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As dogs are living longer in the US thanks to better access to veterinary care, improved diets, and their overall increased status in the house, it’s only a matter of time that with aging come the associated achy joints and limited mobility.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, 1 in 5 dogs will experience joint pain and mobility issues at some point in their lives.
While there are many prescription options to help manage the pain associated with aching joints, it’s possible your vet may also recommend glucosamine supplements to alleviate your dog’s suffering.
If you’re unsure about glucosamine, here’s a look at what it is and what you should know before giving it to your dog.
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What Is Glucosamine Used for in Dogs?
Glucosamine is a naturally-occurring molecule used by the body to help build tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the fluid that surrounds joints.
“As dogs age, their bodies produce less glucosamine, leading to joint degeneration,” says Dr. Jose Huwiler, DVM, veterinary and regulatory affairs manager for pet care company AB7 Group/Alzoo.
“Diseases such as osteoarthritis, trauma and even surgical procedures can also damage the joints, causing pain, inflammation and loss of mobility,” Huwiler says. “Glucosamine supplements can help keep joints healthy and support joint damage.”
Glucosamine is available as a joint-health supplement typically sourced from shellfish.
“It’s especially useful for older dogs or breeds prone to joint problems,” says Dr. Kathryn Dench, veterinary surgeon and advisor for Gentle Dog Trainer, a site dedicated to helping owners raise happy and healthy dogs.
Is Glucosamine Safe To Give to Dogs?
Glucosamine is generally well-tolerated by dogs.
“Glucosamine is a nutraceutical that is considered safe for dogs,” says Greg Reinhart, who has a Ph.D. in animal health and nutrition science and is vice president of research and development at Pet Honesty, a natural pet health supplement brand.
A nutraceutical is a “food, or parts of a food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.” The term was coined by Stephen De Felice, founder and chairman of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine.
Dog owners should also keep in mind that supplements for dogs, similar to supplements for humans, don’t have the same oversight as drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
When Can Owners Give Glucosamine to Dogs?
Owners can start giving glucosamine to their dog when they observe signs of joint pain or as recommended by their veterinarian.
Glucosamine is a key building block of cartilage, which acts as a lubricant, so bones do not rub against each other and wear down.
“In giving a dog glucosamine, it plays a role in helping to avoid the pain and joint inflammation that ensues when there is cartilage deterioration and friction between bones,” Reinhart says.
Reinhart adds that for “hip and joint support, glucosamine works well as part of a package of key active ingredients, and is commonly paired with chondroitin sulfate, which is another essential building block of cartilage.”
While glucosamine may help heal cartilage, prevent further breakdown, and even stimulate cartilage growth, the Merck Veterinary Manual adds that “the effectiveness of these agents is still being reviewed and may vary based on the specific product used, how it is administered, and the animal’s overall condition.”
“Glucosamine should not be considered a magic pill for dogs who are exhibiting advanced mobility issues,” Reinahrt says. “This is like changing the oil in the engine after it’s blown up.”
When Owners Shouldn’t Give Glucosamine to Dogs
It’s best to talk to your veterinarian if you are considering adding a new supplement to your dog’s diet, especially if your dog has underlying health issues or is on any other medication.
“Most glucosamine supplements are made from chitin, the hard outer shell of shrimp, lobster, and crab,” Huwiler says. “Because hypersensitivity reactions may occur, animals that have previously shown hypersensitivity reactions to these compounds or their ingredients should not receive them.”
Glucosamine should not be given to dogs for the following reasons:
- The dog has kidney or liver problems
- The dog is already taking anticoagulants, antidiabetic agents, and doxorubicin
- The dog has a history of seizures
What Is a Safe Glucosamine Dosage for Dogs?
It’s best to talk to your veterinarian to determine the best and safest dosage of glucosamine for your dog.
Owners should also make sure their dog is getting glucosamine HCl, rather than glucosamine sulfate, says Dr. Jennifer Sperry, DVM, veterinary advisor for Pets Plus Us, a pet insurance company in Canada.
“Glucosamine sulfate is commonly used for humans, and readily available over the counter, but is not well absorbed by dogs, and is therefore less effective,” Sperry adds.
The proper dosage of glucosamine will depend on your dog’s weight and other compounds present in your pet’s joint supplement.
Sperry recommends owners read the supplement packaging carefully for a recommended dose and consult their veterinarian.
In general, the dosage for glucosamine for dogs is as follows:
- For dogs less than 25 lbs: 250-500 mg
- 25lbs to 50lbs: 500 mg
- 50lbs to 90lbs: 1,000 mg
- 90 lbs: 1,500 mg
Can Dogs Overdose on Glucosamine?
Yes, dogs can overdose on glucosamine.
“Oral overdose is unlikely to cause significant problems. However, it can occur and result in several risks,” Huwiler says.
Dog owners should look for the following signs in the case of a glucosamine overdose:
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or weakness
- Increased thirst or urination
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Abdominal distention and/or pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin)
“In severe cases, glucosamine overdose can cause bleeding disorders, liver or kidney injury, and even death,” Sperry says.
Can I Give My Dog Glucosamine Every Day?
Glucosamine is intended to be given to dogs every day.
“The beneficial effects of glucosamine will only be seen if the supplement is given daily, over a long period of time,” Sperry says.
Glucosamine Side Effects for Dogs
With glucosamine, the dog should experience improved cartilage health and joint lubrication, which means they will feel less friction and pain when they are active.
“Owners should notice an increased interest in physical activity, improved exercise tolerance, and decreased limping or lameness,” Sperry says.
Though rare, some dogs may experience side effects from glucosamine, including the following:
- Gastrointestinal upset (especially when first starting glucosamine supplementation)
- Bloated stomach
How Long Does It Take For Glucosamine To Start Working?
It may take a few weeks to a few months for your dog to experience the full effects and gradual improvements associated with taking a glucosamine supplement.
“Supplements should be given for at least 2 to6 weeks to evaluate how well they may work in your dog,” Huwiler says.
How Long Does Glucosamine Stay in a Dog’s System?
Glucosamine can be detected in a dog’s blood for up to 48 hours.
“The time that glucosamine remains in the body varies greatly, but it is rapidly absorbed, highly distributed, and efficiently excreted, which is why it should be administered daily,” Huwiler says.
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If you’re considering adding a glucosamine supplement to your dog’s daily diet, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about potential side effects, your dog’s overall health and proper dosing recommendations.
Overall, glucosamine is safe and can be an effective treatment for your dog’s joint and mobility issues.