5 Best Natural Remedies for Canine Joint Pain and Arthritis

Updated on August 14, 2016
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Barbara Fitzgerald is an AKC Breeder of Merit and the author of a column, "Conversations with Champions," for the BCSA magazine,Borderlines.

These five supplements have shown improvement not only in the mobility of dogs, but also offer additional benefits such as improved coat, lung function, pigmentation and heart health. They can be given together without fear of adverse interactions, and can substantially improve your dog's quality of life as he ages.

What is Glucosamine for Dogs?

Glucosamine for dogs can be found in supplements created from shellfish, elk or deer antlers or it can be prepared chemically in a laboratory.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar that naturally occurs in the body. It functions by playing an important role in making glycosaminoglycans and glycoproteins, which are the building blocks of the components of joints, including tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint.

Animal studies have shown that glucosamine supplements can help repair and even prevent the further breakdown of cartilage. However, results are mixed regarding improvement for dogs with osteoarthritis. Anecdotal eveidence from owers who have tried glucosamine supplements on arthritic dogs, believe that they can see significant improvement based on activity levels of their pet. Medical studies, show little or no benefit from glucosamine on arthritic humans and dogs. However, this discrepancy may be due to the types and sources of the glucosamine used.

We find that the naturally occurring glucosamine, harvested from creatures intrinsically high in glucosamine, are more effective in providing rapid and noticeable improvement joint function. It appears that synthetic glucosamines made in laboratories provide a fraction of the relief that the natural supplements offer.

Chondroitin for Joints

Glucosamine is frequently paired with Chondroitin, another naturally occurring substance found in the cartilage of animals. Supplements frequently source chondroitin from shark fins, sea cucumbers and beef cartilage.

How Glucosamine and Chondroitin Work

Both glucosamine and chondroitin help repair and protect cartilage in the joint. Cartilage acts as a pad and shock absorber in the joint. As cartilage is damaged, the bones in the joint grind directly against each other, eventually causing remodeling of the bones in the joint.

Rebuiling and protecting cartilage reduces the wearing of bone against bone, providing substantial pain relief.

Do Glucosamine and Chondroitin Really Help Arthritis in Dogs?

Unfortunately, dog arthritis is common in aging dogs, with the hip and elbow joints most commonly affected. Additionally vertebrae may compress and discs in the spinal cord may begin to degrade as well.

A major study of 1500 humans with arthritis, published in The New England Medical Journal, determined that relief brought by glucosamine and chondroitin depended on the severity of the arthritis the individual had. The more severe the person's arthritis, the greater the relief they felt from the supplements.

Additionally, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements may help prevent or slow the progress of further joint damage.

Given that human and dog arthritis progress in similar fashions, we have surveyed dog owners who have tested a variety of natural supplements as well as compounds developed by the veterinary pharmaceutical companies to see which joint supplements produced the best results for symptomatic dogs.

Best Natural Remedy for Immediate Relief: Ark Naturals Sea Mobility Joint Rescue Jerky

Ark Naturals makes a variety of joint supplement treats for dogs in four flavors: beef, chicken, lamb and venison. Highly palatable, one jerky strip or 3 squares a day per 50 pounds will bring almost immediate joint pain relief to your dog.

Two Case Studies: Both Ruby, a six year old border collie with hip dysplasia, and Buckshot, a 12 year old bird dog with arthritis, showed noticeable improvement after one week of daily supplements with the Sea Mobility treats. Buck had been unable to stand on slick hardwood floors; his legs would slowly slide out from under him. As a result, he spent most of his time of area rugs scattered throughout his house.

After a week with the Sea Mobility treats, Buck's owner reported that he was "puppyish" again, more playful and able to walk more easily on the hardwood floors. After six months on the supplements, the improvements he had experienced were maintained, although at one year following the supplement regimen, his overall health had begun to decline.

Within four days on the Sea Mobility treats Ruby, who was previously unable to climb stairs or sit up on her hind legs, was able to climb stairs and able to stand on her hind legs to give her border collie hugs again. As an added bonus, this supplement returned the pigment to Ruby's nose to her dudley nose. At six months from initiating the supplement treats, Ruby's gains in mobility were maintained. At the one year interval, her overall health was still good and her positive response to the supplements was still maintained.

The Ark Naturals Sea Mobility treats are made with:

  • 100 mg Sea cucumber extract - an excellent source of Chondrotin
  • 200mg MSM-methylsulfonylmethane -a sulfur compound essential for connective tissue health, which helps to reduce inflammation, and increase flexibility
  • 200 mg Glucasamine HCL to help to repair and maintain healthy cartilage, inhibit inflammation and stimulate growth of synovial fluid for joint lubrication
  • Grain free and Gluten free
  • Made in the USA

Across the board, owners of senior and arthritic dogs sing the praises of these treats. They are easily consumed by elderly dogs who have trouble swallowing pills. Owners report that their dogs are more energetic, steadier on their legs and more mobile and flexible.

Ruby joining in the border collie games again.
Ruby joining in the border collie games again.

Natural Supplement Tablet From Velvet Elk Antlers

An ancient Chinese remedy from 2000 years ago, Elk Velvet contains nearly 40 essential compounds. Elk Velvet supplements are derived from new growth antlers, still in "velvet," that are humanely and sustainably harvested.

The young antlers used in this supplement are still in a cartilaginous state and are rich in nutrients, minerals, growth hormones, proteins and trace elements. Studies have shown that elk velvet supplements help bone fractures heal faster.

The Wapita Labs Mobility series comes in "Mobility" (for adult dogs) and "Senior Mobility" (for, you guessed it, senior dogs). Both are high in Glucosamine and Chondroitin as well as natural herbs such as ginseng for additional support.

  • Vet recommended
  • High in naturally occurring Glucosamine and Chondroitin
  • Naturally includes calcium, potassium, phosphorus, collagen, amino acids, growth hormones.
  • Made in the USA

Because their product produces results so quickly, they offer trail packs on their website to allow you to test it on your dog without making a large initial investment. Expect to see results within 7-10 days.

Yellowstone Elk in Velvet
Yellowstone Elk in Velvet | Source

Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM

The number one recommended joint supplement by veterinarians is far and away the Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM. While not a natural supplement, as the number one selling supplement we thought it should be reviewed as well. While some vets recommend saving money and purchasing the Dasuquin without MSM, longtime users who switched found it was not as effective as the MSM version.

  • Best selling joint supplement
  • Provides comprehensive joint health support
  • Includes ASU, which is derived from avocados and soybeans
  • Formulated from more than 10 years of clinical use and research

Negative side effects such as stomach upset and vomiting are occasionally experienced with this supplement. This is a slower acting remedy, usually taking up to a month to see positive results.

As this is frequently recommended by vets, this supplement is often given in conjunction with other anti inflammatories and pain killers such as Rimadyl, which may account for a substantial part of its perceived efficacy.

Opt for the chewable version which is fairly palatable, because the regular tablets smell yeasty, and dogs frequently ferret them out of their disguises and leave the tablets behind.

Fish Oil for Joints and Improved Overall Health

Salmon oil and fish oil are anti-inflammatories that can reduce inflammation in the joints as well as making other nutrients and supplement more easily absorbed.The added benefits of consuming fish oil include improved shining coat and healthy skin, improved lung function and heart health, as well as an overall protection of the organs from antioxidants.

There are no side effects, outside of possible loose stools, and fish oil capsules can be given with glucosamine and chondroitin supplements without fear of adverse interactions. Nordic Naturals is the gold standard for human fish oil supplements, and they make a pet version as well.

Grizzly Salmon Oil also makes a series of fish oil supplements that come in squeeze bottles that you apply directly to the dogs food. Most dogs enjoy the smelly goodness of salmon oil. If you have only one dog, purchase a small 8 ounce bottle, as the sixteen ounce will go rancid before you have used it up.

Nordic Naturals for Pets:

  • Derived exclusively from wild anchovies and sardines, offers convenient capsules for ease of use
  • Specially formulated to maximize the health benefits for your pet
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, support healthy skin, joints, heart, and development and maintenance of the brain and eyes.

Natural Elk and Deer Antler Chews for Dogs

Deer and elk antlers are naturally shed annually, and their antlers are being harvested for a variety of uses, including dog treats. Antlers are beneficial to dogs of all ages and health requirements.

Naturally rich in glucosamine they also contain many other beneficial minerals including:

Iron.................................... 38-42 PPM

Calcium.............................. 22-24%

Magnesium.......................... 10.5%

Potassium........................... 970-980 PPG

Phosphorus.......................... 9-11%

Sulfur................................. 0.21-0.25%

Zinc................................... 62-65 PPM

Deer and elk antlers are long lasting chews that provide days to weeks of entertainment for your dog. They also do the best job of keeping molars clean of tartar and plaque of any product on the market.

Dogs should gnaw on then from the side of their jaw. This cleans not only the exposed tooth, but also beneath the gum line. As the dog chews to get at the marrow, nutrients are slowly released that are natural and full digestible.

Dogs should not eat more than one inch of antler a day. The antlers should be discarded once their remnants are small enough to be swallowed.

Have you tried Glucosamine Supplements before?

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Tips for Managing Dog Arthritis and Joint Pain

If your dog has arthritis or hip or elbow dysplasia, there are several things you should try to do to ease their pain and improve their quality of life.

  • Don't let your dog become overweight; excess weight puts increased pressure on the joints. If you need to cut back on food because of decreased activity levels, you can add in canned or frozen green beans or collards to their food to give them a nice full feel after meals, without the added calories.
  • If your dog responds to any of the treatments listed here, begin going for short walks 15-20 minutes twice a day, and increasing them as his stamina builds. Short walks are better than one long walk.
  • Swimming is an excellent form of exercise as it relives stress on the joints. For large or elderly dogs invest in a life jacket to give him additional support and keep him from tiring too soon.
  • Invest in a therapeutic pet bed with memory foam or and egg crate design.
  • Your vet can prescribe Non-steroidal Anti Inflammatory medications to help manage inflammation in more severe cases.

Dog Arthritis Hydrotherapy Rehabilitation

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Morgan 2 years ago

        I have tried several joint supplements with my girl until I began using Next Level by Farnam. She has completely torn both ACLs, had 1 surgically repaired via TTA, before Next Level I used a human supplement that had glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. She improved a bit and I increased her dose, but no improvement. I saw my friend use the Next Level with her then 22 year old Chihuahua that has no stifles. I saw his improvements almost immediately and so when I saw it on sale I bought it and tried it with dog. I saw a major improvement. Before the other supplements kept the pain and inflammation at bay, but she wasn't herself, now with Next Level I have my girl back. She wants to play and run and doesn't stop. I buy it online from drfostersmith.com for about $40, compared to around $50 at the local store.

      • Solaras profile image

        Solaras 3 years ago

        Well done EPBooks! I need to work on maintaining my ideal weight along with my dogs'.

      • epbooks profile image

        Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

        We give our dogs the glucosamine with chondroitin and MSM - and it does seem to help. We also use the fish oil and keep their weight ideal.

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Bob Bamberg told me about the prices up there. Incredible. I pay about 75 cents (US) for a kilo, and my dogs love them even more than necks and backs. Of course, they might choose the sea cucumber, but I can only offer so much!

      • Solaras profile image

        Solaras 3 years ago

        Hi Dr. Mark - Chicken feet have been a big favorite here, but we were concerned that people would be distressed by the potential for salmonella, and they look like creepy alien hands lol. They are not inexpensive in our area either; here they are $1.50 per foot.

        I think something about the sea cucumber makes it more readily available to the system. They are the only ones using it to my knowledge.

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Interesting article. If that Ark Naturals supplement worked so quickly, it was probably because of the MSM. Unfortunately, however, not enough is known about glucosamine, despite the fact that it has been used for so many years.

        Be sure to look into chicken feet too. They are a popular natural source of glucosamine in many parts of the world, even with people!

        Thanks for your research. I hope this does really well. Voted up and interesting.