road. 

How Effective Is Supplemental Glucosamine? 

Is glucosamine good for dogs? While glucosamine is naturally produced by a dog's body and seems like a logical choice for joint health, research on its effectiveness as a supplement shows mixed results. A recent study has shown that glucosamine can be effective, but not as potentially effective as other treatments. 

This study looked at 75 dogs with arthritis in the hips. Dogs were given either carprofen, the popular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) known as Rimadyl, glucosamine and chondroitin, either fatty acid PCSO-524 or EAB-277, or a placebo. The dogs were then rated on their orthopedic scores as well as measuring their vertical force at 2, 4, and 6 weeks after starting the medication. 

The study determined that dogs taking carprofen showed significant improvement in their vertical force, otherwise known as their weight bearing capacity of the affected leg, within just two weeks.  

Dogs taking either of the fatty acids showed improvement in weight bearing within four weeks of starting the medication, while dogs taking glucosamine and chondroitin showed some improvement after six weeks, though the improvement wasn’t as dramatic as those taking carprofen or the fatty acids. 

All this is to say that anti-inflammatories, like carprofen, may have more immediate effects on treating arthritic pain and inflammation, while supplements containing specific fatty acids also help, it just takes a little longer. Glucosamine can provide some benefit, but it’s more for the long-term health of the joint rather than the immediate easing of pain and inflammation. The best route of treatment may be to use multiple modalities in combination.  

Glucosamine Dosage for Dogs 

That brings us to the proper dosage for dogs. Depending on the product you’re using, how much glucosamine you give to dogs will vary. That’s because glucosamine can be taken from many different sources, primarily shellfish shells or synthetically made in a laboratory. Different formulations may be utilized by the body differently, so the dosage will vary. Another factor in the glucosamine dosage for dogs is the size of the dog and the condition you’re trying to treat. Follow your vet’s recommendation and the manufacturer’s guidelines on the package for the best results. 

Keep in mind that most glucosamine products require a loading dose, usually twice the recommended dose for 7-14 days just to get the most glucosamine on board. After that initial period, the dose is usually cut in half, something that you’ll want to maintain for the duration. 

Glucosamine takes a bit of time to reach levels that are effective. That means you won’t see results immediately. Patience is a virtue, so be prepared to wait a few weeks or even a month plus before you notice changes in your dog’s mobility. 

Types of Glucosamine for Dogs 

Dogs can benefit from different forms of glucosamine supplements. The two most common types are glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride. While both provide the same core ingredient, they have slight chemical differences that affect how well they're absorbed by the body. Glucosamine sulfate, commonly used in human supplements, isn't absorbed as well by canine bodies. That's why glucosamine hydrochloride is generally the preferred choice for dogs – it offers better absorption for maximum benefit. Remember, consulting your veterinarian is always the best way to determine the most suitable type of glucosamine for your furry friend. 

Benefits and Potential Side Effects of Glucosamine for Dogs 

Glucosamine is a natural building block found in healthy cartilage. Supplementation with glucosamine aims to provide the body with more of this essential ingredient. In theory, this could help the body repair and rebuild cartilage that's been damaged or worn down by age. With healthier cartilage, there's a potential for less inflammation and pain in the joints, ultimately leading to a better quality of life for your dog. 

The benefits of glucosamine supplementation are a topic of ongoing research. While it may help support joint health, more studies are needed to definitively determine its effectiveness. What does seem to be true is that when given with other medications, such as chondroitin, the results are often better. When you add in things like omega fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, and an anti-inflammatory, the results are even better. 

While glucosamine is a natural substance produced by the body, supplementing with additional or synthetic forms can have some side effects. Thankfully, these side effects are uncommon and typically only occur at high doses. They may include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, and more frequent urination. If your chosen glucosamine supplement is derived from shellfish, there's also a slight chance your dog could be allergic. 

Glucosamine supplements often contain additional ingredients. These can include joint-supporting elements, flavorings, and coloring agents. While unlikely, some of these additional ingredients might trigger a reaction in your dog. To be cautious, always monitor your pup for any side effects, such as skin irritation or changes in digestion, when introducing a new glucosamine supplement. Report any concerns to your veterinarian. 

Exploring Glucosamine and Pet Insurance 

Keeping your dog mobile and pain-free can be a lifelong journey, especially considering how long dogs live. Joint health is a crucial part of this, and glucosamine supplements might be a part of the solution. As your dog ages, the potential for joint pain and the need for supplements like glucosamine can increase. 

Here's where pet insurance for dogs comes in. Pet insurance plans cover accidents, illnesses, and even chronic conditions like joint pain. This can include coverage for medications prescribed by your veterinarian to manage your dog's joint health. 

In addition to core insurance coverage, some pet wellness plans can help offset the cost of preventative care like glucosamine supplements. These plans often cover annual exams, which are a great opportunity to discuss your dog's joint health with your veterinarian and determine if glucosamine could be beneficial. 

The best time to consider a pet insurance plan is when your dog is young and healthy. This helps avoid any issues with preexisting conditions being excluded from coverage later. By getting a plan early, you can ensure your dog has the financial support they need throughout their life, including potential needs for joint care and glucosamine supplementation. 

Glucosamine for Dogs 

Glucosamine has become a popular topic in pet wellness, mirroring trends in human healthcare. As our furry companions age, their bodies naturally produce less of this essential building block for cartilage. This decline can contribute to joint pain and inflammation. 

Supporting your dog's joint health throughout their life is a journey of love and care. While glucosamine research is ongoing, it offers a potential path to keeping your furry companion active and happy for years to come. Remember, the best course of action is always to discuss glucosamine and other joint care options with your veterinarian. Together, you can create a personalized plan to help your dog live a long, playful life filled with tail wags and walks in the park. After all, their happy, healthy years are the greatest reward.