A Vet Talks About the Best Ingredients for Joint Supplements for Dogs

Published Mar. 25, 2019

Preventing dog joint pain and maintaining comfortable mobility are both big concerns for dog parents. Savvy dog guardians know that the earlier you start maintaining your dog’s joint health, the better the long-term results will be.

Dogs that are fit and trim, eat a healthy, balanced diet and take appropriate dog supplements are less likely to have problems with arthritis. When it comes to dog joint supplements, however, it can be hard to separate the helpful from the hype.

Here are my top five recommended ingredients to look for in joint supplements for dogs. Always talk with your veterinarian to find the right combination to determine the best joint supplements for the dogs in your family.

Glucosamine Hydrochloride

Healthy cartilage is required for joints to move smoothly and without pain. Glucosamine for dogs helps to stimulate the growth of cartilage and protect cartilage in the joint.

Like all dog joint supplements, glucosamine will take a while to build up in your dog’s system. Once it does reach therapeutics levels in the body tissues, glucosamine has been shown to improve pain scores and weight-bearing in arthritic dogs.

Glucosamine hydrochloride can benefit dogs with arthritis as well as dogs with healthy joints. If your dog is predisposed to joint problems, as with large breed dogs, or has had joint trauma or broken bones, or has elbow or hip dysplasia, you can start administering glucosamine to your dog as early as 8 weeks old.

For healthy dogs, the recommended serving is 30 milligrams of glucosamine hydrochloride per kilogram of your dog’s body weight once daily for four weeks, and then you reduce it to 15 milligrams per kilogram of your dog’s body weight daily. Ask your veterinary team for help with finding the right dosage levels and schedule for your dog.

In addition, make sure you are giving glucosamine hydrochloride, not glucosamine sulfate—glucosamine sulfate has not been shown to actually get into the cartilage where it needs to be.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are excellent joint supplements for dogs of all ages. Omega-3 fatty acids help promote healthy joint lubrication and can reduce inflammation and pain for your pet. Omega-3 fatty acids also promote healthy joints, heart, skin and kidneys.

Even though dog treats and dog food are often formulated with omega-3 fatty acids, there aren’t high enough levels to help a dog with joint challenges. Given this, an omega-3 fatty acid supplement may be necessary (your veterinarian can help you decide this).

The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs are fish or krill oil. These supplement sources have EPA and DHA, which are fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to a dog’s diet. Nordic Naturals Omega-3 dog supplement has concentrated, pure fish oil products that include EPA and DHA.

Flaxseed oil supplementation, which only provides ALA, is not recommended.

To promote joint health in dogs of any age with all ranges of joint health, give 100 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA daily for every kilogram of your healthy dog’s body weight. Your veterinarian can determine the proper dosage of an omega-3 fatty acid supplement and if supplementation is necessary for your pet.

Keep in mind that omega-3 fatty acids are very sensitive and degrade in the presence of heat, light and oxygen, so it is best to keep these supplements in the freezer in a container that blocks light.

Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASUs)

ASUs help protect cartilage through reduction of inflammation and stimulation of healing after damage. ASUs work synergistically with glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate, which makes products that contain all three ingredients excellent choices for dog joint supplements for dogs of all ages.

One caveat with ASUs is that they will not benefit dogs with end-stage arthritis. Dog joint supplements protect cartilage, but with dogs with end-stage arthritis, there is no cartilage left to protect.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin sulfate protects cartilage by stopping enzymes that destroy cartilage. It is recommended for all dogs older than 8 weeks of age, except for dogs with end-stage arthritis.

Chondroitin can be difficult for a dog’s gastrointestinal tract to absorb, so choosing a product that has a low molecular weight, such as Dasuquin, may improve absorption.

Dasuquin also has the benefit of containing glucosamine hydrochloride and ASUs. Chondroitin sulfate works in tandem with glucosamine hydrochloride and ASUs, and these ingredients work better together than separately.

Given alone, chondroitin sulfate requires the same dosage as glucosamine, but the dosages of both are lowered when given together. Ask your veterinarian for product recommendations as well as the proper dosage levels for your dog.


Dogs with severe arthritis may benefit from a CBD oil supplement. CBD oil is touted to work by way of the endocannabinoid system, a system in your dog’s body that modulates pain and inflammation.

A 2018 study suggested that a twice-daily dosage of 2 mg/kg can reduce pain and increase activity in dogs with arthritis. CBD is likely more beneficial to older pets that already have dog joint pain challenges than younger dogs with healthy joints.

You can also talk with your veterinarian for their recommendation on alternative methods for reducing your pet’s pain, which may include pet pain medication, joint fusion surgery and/or holistic pain treatments, such as acupuncture, photobiomodulation or joint injections.

Navigating the world of joint supplements for dogs can be mind-boggling. Never hesitate to enlist the help of your veterinarian, who will be your best resource for information on dog joint supplements that actually benefit your pet.

By: Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM

Featured Image: iStock.com/bruev

Sarah Wooten, DVM


Sarah Wooten, DVM


Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists,...

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