The 5 Best Natural Remedies for Canine Joint Pain and Arthritis

Updated on August 30, 2019
Solaras profile image

Barbara Fitzgerald is an AKC Breeder of Merit and author of the column "Conversations with Champions" for the BCSA magazine, Borderlines.

Natural Remedies for Canine Joint Pain
Natural Remedies for Canine Joint Pain

The 5 Best Natural Supplements for Aging Dogs

The following five supplements have greatly helped arthritic dogs and offer additional benefits such as improved coat quality, improved lung function, and heart health. They can substantially improve your dog's quality of life as he or she ages. We will review the properties of each of these products, discuss how to use them, and explain why they are considered favorites among pet owners.

Top 5 Supplements for Arthritic Dogs

  1. Ark Naturals Sea Mobility Joint Rescue Chews
  2. Wapiti Labs Dog Mobility Tablets
  3. Nutramax Dasuquin With MSM
  4. Gnawtlers Premium Elk Antlers for Dogs
  5. Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Fish Oil

A healthy Border Collie running.
A healthy Border Collie running.

The Benefits of Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Dogs

What Is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is an amino sugar that naturally occurs in the body. It plays an important role in making glycosaminoglycans and glycoproteins, which are the building blocks of joints, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and synovial fluid (which lubricates joints). It can be found as a supplement for dogs and comes from shellfish, elk, or deer antlers; these supplements can also be prepared chemically in a laboratory.

Are Natural and Synthetic Glucosamine Equal?

According to our research, naturally occurring glucosamine that is harvested from creatures intrinsically high in glucosamine is often more effective in providing a rapid and noticeable improvement in joint function. It appears that synthetic glucosamine that is made in laboratories provides a fraction of the relief that the natural supplements offer.

When researching a product, consider purchasing sustainable sources—avoid those made from shark fin and/or species that are currently threatened due to overharvesting or irresponsible harvesting.

What Is Chondroitin?

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

How Glucosamine and Chondroitin Work Synergistically

Cartilage acts as a pad and shock absorber in the joint. Once damaged, the bones in the joint grind directly against each other, causing pain and dysfunction. When used in combination, glucosamine and chondroitin help repair and protect cartilage in the joint. Rebuilding and protecting cartilage reduces the wearing of bone against bone and provides substantial pain relief to dogs suffering from arthritis.

Anecdotal evidence from owners suggests that glucosamine can significantly improve activity levels in senior dogs (medical studies are inconclusive due to challenges surrounding sourcing and quality). Lab animal studies also show that glucosamine supplements can help repair and even prevent further breakdown of cartilage in dogs.

Can These Supplements Prevent Arthritis in Dogs?

Unfortunately, dog arthritis is common in aging dogs and the hip and elbow joints are most commonly affected. Additionally, vertebrae may compress over time, 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 that the individual had (severe cases benefitted more greatly 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 progresses similarly, we have surveyed dog owners who have tested a variety of natural supplements as well as compounds developed by veterinary pharmaceutical companies to see which joint supplements produced the best results for symptomatic dogs.

Ruby joining in the Border Collie games again.
Ruby joining in the Border Collie games again.
Ark Naturals Sea Mobility Joint Rescue Chews, Beef, Increase Flexibility, Mobility and Joint Comfort, Vet Recommended for All Dog Breeds, 500 mg Glucosamine, 9 oz. Bag
Ark Naturals Sea Mobility Joint Rescue Chews, Beef, Increase Flexibility, Mobility and Joint Comfort, Vet Recommended for All Dog Breeds, 500 mg Glucosamine, 9 oz. Bag

These treats are easily consumed by elderly dogs that have trouble swallowing pills. Owners report that their dogs are more energetic, steadier on their legs, and more mobile and flexible on these supplements.

 

1. Ark Naturals Sea Mobility Joint Rescue Chews

Ark Naturals makes a variety of joint supplement treats for dogs in four flavors: beef, chicken, lamb, and venison. These treats are highly palatable. In the two case studies below, both dogs showed noticeable improvements after one week of daily Sea Mobility treats.

Dosing: One jerky strip (three squares) a day per 50 pounds.

Case Studies

  1. Buckshot or "Buck": 12-year-old bird-dog with arthritis
  2. Ruby: Six-year-old Border Collie with hip dysplasia

1. Buck

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 on area rugs scattered throughout his house.

Progress: 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 supplement, the improvements he had experienced were maintained.

2. Ruby

Within four days on the Sea Mobility treats, Ruby, who was previously unable to climb stairs or stand up on her hind legs, was able to climb stairs again and even jump up to "hug" her owner.

Progress: 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.

Ingredients and Properties

  • 100 mg sea cucumber extract, an excellent source of chondroitin
  • 200 mg MSM-methylsulfonylmethane, a sulfur compound essential for connective tissue health, which helps to reduce inflammation and increases flexibility
  • 200 mg glucosamine HCL, to help repair and maintain healthy cartilage, inhibit inflammation, and stimulate regeneration of synovial fluid for joint lubrication
  • Grain-free and gluten-free
  • Made in the USA

Review

Owners of senior and arthritic dogs praise these treats. They are easily consumed by elderly dogs that have trouble swallowing pills. Owners report that their dogs are more energetic, steadier on their legs, and more mobile and flexible.

Wapiti Labs Dog Mobility 120 Count Tablet
Wapiti Labs Dog Mobility 120 Count Tablet

Wapiti Labs' elk velvet product produces quick results. They offer trail packs on their website to allow you to test them on your dog without making a large initial investment. Expect to see results within 7–10 days.

 

2. Wapiti Labs Dog Mobility Tablets

An ancient Chinese remedy from 2,000 years ago, elk velvet contains nearly 40 essential compounds. Elk velvet supplements are derived from new-growth antlers, still in "velvet," and 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.

Ingredients and Properties

The Wapiti Labs "mobility" series comes in two variations: "mobility" (for adult dogs) and "senior mobility" (for senior dogs). Both are high in glucosamine and chondroitin and natural herbs such as ginseng for additional support. These products are known for being:

  • Vet-recommended
  • High in naturally occurring glucosamine and chondroitin
  • High in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, collagen, amino acids, and growth hormones
  • Made in the USA

Review

Wapiti Labs' products produce quick results. They off trial packs on their website to allow you to test them 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 Chewables, Large Dog, 150 Count
Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM Chewables, Large Dog, 150 Count

This is the number-one recommended joint supplement by veterinarians.

 

3. Nutramax Dasuquin With MSM

The number-one recommended joint supplement by veterinarians is far and away Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM. While some vets recommend saving money and purchasing the Nutramax Dasuquin without MSM, longtime users who switch over found that the alternate product was not as effective as the MSM version.

Ingredients and Properties

  • Best-selling joint supplement on the market
  • 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

Review

This is a slower-acting remedy and may take up to a month to see positive results. Opt for the chewable version (which is fairly palatable) because the regular tablets smell yeasty and may deter dogs from ingesting them. Negative side effects such as stomach upset and vomiting are occasionally experienced with this supplement.

Note: Frequently prescribed 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.

Gnawtlers - Premium Elk Antlers For Dogs, Naturally Shed Elk Antlers, USA Natural Elk Antler Chews, Specially Selected Elks Antlers From The Rocky Mountain & Heartland Regions - 4" Elk Antler Small
Gnawtlers - Premium Elk Antlers For Dogs, Naturally Shed Elk Antlers, USA Natural Elk Antler Chews, Specially Selected Elks Antlers From The Rocky Mountain & Heartland Regions - 4" Elk Antler Small

Deer and elk antlers are long-lasting chews that provide days to weeks of entertainment for your dog. Naturally rich in glucosamine, they also contain many other beneficial minerals.

 

4. Gnawtlers Premium Elk Antlers for Dogs

Deer and elk antlers are naturally shed annually and are harvested for a variety of uses, including dog treats. Naturally rich in glucosamine, they also contain many other beneficial minerals—some of which are listed below.

Ingredients and Properties

  • 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

Review

Deer and elk antlers are long-lasting chews that provide days to weeks of entertainment for your dog. As the dog chews to get at the marrow, natural and fully digestible nutrients are slowly released.

Safety: 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.

Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Pet, 180 Count
Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Pet, 180 Count

Nordic Naturals is the gold standard for fish oil supplements. Their omega-3 soft gels support the skin, joints, heart, brain, and eyes.

 

5. Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Fish Oil

Nordic Naturals is the gold standard for human fish oil supplements, and they make a pet version as well. There are no major side effects with these supplements, outside of the possibility of loose stools, and fish oil capsules can be given with glucosamine and chondroitin.

Ingredients and Properties

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

Review

Salmon oil and fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation in the joints and aid in the absorption of other essential nutrients. The added benefits of consuming fish oil include improved coat shine and skin health, improved lung function and heart health, and systemic antioxidant protection from free radicals.

Grizzly Salmon Oil also makes a series of fish oil supplements that come in squeeze bottles that you apply directly to your dog's food. Most dogs enjoy the smelly goodness of salmon oil.

Tip: If you have only one dog, purchase a small 8-ounce bottle, as the 16-ounce bottle will go rancid before you use it up.

Have you tried glucosamine supplements before?

See results

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:

  • Manage their weight: 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 to satisfy their appetites without the added calories.
  • Go for short walks: If your dog responds to any of the treatments listed here, go for short walks (15–20 minutes) twice a day and increase the frequency as your dog's stamina builds. Short walks are better than one long walk.
  • Swim: Swimming is an excellent form of exercise as it relieves stress on the joints. For large or elderly dogs, invest in a life jacket to give them additional support and to keep them from tiring too soon.
  • Invest in bedding: Invest in a therapeutic pet bed with memory foam or an egg-crate design.
  • NSAIDs: Your vet can prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to help manage inflammation in more severe cases.

Dog Arthritis Hydrotherapy Rehabilitation

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2014 Solaras

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    • profile image

      Morgan 

      3 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 imageAUTHOR

      Solaras 

      5 years ago

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

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      5 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 

      5 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 imageAUTHOR

      Solaras 

      5 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 

      5 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.

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