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Joint Supplements for Dogs

by Lauren Samet

The world of pet supplements is a crowded marketplace, especially when it comes to joint support for our canine friends. With good care and a bit of luck, a dog can live to a ripe old age, and this sometimes means ensuring their joints are well looked after. In the past, it has been estimated that up to 20% of the dog population (over 1-year-old) may be suffering from osteoarthritis (OA) at any one time, and there is little evidence to suggest this figure is any different today. Osteoarthritis – characterised by stiffness and pain in joints – is one of the most common issues with mobility and health as dogs’ age and it can often cause pain and lameness, whether subtle or more obvious in a dog’s movements and behaviours.

Keeping your dog at the correct weight throughout life and feeding them a balanced diet can be one of the best ways to help manage their joint health. Regular exercise throughout their lives, with modification, if needed to suit their needs as they grow and age, can help too. For example, not over-exercising puppies and going by the “little and often” rule for older dogs.

There are many types of joint support supplements for dogs available in the marketplace, which contain some common ingredients known for their association with healthier joints – and all of which can be found in the Vitapaws range. It is always recommended to talk to your vet before supplementing your dog’s diet with any additional nutrients, to ensure a balanced diet is maintained. It is also worth pointing out that, while supplements can support joint health, they cannot alleviate pain and if you think your dog may be suffering from lameness or joint pain then contact your vet immediately to find out about how to best support them.

Did you know? Pain can also be responsible for changes in your dog’s behaviour and temperament. We’d be grumpy too if someone was trying to touch us in a painful area!


Glucosamine, usually in the form of Glucosamine Sulphate or Glucosamine Hydrochloride, is possibly one of the most well-known joint health supplements. Within the body, glucosamine is a major component of joint cartilage. It can be produced by the body but is also commonly derived from the shells of shellfish (see Green Lipped Mussel). Glucosamine is often combined with chondroitin within joint supplements and can help lubricate joints and assist with their growth, repair, and formation.

Researchers McCarthy and colleagues (2007) suggested there was a statistically significant improvement in pain scores and weight-bearing in dogs examined after 70 days of receiving an orally administered glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulphate-combined supplement. This is one of many studies providing scientific support to functional claims in joint health


Often referred to as Chondroitin Sulphate, this is another popular ingredient commonly included in foods and supplements for joint support alongside glucosamine, manganese and hyaluronic acid. Like glucosamine, chondroitin is thought of as a building block of the joints, therefore supplementation is thought to help prevent the breakdown of joint tissues (e.g. age-associated wear and tear).

It’s suggested that taking chondroitin long-term can help reduce pain in joints when a “pharmaceutical grade” preparation is taken daily (this usually refers to a high-quality source in amounts large enough to have a beneficial effect). When taken regularly over an extended period of time and alongside glucosamine, there is, once again, some evidence to suggest it can be beneficial to pain and joint support in arthritic dogs (McCarthy et al., 2007).

Omega 3

Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid which has a body of research to support its benefits in reducing inflammation in joints and other parts of the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are known as “essential” because these nutrients cannot be made by the body and therefore are necessary in the diet. Essential omega 6 fatty acids also exist and are also required in a dog’s diet (easily done when providing your pooch with a diet that includes meat).

Once again, a lot of scientific support for omega 3’s supporting role in joint health exist. For example, a 2010 study on osteoarthritic dogs suggested that supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids led to a significant improvement in their ability to bear weight, after 90 days of supplementation (Roush et al., 2010). 

Turmeric and Black Pepper

Did you know that it’s actually the curcumin content in turmeric which provides its active properties associated with reducing inflammation around joints? Alone curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body, but when ingested with piperine, a component of black pepper, it becomes much more bioavailable (which is why you’ll often see them sold together). VitaPaws Curcumin contains 1500mg of curcumin along with a black pepper extract containing piperine to maximise curcumin absorption in the dog’s gut.

Green Lipped Mussel (GLM)

This ingredient is a good source of glucosamine, explaining why you might see it as an added ingredient in foods for active or senior dogs. Bui and Bierer (2003) noted statistically significant improvements in arthritic dogs’ scores for joint pain and swelling when they were fed a complete diet with 0.3% GLM inclusion for 6 weeks, compared to a control group.

Vitamins C & E

Not only is vitamin C a beneficial antioxidant, it can also support a healthy joint matrix by assisting with the support of connective tissues like collagen. Vitamin E, also sometimes referred to as alpha-tocopherol, is another powerful antioxidant that is also often included in joint support supplements for connective tissue support.

Cod liver oil

Cod liver oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 (see above), however, it’s also a rich source of other fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D and E. It’s important that you feed your dog a reputable source of cod liver oil and feed it according to manufacturer’s instructions for your dogs’ size; it’s such a rich source of fats and vitamins that too much could cause a nutritional imbalance; toxicity in very worst case but weight gain more often, which can put added stress onto your dog’s joints.


Short for methylsulfonylmethane, MSM is a sulphur-containing compound found naturally in plants, animals and humans, but it can also be produced synthetically to create supplements. There is evidence to indicate MSM’s links with supporting the overall quality of life for human sufferers of OA when assessed using a visual analogue scale, and patient and physician assessments of overall quality of life (Pagonis et al., 2014).


This is a trace mineral that dogs need in small amounts to support healthy nervous systems and enzymatic function. Manganese is involved in bone health and is thought to support anti-inflammation when coupled with glucosamine and chondroitin. It also has strong antioxidant properties that can help reduce free-radical damage.

Hyaluronic Acid

Often discussed in relation to benefitting skin and joint health, hyaluronic acid is a key component of synovial fluid, a fluid which surrounds the joints and lubricates them to ensure frictionless movement. The loss or deterioration of hyaluronic acid around joints appears to contribute to joint pain and stiffness. It is thought that supplementation of this nutrient can help reduce loss and deterioration, however, it has also been therapeutically used in human OA sufferers by injecting hyaluronic acid directly into the affected joints (Arthritis Foundation, 2019).

If you are interested in finding out more about nutritional supplementation to support your dog’s joints then visit the Vitapaws range of canine joint health supplements. 

Arthritus Foundation (2019). Hyaluronic Acid Injections for Osteoarthritis [online]. Available at: https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/medication/drug-types/other/hyaluronic-acid-injections.php
Budsberg, S. C., & Bartges, J. W. (2006). Nutrition and osteoarthritis in dogs: does it help?. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice36(6), 1307-1323.
Bui, L. M., & Bierer, T. L. (2003). Influence of green lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) in alleviating signs of arthritis in dogs. Veterinary Therapeutics, 4(4), 397-407.
Calder P. & Zurier, R. (2001) Polyunsaturated fatty acids and rheumatoid arthritis. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 4: 115–121.
Curtis, C., Hughes, C., Flannery, C., et al. (2000) n-3 fatty acids specifically modulate catabolic factors involved in articular cartilage degradation. J Biol Chem 275: 721–724.
Johnston S. (1997) Osteoarthritis. Joint anatomy, physiology, and pathobiology. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Prac 27:699–723
McCarthy, G., O’Donovan, J., Jones, B., McAllister, H., Seed, M., & Mooney, C. (2007). Randomised double-blind, positive-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. The Veterinary Journal174(1), 54-61.
Pagonis, T. A., Givissis, P. A., Kritis, A. C., & Christodoulou, A. C. (2014). The effect of methylsulfonylmethane on osteoarthritic large joints and mobility. International journal of orthopaedics, 1(1), 19-24.
Roush, J. K., Cross, A. R., Renberg, W. C., Dodd, C. E., Sixby, K. A., Fritsch, D. A., ... & Hahn, K. A. (2010). Evaluation of the effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on weight bearing in dogs with osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 236(1), 67-73.