Beware – Arthritis Dog Foods Don’t Have Enough Glucosamine!
Our dogs are getting older just like us, and for many dogs, old age comes with arthritis. Recently there has been an upsurge in the number of dog foods that claim to help care for joints through ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Glucosamine seems to be a common ingredient in arthritis dog foods, but we should ask questions such as:
- Does the daily amount of food provide a correct dose of glucosamine?
- Is it the right type of glucosamine?
- What other ingredients have the food been fortified with, and in what quantities?
Don’t get me wrong; I think these foods are worthwhile but probably not for the same reasons you think! Here are the good and the bad about arthritis dog foods:
Sensibly these foods are usually quite low-calorie. Weight control is a BIG thing for arthritis, so any low-calorie food gets my tick of approval. These foods are good for maintaining good body weight in a less active dog; other foods can help reduce weight in the first place.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Provide the Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Joint foods are generally super high in omega-3 fatty acids; this provides an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effect – this is how most arthritis diets work. The omega-3 fatty acids are also very good for skin problems (for the same reasons) and will often be used for both.
It is often more economical to use Hills JD or Royal Canin Joint & Coat Care if you want the omega 3s than to buy them separately.
The Dose of Glucosamine and Chondroitin is NOT Enough
You actually can’t blame the food companies for this – they are restricted by food regulations that prevent food medication. They would love to put more glucosamine and chondroitin in their foods, but if they go above a certain amount, the food is considered medicated – a big no-no. Different states have different regulations, but last time I checked, Texas was the most strict, so food such as Hills JD will have as many of these ingredients as the Texans will allow.
So why put them in at all? You would have to ask the food companies, but being able to list these ingredients certainly provides a handy label presence for them, and people LOVE its idea. I love the idea of it, too – just be aware that you should still supplement with glucosamine for dogs and chondroitin on top of these foods.
Are There Brands of Glucosamine for Dogs?
We are all familiar with the benefits of glucosamine for people with arthritis, so it should not come as a big surprise that you can also use glucosamine for dogs. We expect similar improvements in mobility and quality of life when using glucosamine for dogs – it can offer great benefits with minimal side effects. The problem is not whether to put your arthritic dog on glucosamine but which brand to use as there are major differences in the following areas:
- Quality of ingredients – the supplement industry is unregulated, so companies can (and sometimes do) use ingredients that are not what they say.
- Dosage – the glucosamine for dogs dosage varies a LOT.
- Type of glucosamine – which is best? There are at least five types on the market, which gets VERY confusing for people.
- Other ingredients aside from glucosamine for dogs that might help
With so many differences and so many brands on the market, it can get tricky to pick one that is best for your dog’s arthritis. So, below is some information:
- The main brands
- Where to buy them
- Similarities with human brands
- Quality issues
The Main Brands
There are always new brands coming onto the market. Arthritis is a real problem, and if you want to help your dog as best as you can, I would suggest you stick with the well-known brands that have quite rightly earned their place in the market.
- Cosequin and Dasuquin
- Hills JD and Royal Canin Joint & Coat Care as dog foods fortified with these ingredients
Note there are many lower-priced equivalents of these products, but you need to assure yourself that you are receiving the quality and quantity of the specified ingredients, which is why I suggest sticking with these brands. Also, note that in most of these products, it is not just glucosamine that helps but a combination of supplements.
Where to buy the Main Brands of Glucosamine for Dogs
Your veterinarian will have a range of products that he or she recommends. Of course, you can buy these products at pet stores and online as they are not prescription medications (except Hills JD). Amazon is a trusted and highly price-competitive supplier of these products.
Similarities with Human Glucosamine Products
There are just as many human glucosamine products as there are for pets. Some, such as Synflex, are marketed for both. Many pet owners pop to their dogs as they are popping one themselves. If you can find a quality product with the same ingredients in the same proportions, there is generally no reason not to use a human product, BUT no studies have likely been done to make sure human products work in dogs.
Sometimes there are differences in the way nutrient products work for dogs compared to people – they are, after all, a completely different species. A good example is flaxseed, a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids for people, but unfortunately, dogs only absorb about 10% as much as we do, so they need fish-derived sources of Omega 3.
The better quality, branded products have spent the time and money to make sure their products work in dogs, and this is why I recommend them. Start with the best products, so you know if they are going to work or not. If you can wean down to a lesser dose or a more secondary effect over time, then all the better, but start with the best.
Another huge difference between the brands is the quality of the ingredients. A pharmacy school studied human glucosamine supplements. They found that 80% of human glucosamine supplements did not have the target amount of glucosamine in them! Remember, the whole supplement industry is unregulated, so the tight quality control we have come to expect from prescription drugs is just not present in the supplement industry.
Quality companies self-regulate – they do the research and quality control themselves, so you get what you pay for.
Glucosamine can be a wonder drug for dog arthritis – there are many fantastic stories of safe and effective mobility and quality of life. Yet while there are many happy stories, there are also some disappointments – and many of these disappointments can be traced back to using low doses of low-quality glucosamine products. You want to get glucosamine for dogs right the first time – good quality drugs at the correct amount!
There are a few tricks to getting the glucosamine dose right, which I will explain below.
Are You Giving the Right Type of Glucosamine?
There are five forms of glucosamine, the main difference being Glucosamine Sulfate versus Glucosamine Hydrochloride (HCl) and differences in the origin of Glucosamine HCl (vegetable versus shellfish).
Glucosamine hydrochloride (glucosamine HCl) seems to work best. While some arguments say the vegetable form of Glucosamine HCl works better than the shellfish form, this has yet to be proven. It does appear that Glucosamine HCl works even better if combined with low molecular weight chondroitin sulfate, so I think this is a more important point.
Are You Giving the Right Dose of Glucosamine HCl?
These drugs are safe, so it is hard to give too high a dose. Yet, despite their safety, many dogs receive very low doses that really won’t be effective. Why? Price. Whichever way you look at it, these drugs can be expensive, especially if you have a big dog. So think of it this way: if you give a low dose, you will likely hit one of these situations:
- The glucosamine has not worked because the amount was too low
- The glucosamine has not worked because it simply doesn’t work in every dog.
So how do you pick these two apart? It would help if you tried again on a higher dose, all the while feeling a little sheepish at your false economy. My advice is to try good products at a good amount and back down from there.
Drugs like Dasuquin and Cosequin are the gold standard – if they do not work, nothing will. Try them first, and if they help, then flip over to a maintenance dose after 4-6 weeks. The price becomes much more tolerable as you give these products every 2nd day.
The ingredients of Dasuquin have been tabled below. It should give you a guide as to how much of each component to give.
|Under 10 lbs||300 mg / day||125 mg/day||200 mg/day||22.5 mg/day|
|10-29 lbs||600 mg/day||250 mg/day||400 mg/day||45 mg/day|
|30-59 lbs||1200 mg/day||500 mg/day||800 mg/day||90 mg/day|
|60-120 lbs||1800 mg/day||700 mg/day||1600 mg/day||180 mg/day|
So your dog has arthritis, and you want to do the best for her. You have invested time and money checking out glucosamine for dogs and have been diligently hiding them in her food for a while now. I get lots of questions along the lines of:
- How do I know if they are working?
- How long should I try dog glucosamine products before my dog starts improving?
- What might be the reasons for a dog not to improve on these dog joint supplements?
How do I know if the Dog Arthritis Glucosamine Supplements are Working?
The best way is to watch your dog and take note of tell-tale signs of arthritis.
- Mobility – improvements in rising from rest, friskiness, jumping, stair climbing, and walking
- Lameness – seems more comfortable and more willing to put weight on an arthritic leg
- Licking joints -not bothering affected joints so much
- Behavioural changes – less aggression and irritability, more social, and back to her old self.
The fancy way that studies use to measure this stuff is to score things such as:
- Visual assessment of mobility
- Degree of joint pain, swelling, and crepitus (a crunch to the joints)
- Range of movement of arthritic joints
Keep it simple and observe your dog – most people intuitively know if these products work. Write some notes if you want to.
How Long Should I try Glucosamine for Dogs?
I would try a minimum of 2 months – these are slow onset products, so don’t expect a quick fix.
My Dog is Not Improving After 2 Months – Why?
Before you give up on glucosamine for dogs, you should have your veterinarian check for any arthritis causes that might need more specific treatment. For example, you would not expect a dog joint supplement to work in a knee suffering from cruciate ligament rupture – these dogs need surgery in most cases.
The same goes for many causes of arthritis aside from old age – glucosamine products will not benefit until the real reason has been diagnosed and treated as best as possible. It is true that dog glucosamine might be a part of the treatment but is unlikely to be the treatment by itself.