The Golden Years with your dog bring with them the comfort of routine, relaxation, and placid companionship. But they may also bring with them the struggles of aging—the receding desire to play fetch, the onset of arthritis and joint problems, and other general mobility issues. As your dog’s energy declines, often their mood is quick to follow. Concerned, you quickly research to find an answer to their age-related problems and symptoms.

Enter the fabled miracle cure for joints and mobility, glucosamine. 

You’d do anything—buy anything—to make your pet’s final years happy and pain-free ones, and so you trust the glucosamine hype. But when it comes to therapeutic supplements for your dog, the healing claims are as hard to wade through as the ones with your own supplements.

To address some common misconceptions about glucosamine supplements and why you should be wary of trusting them for your dog’s arthritis and general wellness, read ahead.

Are Herbal Supplements Safe?

Even though the FDA regulates all nutraceuticals, dietary supplements are of lower regulatory priority and some companies take advantage of this situation and market questionable products – which can pose a danger to consumers. 

Some placebo concerns, as well as some real dangers, come into play regarding the vast array of glucosamine supplements on the market today. Here are a few things to consider:

  • No reliable data exists regarding correct or safe dosages per animal, per the severity of arthritis and pain and inflammation. 
  • Many supplements contain too much glucosamine, which can lead to toxicity. Consequently, many pet owners report adverse side effects ranging from bloody diarrhea, dehydration, nose bleeds, lameness, and more.
  • The supplement may contain dangerous levels of lead, especially if sourced from China.
  • The supplement may contain other additives, not listed on the label, that are poisonous to animals.
  • The supplement may actually contain a fraction of the dosage stated on the label.
  • Endless studies done on glucosamine supplements have yet to render any concrete results regarding the efficacy of using it as a supplement for dogs.
  • Glucosamine supplements can lead to dehydration and increase the risk of glaucoma.

Product-Based Compensation for Veterinarians

Notice how you can’t get through a single hour of television without being barraged with pharmaceutical ads? The pressure on doctors to push the newest drug therapy to their patients—along with the ample financial compensation they receive for doing so—has now taken a foothold in veterinary medicine.

We’re not saying your vet isn’t a loving, ethical person with your pet’s best interest at heart. We’re just saying that he or she may be unduly influenced to push glucosamine by receiving compensation. 

And despite the fact that no compelling scientific evidence exists, glucosamine supplements continue to be the most prescribed veterinary supplement. Our advice to you? Buyer beware.

Bioavailability of Glucosamine

Speaking of your vet, did you know that most glucosamine supplements prescribed by veterinarians are from a synthetic source? This means that your dog’s system will have to work harder to recognize, process, and absorb the supplement before it can be beneficial in pain relief and mobility. 

In fact, it’s been shown that only around 2.5% to 12% of a glucosamine supplement will be absorbed, the rest is excreted by their body. With those odds, your lawn is getting more benefit from the supplement than your pet is. 

On The Fence? Try Food-Based Supplementation

Okay, so the truth of the matter is that glucosamine is a naturally occurring chemical in your body and in your pet’s body. And it does work to build thick protective fluid to cushion the joints as well as aid in building strong tendons, cartilage, and ligaments.

What to do? Look for natural, bioavailable sources of glucosamine that will be readily assimilated into your pet’s body. Real food sources = real absorption. 

Some safe, natural sources of glucosamine are these:

  • Beef, lamb, goat, or ostrich trachea
  • Chicken feet
  • Ox or pig’s tails
  • Beef knuckle bones
  • Other animal bones with chunks of cartilage attached
  • Shellfish shells
  • Green-lipped mussels
  • Bone broth

If you choose to use a glucosamine supplement, look for ones that are created from natural sources that can be easily absorbed. This will help to avoid ineffective or potentially dangerous synthetic supplements.

The Non-Cure Cure?

Even though clinical research does not back up the healing claims of glucosamine supplements, veterinarians still cling to their shaky ground. As Dr. Narda Robinson, a professor of “Integrative Veterinary Medicine” at the Colorado State University, states:


“We are confident that neither of the preparations [glucosamine or chondroitin] is dangerous. Therefore, we see no harm in having patients continue these preparations as long as they perceive a benefit and cover the costs of treatment themselves.”

Do you really want to pour your money into a treatment whose best scientific evidence amounts to nothing more than “well, it probably won’t help… but it won’t hurt to try!” Or would you rather go with a proven supplement made for dogs of every stage of life? The choice is yours.


  • Dogs Naturally. Glucosamine for Dogs: What Are the Best Sources?
  • Mark G. Papich. Saunders Handbook of Veterinary Drugs. Pg. 357-358
  • The Pharmaceutical Journal. What is a Nutraceutical?
  • Harvard Health Publishing. The Latest on Glucosamine/Chondroitin Supplements.
  • Skeptvet. Is Recommending Glucosamine for Arthritis Evidence-Based Medicine, or Wishful Thinking?


Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine.  She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.

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