10 Best Joint Supplements For Dogs

Barri J. Morrison, DVM
By Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Oct. 14, 2022

All senior dogs deserve the benefit of joint supplements. They are used alone or with medications and other remedies to help preserve your dog’s mobility during the development of arthritis and degenerative joint disease.

Maintaining lean body weight and encouraging regular exercise are key to keeping joints healthy, but nutritional supplements can also improve joint comfort and protect cartilage, the cushioning in joints that stops bone from rubbing on bone when your dog moves. There are a variety of joint supplements that work in different ways.

Does My Dog Need Joint Supplements?

If your dog has reached senior age (7+years) and/or has been diagnosed with arthritis or a joint medical issue, consider a joint supplement to help aid their comfort. They cannot cure a degenerative joint disease or arthritis, but they can significantly help keep your dog comfortable.

Joint supplements can help:

  • Maintain mobility

  • Decrease pain

  • Reduce inflammation

  • Encourage new cartilage growth

  • Prevent cartilage breakdown

  • Limit disease progression

Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is the most common disease affecting joints in dogs. It occurs due to a gradual wearing away at the cartilage in the joints during the aging process or secondary to a developmental orthopedic disease. OA cannot be reversed once it occurs, but supplements can slow the progression and help maintain pain-free mobility.

Common symptoms that indicate your dog would benefit from joint supplements include:

  • Limping or lameness

  • Stumbling, or losing their footing, slipping during routine walks

  • Stiffness, especially after lying down

  • Joint swelling

  • Loss of muscle mass in the rear legs and hips

  • Difficulty getting up or lying down

  • Trouble navigating stairs

  • Reluctance to exercise

  • Inability to jump

  • Pain­; can be assessed as mobility issues or behavioral changes such as aggression or changes in appetite

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to take your dog to the veterinarian for a complete examination. Your vet will conduct a physical exam, chat with you about observations, and perhaps request additional tests to investigate any affected joints.

Best Joint Supplements for Dogs

Always work with your veterinarian to determine the best supplement based on your dog’s health conditions, age, and current health plan. Some of the leading joint supplements for dogs include:

Best Ingredients for Joint Supplements in Dogs

Glucosamine hydrochloride

Glucosamine for dogs helps stimulate growth of new cartilage and protect the cartilage in the joint. Healthy cartilage is essential for joints to move effortlessly and without pain. Unlike most other anti-inflammatory medications, glucosamine has been proven safe for long-term use, so a joint supplement containing glucosamine can be helpful as an early intervention for dogs susceptible to osteoarthritis, such as large- and giant-breed dogs. It is also helpful for dogs with joint damage from an injury, such as a broken bone, or elbow or hip dysplasia.).

Glucosamine can be given to dogs as young as 8 weeks old, but only if approved by your veterinarian.

Chondroitin sulfate

Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan found in your dog’s cartilage. It helps keep the joint lubricated, provide shock absorption, and sustain the tissues that line the joint. Chondroitin inhibits destruction and promotes production of cartilage components.

Chondroitin is often combined with glucosamine, and together they can reduce inflammation and help prevent destruction of cartilage in the joint.

Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils)

Fish oils are high in omega-3 fatty acids and have been proven to promote joint health and support a dog’s heart, coat, skin, and immune systems. Omega-3 fatty acids are the “good oils” that can be found in many dog food diets, and they’re also available as a dietary supplement. These fatty acids help regulate joint inflammation and inhibit the enzymes that break down cartilage.

Green-Lipped Mussels (GLM) 

Extract derived from green-lipped mussels has all-natural anti-inflammatory and joint protection properties. Supplements that have GLM combined with glucosamine and chondroitin can help decrease pain and preserve joint function in dogs.

GLM is also a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that help with promote healthy skin and organ function and aid in disease prevention.

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

MSM is a naturally occurring supplement that has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. MSM also helps to flush waste out of cells, leading to less disease and better joint function. With the toxins pushed out of the cells, it makes way for healthy vitamins and minerals to be absorbed. MSM has also been used as a natural pain reliever by blocking nerve stimulation to the body.

How To Choose a Dog Joint Supplement

Most aging dogs will eventually display some form of joint pain, and you can help to alleviate that pain and discomfort with the right joint supplements. Knowing that your dog will eventually deal with losing cartilage between bones, you can be proactive by providing a joint supplement that helps to lubricate and reduce inflammation. Joint supplements, like any other medication or supplements, should always first be approved by your veterinarian.

Joint supplements offer a high margin for safety, but they can interact with other medications and cause negative side effects. Joint supplements are best utilized in combination with physical therapy, which will allow greater success for pain-free mobility in your dog.

When choosing a joint supplement, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Glucosamine sulfate is not effective in dogs; it must be glucosamine hydrochloride.

  • Human glucosamine preparations are not effective in dogs, as the carrier (for example, a pill covering or capsule) cannot be digested by dogs.

  • There are many types of omega-3 fatty acids, but dogs specifically need EPA and DHA to decrease the inflammatory process caused by arthritis.

  • The most common side effects of joint supplements are vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite, which should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine next steps.

Joint supplements are one of the most common long-term, safe treatments recommended to help lessen inflammation and pain, improve function, and slow progression of joint damage and arthritis. As with any other supplement, it's best to check with your veterinarian before starting a new regimen to ensure that it is safe and recommended for your dog.

Featured Image: iStock/marcinm111

Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri Morrison was born and raised and currently resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She went to University of Florida for her...

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