In recent years, the amount of joint supplements for dogs to hit the shelves has exploded as more and more people are realizing that their dog is at risk for developing joint problems.
Sure, some health problems are completely random and can’t be controlled, but certain problems are well within our control and can easily be prevented. Most dogs will experience some sort of joint problems in their lifetime. In fact, 10% experience joint problems before their even 1 year old!
Still, there’s a distinct lack of accurate information out there about effective treatments. This is especially true when it comes to joint supplements for dogs.
Well, consider this article our way of setting the record straight. The only way to really know which joint supplements you should be giving your dog and which ones to avoid is to focus on the science and cut out all the hype.
But first, let’s try to gain a better understanding of what exactly we’re dealing with…
Understanding Your Dogs Joints
When it comes to the anatomy of a dog, there is one MAJOR factor that makes most dogs vulnerable to developing joint issues the longer they live…
They walk around on four legs ALWAYS!
Sure, this makes them fast and agile, but it also means that there is constant tension placed on all joints attached to the legs.
The purple arrows indicate which joints are particularly likely to cause issues for your dog. Notice that these are the joints which attach to the legs…
- Front Knees
- Back Knees
It’s certainly possible for a dog to develop issues in other joints but because they place a tremendous amount of stress on their legs from running around on all fours their whole lives, it makes sense that these joints are the most likely to be affected.
Osteoarthritis is probably the single most common joint health condition that dogs tend to develop. Unlike Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis is not an inflammatory disease. Instead, it occurs when the cartilage between joints deteriorates. This creates friction on the joint which manifests itself in stiffness, pain, and general discomfort.
If your dog has developed a limp, it could very well be the result of Osteoarthritis.
What Kind Of Dogs Are At Risk?
Naturally, larger dogs are more at risk for developing joint issues such as Osteoarthritis because, quite simply, their joints have more weight on them at all times. The same is true for us humans…
Still, any animal that runs around on all fours could potentially experience some joint issues at some point, so that leaves 100% of dogs!
Joint Supplements For Dogs That Actually Work
The only good thing about Osteoarthritis is that it’s entirely treatable and possibly even preventable, assuming you know what your doing. While severe cases may require some sort of medication such as an NSAID or Steroid, there are a handful of supplements that can help.
You may be thinking “how do you know what supplements work for dogs? They can’t talk!”. Sure, that’s a valid question and an equally valid observation…They can’t talk.
Fortunately, dogs experiencing joint pain is nothing new, so there’s actually a fairly wide body of published research on various treatments, including supplements.
At this point, several joint supplements have been clinically tested in dogs, and a handful of them have turned out to actually work!
You may think of Glucosamine and Chondroitin as joint supplements for humans, but they’re also easily absorbed in dogs and may actually be more useful for treating joint conditions such as Osteoarthritis.
A study published in the American Journal Of Veterinary Research found that Glucosamine/Chondroitin injections were preventative against chemically induced Synovitis (joints inflammation).
In a 2001 study conducted at the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Ohio State University, researchers found that a combination of Glucosamine and Chondroitin increased the expression of Synovial Fluid epitopes 3B3 and 7D4.
These epitopes are indicative of cartilage metabolism which means that this treatment may very well improve cartilage health in dogs.
Finally, a study conducted at the Department of Small Animal Clinical Studies, School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine at UCD Dublin (Ireland) found that dogs treated with a combination of Glucosamine and Chondroitin showed significantly better scores for measures of pain and severity of Osteoarthritis after 70 days of treatment.
This was a double-blind, crossover, positive controlled study, meaning the Glucosamine/Chondroitin treatment was compared to treatment with Carprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug commonly prescribed for Osteoarthritis.
The researchers in this study concluded that Glucosamine/Chondroitin was indeed an effective treatment for dogs with Osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine/Chondroitin Dosing For Dogs
Studies involving the combination of Glucosamine and Chondroitin in dogs have used varying doses. One study noted a fairly substantial improvement using 2000mg of Glucosamine and 1600mg of Chondroitin.
Lower doses may work in smaller dogs.
A 2004 study out of Murray State University in Kentucky found that arthritic dogs treated with 10mg of UC-II daily experienced significant improvements which manifested themselves in the form of increased physical activity.
Three years later, a similar study was conducted out of Murray State which sought to compare the effects of Glucosamine/Chondroitin treatment against treatment with Glucosamine/Chondroitin + UC-II in arthritic dogs.
The researchers in this study found that, while Glucosamine/Chondroitin treatment was somewhat effective for treating dogs with joint issues, treatment with Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and UC-II was much more effective.
This was the first study to determine that all three of these supplements is actually better than either of them alone.
Finally, a 2012 study, which was later published in the Journal Of Animal Physiology And Animal Nutrition, set out to investigate not only the efficacy of UC-II in dogs with joint issues, but the safety as well.
The researchers split the dogs into 4 groups, each receiving a separate joint supplement protocol.
- UC-II (10mg)
- UC-II (10mg) + Glucosamine (2000mg)
- UC-II (10mg) + Glucosamine (2000mg) + Chondroitin (1600mg)
As you might expect, based on the previous study, the researchers found that Groups 2, 3, and 4 experienced improvements, with the largest improvements seen in Group 4. Furthermore, each supplement was found to be well-tolerated, with absolutely no change in hepatic (liver) or renal (kidney) function whatsoever.
UC-II Dosing For Dogs
Pretty much all the studies involving UC-II, including the one which paired UC-II with Glucosamine and Chondroitin, have used the standard 10mg dose. For that reason, this is the dose that is recommended, even for smaller dogs.
It’s worth noting that doses as low as 1mg may still be somewhat effective, but given that UC-II is considered very safe (even at higher doses), there’s no reason not to go with 10mg just to be sure.
Boswellia Serrata, though very popular in human supplements for the purposes of alleviating joint pain, has not been studied nearly as extensively in dogs as the other supplements we’ve discussed. That said, the preliminary evidence is quite encouraging.
In a 2004 study, German scientists sought to determine if Boswellia Serrata resin extract, a known anti-inflammatory, was also effective in dogs.
29 dogs were enrolled in the study, with 25 having confirmed Osteoarthritis and/or degenerative conditions. Each dog was given Boswellia resin extract at a dose of 400mg/10kg daily. The treatment went on for 6 weeks, but after just 2 weeks, 71% of the dogs showed significant improvements in joint mobility, pain, and general stiffness.
The researchers concluded that Boswellia Serrata resin extract, standardized for active components, was is in fact effective joint supplement for dogs.
Of course, further studies would be nice, but given the large about of human evidence in favor of Boswellia Serrata as an anti-inflammatory, these findings make perfect sense. After all, we’re not so different from dogs…
Boswellia Serrata Dosing For Dogs
The study which found Boswellia Serrata to be effective in dogs used 400mg/kg. It’s worth noting, however, that the extract used in this study was standardized for active components. To what degree, we don’t actually know.
For that reason, you should use a patented form of Boswellia Serrata, standardized for Boswellic Acid. Start with a low dose first, just to make sure your dog reacts okay to it.
What About Fatty Acids Like Omega 3s?
Fatty Acids such as DHA and EPA (the active components of Fish Oil) are commonly used for their anti-inflammatory benefits in humans. So it makes sense that these types of ingredients would pop up in joint supplements for dogs as well.
Is it worth it though?
Well, one study found that supplementation with Fish Oil containing DHA and EPA as well as Corn oil containing ALA (another type of Omega-3 Fatty Acid) did not produce statistically significant changes in pain relief for dogs with Osteoarthritis.
That said, the researchers in the study noted trends toward improvements across the board. It was concluded that Fatty Acid supplementation may be combined with other joint supplements for dogs.
So, as a standalone treatment, Fatty Acids are probably not going to be very effective. Combined with other supplements, however, they may contribute something.
The Absolute Best Joint Supplements For Dogs
Below are the handful of joint supplements for dogs that are actually worth taking. Each of these supplements contains, at the very least, most of the ingredients we discussed above, at effective doses. Some contain other ingredients as well which may be beneficial, depending on your dogs personal needs.
Ample Nutrition Hip + Joint Care
Ample Nutrition’s Hip + Joint Care contains most of the ingredients we talked about above as well as some additional ingredients that may be beneficial as well.
EPA and DHA are fatty acids found in Fish Oil where they are considered the “active ingredients” responsible for most of the benefits associated with Fish Oil supplementation.
Since the average dog’s diet doesn’t include oily fish, it makes sense to throw some EPA and DHA in there.
Ample Nutrition Hip + Joint Care comes in the form of easy to eat Soft Chews. Given that most of the ingredients in the product don’t really taste like much on their own, there’s no reason why your dog wont just scarf these little treats right up.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn’t seem to like the treats, try mixing one or two in with their normal food. Some of these ingredients are better absorbed when consumed with a full meal anyway.
TriCox Soft Chews
If you take a closer look at the TriCOX Soft Chews ingredients panel and compare it to Ample Nutrition Hip + Joint Care, you may notice one interesting thing…
They’re exactly the same!
Sometimes this occurs because two brands are actually owned by the same parent company, but in this case there’s probably a different reason.
Most supplements are produced by contract manufacturers. These manufacturers typically make whatever recipe you give them, but sometimes they offer “stock recipes” because it makes their job easier if you just agree to a formula they’re used to creating.
This makes even more sense when you consider that very few manufacturers have the capabilities to make Soft Chews. This makes it even more likely that different brands would work with the same manufacturer who gives them all the same stock formula.
Unfortunately, this can be kind of confusing for the consumer. Don’t worry, it’s not actually that complicated. These products are EXACTLY the same.
Henry Schein Revacon Joint Chews
Henry Schein’s Revacon Soft Chews are exactly the same formula as the two joint supplements for dogs that we discussed above. Still, it makes sense to add to this list because it’s one of the leading joint supplements for dogs.
Of course, either of these three supplements will do exactly the same thing, but the “clinical” vibe of Henry Schein’s Revacon Soft Chews makes this particular product attractive to people like vets and animal nutritionists.
Vetoquinol Flexadin Advanced
like the other joint supplements for dogs discussed on this list, Flexadin Advanced comes in the form of soft chews. However, the formula is much less complicated.
There are only 3 or 4 active ingredients (EPA is found in Fish Oil but both are listed on the label). If this formula had one featured ingredient, it would be UC-II.
With a clinical (10mg) dose of UC-II in each soft chew, Flexadin is actually much more effective than a lot of other joint supplements for dogs with contain more ingredients.
Duralactin Canine Joint Plus
Point Pet Hip + Joint
Point Pet Hip + Joint also comes in the form of soft chews (Duck flavored), but the formula is different than the others on this list. In addition to the Glucosamine and Chondroitin that we’re used to seeing in joint supplements for dogs, it also contains MSM, Omega 3 fatty acids, and Omega-6 Fatty acids.
The addition of Yucca Schidegera adds a kind of homeopathic vibe that may interest some people, but that ingredient hasn’t been proven to do anything.
Even without Yucca though, the Point Pet Hip + Joint formula is one of the better Glucosamine/Chondroitin-based joint supplements for dogs currently available.
Not the best, but far from the worst…
K9 Nature Hip & Joint Revita Chews
K9 Nature Hip & Joint Revita Chews is the simplest of all the joint supplements for dogs we discussed. It doesn’t contain every ingredient we discussed, but it checks some of the boxes.
Specifically, a solid dose of Glucosamine and Chondroitin helps the efficacy of the product. Additionally, it also features MSM, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Manganese.
The Bottom Line On Joint Supplements For Dogs
Most dogs will experience some joint issues at some point in their lives. Although a diet that is high in protein and rich in nutrients Glucan decrease the liklihood of these types of issues, in some breeds, it’s basically inevitable.
Fortunately, there are some supplements which have actually been proven to help, assuming they’re dosed correctly.
- Boswellia Serrata (Standardized)
Although there are other ingredients which may help, including Fatty Acids like DHA and EPA, the supplements above have been studied enough to know that:
- They work
- They’re safe
So there’s really no reason to get fancy. The truth is many joint supplements for dogs contain a bunch of ingredients that you also find in joint supplements for humans.
The problem is a lot of those ingredients have no established safety profile in dogs.
Just as you should refrain from giving your dog Chocolate, you probably shouldn’t give your dog questionable foreign substances.
Just because it’s okay for us doesn’t mean it’s okay for them.
When it comes to your dog, supplement smart. Go with what works and disregard what hasn’t been studied.
Better safe than sorry, right?