Look for These 6 Ingredients in Joint Supplements for Dogs

Can dogs eat it

The Can Dogs Eat It Team

Look for These 6 Ingredients in Joint Supplements for Dogs
Reading Time: 9 minutes

joana garridoReviewed By Joana Garrido DVM

Joint issues continue to be a common health concern among dogs, affecting approximately 1 in 5 of them at some point in their lives. This condition can lead to joint pain and mobility issues, making it crucial to find effective solutions.

One such solution is the use of joint supplements for dogs. While many products are available in the market, the key to their effectiveness lies in their ingredients.

Here are the top 6 ingredients that you should look for when selecting a joint supplement for your canine companion:

1. Glucosamine Hydrochloride

a dog next to a bottle of joint supplements
Glucosamine hydrochloride is a naturally occurring amino sugar in the fluid around the joints. It is a precursor of glycosaminoglycan, which is a polysaccharide compound that is vital for the creation of healthy joint cartilage in dogs.

As canines grow older, their glucosamine hydrochloride production begins to slow down. Thus, they can benefit from joint supplements for dogs containing glucosamine.

It can improve their joint health in several ways, including:

  • Increase joint lubrication by stimulating the production of synovial fluid
  • Reduce inflammation by aiding in regulating collagen synthesis in the cartilage
  • Prevent cartilage degeneration by promoting the growth of new cartilage cells

One study even shows that glucosamine hydrochloride combined with another joint-protective compound called chondroitin sulfate has significantly improved the condition of dogs with osteoarthritis.

According to the research, it eased their joint pains, reduced the severity of their ailment, and increased their ability to support weight.

2. Chondroitin Sulfate

a dog is having his joints checked by a vet
Similar to glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate is a natural component of dogs’ cartilage. However, canines with joint problems tend to require supplementation of this compound for better joint health.

Chondroitin sulfate promotes cartilage repair, hydrates the joints, enhances mobility, and alleviates joint pains and inflammation. It also protects the joint fluid and cartilage of dogs from destructive enzymes.

On its own, chondroitin sulfate is less effective in suppressing symptoms of dog joint problems. It works better when combined with other nutraceuticals in joint supplements for dogs such as glucosamine hydrochloride and ASUs.

It is important to note that the gastrointestinal tract of dogs finds it difficult to properly metabolize chondroitin sulfate.

Research shows that the low molecular weight version of this substance has better bioavailability. So consider opting for this type of chondroitin sulfate when looking for supplements for dogs’ joint health.

3. Avocado and Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASUs)

a bottle of avocado oil

Avocado and soybean unsaponifiable (ASUs) are derived from avocado and soybean oil. They mitigate pain and inflammation in dogs’ joints by inhibiting pro-inflammatory compounds.

Additionally, ASUs also promote stronger joints by:

  • Encouraging cartilage production
  • Hindering synovial cell degradation
  • Supporting the regeneration of connective tissues

A handful of studies were made to assess the effectiveness of ASUs in dogs with joint problems.

One study states that it was able to slow down the progression of early osteoarthritic cartilage and subchondral bone lesions in canines suffering from osteoarthritis.

Another study observed that ASUs were able to induce tissue repair in the knee of dogs with osteochondral defects

ASUs are better combined with glucosamine and chondroitin. They help boost the ability of both compounds to inhibit cartilage degeneration in canines.

4. Undenatured Type II Collagen (UC-II)

a dog is getting a supplement

Type II collagen is a vital component of the cartilage in dogs, serving as the primary structural protein. It plays a crucial role in maintaining cartilage strength, elasticity, and stability.

Joint supplements for dogs often incorporate UC-II, typically derived from chicken sternum cartilage. This ingredient has shown numerous positive effects in dogs with joint issues. A recent study in 2019 demonstrated that UC-II, similar to the prescription drug robenacoxib, effectively improves mobility in dogs affected by osteoarthritis, specifically those with mild to moderate lameness.

UC-II also synergizes well with certain nutraceuticals, particularly glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate. In a 2007 study, the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin was found to provide pain relief in arthritic dogs. Interestingly, when UC-II was added to the mix, the pain-suppressing ability of the combination significantly increased. Notably, no adverse side effects were reported during the study.

While UC-II can be a valuable component of a multimodal treatment approach for dogs with osteoarthritis, it is important to note that its onset of action is slow. In more severe cases, it is recommended to consider nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as the primary treatment option. However, for dogs with mild to moderate clinical signs of osteoarthritis, UC-II has demonstrated efficacy and can be an effective treatment option.

5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Fish Oils

fish oil supplement

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that nourish the skin, heart, kidneys, immune systems, and joints of dogs. There are 3 main forms of omega-3 fats, namely:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

EPA and DHA function as anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help soothe the pain and soreness induced by joint inflammations. Both of these omega-3 fatty acids are readily present in fish oils.

A study conducted in 2016 shows how fish oil aided in the pain management of dogs afflicted with osteoarthritis. It was able to significantly reduce the pain caused by various ranges of motion, such as walking, trotting, and joint manipulation.

According to a 2010 study, dogs with osteoarthritis that are fed omega-3 fatty acid-supplemented food gradually require less dosage of carprofen, which is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Keep in mind that the type of fish used in fish oil matters. Larger types of fish such as salmon are great sources of omega-3s but they tend to accumulate high levels of toxins.

Small nonpredatory types of fish are safer options. They provide high levels of EPA and DHA without the risk of causing toxicity in canines. Keep this in mind when searching for joint supplements for dogs containing fish oil.

6. Green-Lipped Mussels (GLM)

Green Lipped Mussels

Green-lipped mussels (GLM) are shellfish native to the waters of New Zealand. GLM is ground into fine powder to create an extract, which is then used in joint supplements for dogs.

These mussels are touted for their anti-inflammatory properties due to producing high concentrations of ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid), which binds to the pro-inflammatory enzyme called cyclooxygenase.

GLM also contains nutrients that serve as building blocks for better joint health in canines, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.

The positive effects of GLM on dogs affected by musculoskeletal issues have been studied by many experts.

In one study, dogs with mild-to-moderate degenerative joint disease (DJD) that were given GLM for 56 days improved in clinical signs compared to the placebo group.

Later on, GLM was administered on canines in the placebo group for 56 days as well. Their condition improved more than that of the GLME-treated group.

A different study suggests that adding GLM to a completely dry dog food minimizes the clinical symptoms caused by canine arthritis. GLM was observed to reduce joint pain and swelling in the test group.

Does My Dog Need Joint Supplements?

Regardless of age and breed, any dog can benefit from joint supplements. However, some canines need it more than others.

These include aging dogs and obese canines since they are more likely to develop joint problems.

Certain dogs are also prone to suffering from certain musculoskeletal disorders due to their genetics and size. For instance, patellar luxation is commonly seen in smaller dogs like Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Yorkshire Terriers.

On the other hand, hip and elbow dysplasia are more prevalent in large dog breeds such as Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, German Shepherds,  Boxers, Retrievers and Italian Cane Corsos. Large dog breeds are more susceptible to joint problems because they are heavier in weight.

There is also a high rate of musculoskeletal injury and disease in sporting and working canines. Their exposure to intense exercise can quickly wear down their joints and ligaments.

All the dogs we have mentioned above can greatly benefit from canine joint supplements. It protects their joints from degeneration and retains proper mobility by keeping their tendons and cartilage strong and sturdy.

Symptoms of Joint Pains in Dogs

a dog is having his bones checked

Spot joint problems in your canine friend early by monitoring closely for behavioral and physical changes such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Refusal to participate in activities
  • Incontinence
  • Limping
  • Stiffness of the limbs
  • Muscle wasting on the rear legs and hips
  • Difficulty in walking and climbing the stairs
  • Lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Aggressive when touched
  • Lameness

If these clinical signs are visible on your dog, take him to the vet immediately. Many musculoskeletal ailments in canines share almost similar symptoms. A vet diagnosis is necessary to rule out other diseases and find the main culprit.

If the root cause is truly a joint problem, consider talking to the vet about putting your furry pal on joint supplements.

How to Choose a Canine Joint Supplement

Choose high-quality joint supplements for your dogs to get your money’s worth. Here are some helpful tips that will help you narrow down your choices:

  • Avoid products that are marketed as cure-alls. They usually claim to be effective against various ailments such as hip dysplasia and cancer. Choose a supplement that specifically targets one health issue, preferably the condition your dog has.
  • Reliable brands put time and money into commissioning clinical studies for their products. Their products undergo third-party testing for quality and authenticity.
    With this in mind, look for canine joint supplements that have the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal. NASC is an organization that makes sure the ingredient used in pet products are similar to what is stated on the label.
  • Make sure that the manufacturer has an active website and contact details in case you have additional inquiries about their product. Moreover, they must be able to provide clear and concise answers to your questions.
  • Check for the presence of a lot number. It is made up of a unique code of letters and numbers which identifies a batch of products. If a canine joint supplement has a lot number, it means the product is subjected to quality control checks by the manufacturer.

FAQs About Joint Supplements for Dogs

a corgi running

1. What Is the Best Joint Supplement for Dogs?

The best joint supplements for dogs are products that contain ingredients backed by science, such as the ones we have listed above.

If you remain unsure of the joint supplement’s efficacy, search for studies published in peer-reviewed journals or by an independent party assessing whether or not the product works as it claims.

Another thing you can do to find the best joint supplement for your dog is to talk to your veterinarian about their experience with different products, as they may be able to provide valuable recommendations.

2. What Age Should a Dog Start Joint Supplements?

While there is inconclusive evidence on the effectiveness of joint supplements for younger dogs, a general recommendation is for dogs to start taking joint supplements as a precautionary measure starting at 1 year old to reduce their likelihood of developing joint issues, and research suggests that it may be advisable to feed such supplements to elderly dogs.

It’s worth noting that the decision of when to start giving joint supplements to a dog may also depend on factors such as their health condition, breed, and current diet, so it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate time to start and which supplements are best suited for your dog’s individual needs.

3. What Dog Breeds Need Joint Supplements?

Large dog breeds are canines that need joint supplements the most. These include Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Great Danes, and Golden Retrievers. Their weight and structure make them prone to various musculoskeletal ailments.

To prevent joint issues in predisposed animals, maintain a controlled diet, avoid jumping, and opt for low-impact exercises like swimming.

4. Do Large-Breed Puppies Need Joint Supplements?

Yes, large-breed puppies need joint supplements as early as 8 weeks of age, especially if they are predisposed to some type of joint issue such as osteoarthritis.

In some cases, it might be necessary to continue giving them supplements throughout their life.

5. Should I Give My Dog Joint Supplements?

If you are concerned about your dog’s joint health, it may be worth considering joint supplements as part of their care regimen. However, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian to determine if joint supplements are appropriate for your dog’s individual needs.


a big dog running

Orthopedic problems are prevalent, debilitating diseases afflicting a large part of the canine population. One way to combat them is through the use of canine joint supplements.

Look for products containing clinically studied ingredients that yield positive results. Some good examples of this are glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate, and green-lipped mussels.

Joint problems often bring forth excruciating pain, which adds to your dog’s distress. We have covered 10 Safe Natural Pain Relievers for Dogs that you can use to help reduce his discomfort caused by his condition.