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Health & Wellness

Should I give my dog glucosamine?

It could help with your pet’s joint pain.

As your dog ages, they might experience joint pain and inflammation from years spent enjoying an active life. It can be tough to see your pet in pain, and a common dietary supplement, like glucosamine, may be able to alleviate some discomfort. You don’t need a prescription from your dog’s vet to pick up this medication. Still, we recommend checking in with them if your dog is experiencing pain or mobility issues to see if glucosamine could be a treatment option.

Keep reading to learn more about glucosamine, including important safety information about the supplement and when you should consider reaching for it to support your aging dog’s joint health.

What is glucosamine?

Glucosamine is an amino sugar and the building block of spongy cartilage in your dog’s (and your!) body. As your dog ages, their body will slowly produce less of the vital compound, potentially leading to stiffness and discomfort. So just like we humans take vitamins and supplements to replenish our bodies’ natural stores, veterinarians often recommend glucosamine in supplement form for your pet’s joint health.

“It’s most often used for combating hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis,” Dr. Liz Devitt, DVM, a veterinary consultant for Fetch, says.

All dogs are susceptible to osteoarthritis — which is the degeneration of shock-absorbing cartilage of bones — as they age. The loss of that cartilage creates friction and stiffness in your pet’s joints, which can affect their ability to do many daily tasks, like exercising or climbing stairs and might decrease their overall quality of life.

Glucosamine supplements work  by naturally increasing the collagen production in your dog’s cartilage and reducing inflammation around pain points. In conjunction with weight loss and modified exercise, it’s one of the most common non-invasive ways to help your pet get that spring back in their step.

RELATED: A pet parent’s guide to dislocated hips

Is glucosamine safe for my dog?

With many supplement options available to pet parents, it can be overwhelming to find the best one while keeping your pet’s health top of mind. Luckily, glucosamine is an extremely safe treatment option for joint health. But not all glucosamine products are created equal.

“Sourcing is really important for pet parents,” Dr. Devitt says. “Just because you spent a lot of money doesn’t mean it’s got what you want in it.”

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the dietary supplement market, these products don’t fall under the same scrutiny as prescription drugs. Some studies suggest that the amount of glucosamine in a product — be it a treat, a non-prescription food or something else — might be ineffective because it contains much less than labeled. Talk with your veterinarian to find the best supplement product for your pet.

“In general, the amounts that are found in over-the-counter diets may not be enough to get the mobility benefits you’re looking for,” Dr. Devitt says, noting that prescription diets could potentially provide the necessary amounts to help your pet.

There is one specific case when glucosamine may not be a suitable treatment option: If your dog has diabetes, check with your veterinarian before adding the supplement to your pet’s diet. Since glucosamine is an amino sugar, it could make it harder to regulate glucose levels in diabetic patients, Dr. Devitt says; however, she notes that several studies haven’t shown this effect.

Keep an eye out for hypersensitivity, flatulence and soft stool after adding glucosamine to your dog's diet.

Can I use glucosamine with other dog supplements or medicines?

According to Dr. Devitt, glucosamine is often used alongside other treatment plants.

“It’s likely the first reach for dogs with mobility issues because you can always stack [other supplements or medications] on top of that,” Dr. Devitt says.

Veterinarians often suggest pairing glucosamine with another supplement called chondroitin sulfate, which helps to keep your dog’s natural joint lubrication fluid thick. When used together, glucosamine and chondroitin can help maintain healthy cartilage, reduce joint inflammation and give your dog some much needed joint-pain relief.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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