I’ve been doing some research lately about the benefits of joint supplements for dogs who don’t already have problems. Can glucosamine and/or chondroitin prevent joint trouble, rather than just helping the arthritic?
Abby at The Doggerel mentioned that she was interested in this as well, so I thought I would put my research up here.
First up, a few things from the Whole Dog Journal. I personally feel like the WDJ does a good job moderating between the best of good traditional veterinary medicine and the best of good alternative medicine, so they’re a go-to source for me. Apologies if these links are behind the paywall; I’ve tried to include the relevant bits in my summaries.
Before we get on to supplements, a reminder that keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the most important part of joint health. No supplement can compensate for a lifetime of overloaded joints.
A casual google of “preventative glucosamine for dogs” turns up mostly forum posts, especially from forums devoted to dogs with “problem joints” like Shiba Inus and Golden Retrievers. There isn’t a lot of real information out there. Rounding up what I have found:
More concretely, this article from 2004 recommends “taking a proactive approach to joint maintenance and injury prevention starting when an athletic dog is one to two years old” because “athletic dogs have healthy joints that have not sustained damage yet. But, active dogs regularly ‘push the envelope,’ causing some joint inflammation that can develop into early joint breakdown.” The effect of this added glucosamine is to stop “the cycle of net cartilage loss due to overuse, injury, or joint disease.”
Dogs Naturally, whom I trust slightly less, argues that raw-fed dogs get adequate glucosamine from their diets, especially if you include cartilaginous foods. That article also contains some tips about picking a good supplement that my other research validated.
If you want to get your answer straight from the source you should trust the least, manufacturers of joint supplements seem to think they benefit every dog. Nupro claims that their formula “is not just for Senior Dogs or those who may have joint issues! Active athletes . . . show dogs, working dogs . . ., sled dogs, hunting dogs, herding dogs, AND large breed dogs, as well, will benefit from the addition of Glucosamine to their daily regimen.” Wapiti Labs sells a mobility supplement especially for dogs “in the first stages of life” (as opposed to their senior formula).
On the other hand, from a less-research-more-pragmatics angle: while glucosamine is reported to have almost no incidence of side effects, most of the manufacturers also have a lot of fine print about “stomach upset” and/or bragging that their formula is “easier to digest.” Dogs with diabetes or blood clotting problems should not take glucosamine. Also, my food allergy friends, WATCH OUT for sneaky animal-derived ingredients. The most common source of glucosamine is shellfish, which your dog may not be able to handle. I also saw at least one supplement that clearly listed its chondroitin as “porcine.” This is above and beyond the usual allergy cautions, namely that most dog pills have added meat flavors.
Also on the anti-side, joint supplements are expensive and the research on their preventative value is, at best, inconclusive. Combined with the fact that pet supplements are not extremely well regulated, that could easily mean you spend years and years giving what is little better than a placebo.
Hey, I promised to show you the research I have so far. I didn’t promise to make a conclusion.
Have any of you researched this?