Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.
If you have a big dog, or one of the breeds that you know is prone to arthritis, it's important to look into alternatives to prevent arthritis as he or she gets older. My dog loves to play “catch the coconut leaf,” and she will jump up and down for hours. I like to see her enjoy herself, but I do worry about the effect on her joints.
So what can I do about it? I am not about to tell her to stop jumping up and enjoying herself, so what I can do is provide her with glucosamine and chondroitin, two of the nutrients that may help prevent the progression of arthritis. They are so good, in fact, that they are labeled and sold as nutraceuticals, or nutrients that act as pharmacological agents.
But are glucosamine and chondroitin going to help prevent arthritis, or are they just going to protect her joints once the arthritis has started? Well, the scientific evidence is not really clear on this, but there are no reports out there that this will help.
In any case, I want to do what I can now, while she is healthy, and maybe I can catch the problem even before clinical signs develop. Later, if she does develop any signs and the problem becomes more obvious, I will try to do even more.
Glucosamine for Canine Arthritis
Veterinarians will agree that adding glucosamine to an arthritic dog's diet will provide her with benefits. Some will try to sell a capsule, some will try to sell a prescription dog food, and others will let you know about other dog foods available at large pet stores or about glucosamine labeled for humans.
Is dog food with glucosamine effective?
Most commercial dog foods, even those that claim that they have high levels of glucosamine, are sadly lacking and will not provide your dog with an adequate dose. If a medium-sized dog (about 20kg) needs about 1000mg of glucosamine a day, the most commonly available dog foods will require anywhere from 8 to 20 cups a day to be effective. Since your dog may only need to eat about 3 or 4 cups to stay healthy, dog food is not the way to go.
Are there good natural sources of glucosamine for dogs?
Since none of the dog foods, even the “prescription” diets, contain enough glucosamine for an arthritic dog, should you be buying pills from your vet or drugstore, or should you be providing a natural source of glucosamine?
I think the companies that are producing the pills are not to be trusted. They are not a pharmaceutical and are not closely regulated. My dog gets her glucosamine in shellfish, lobster (well, once!), shrimp, crabs, chicken feet, and beef tracheas—all natural sources!
Natural sources of glucosamine probably provide a lot more of the nutraceutical than what is available in a pill. Some of the foods containing glucosamine also provide vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Others, like beef trachea, are almost pure cartilage and have about 5% glucosamine, so just one 30 gram piece will have about 1400mg, more than the recommended minimum dose to protect a medium-sized arthritic dog.
What source of natural glucosamine should you give your dog?
I cannot tell you which source of glucosamine is best in your area, but chicken feet are inexpensive everywhere and should be a viable alternative for those of you who are buying expensive glucosamine supplements from your vet, at your pet store, or even from your drugstore.
I currently provide my dog with two chicken feet a day, or about 900mg of glucosamine, and if she develops arthritis later in life, I will increase this to four feet. Four feet a day will be much higher than the clinical minimum dose that is currently recommended. (The only problem with giving too much glucosamine occurs when giving it in an artificial form. As a natural food, it does not hurt the dog.)
Some cultures are so convinced of the effectiveness of chicken feet that they provide it as a regular meal for geriatric persons with arthritis.
Your arthritic dog deserves that natural source.
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.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do the chicken feet need to be cooked, boiled or can a dog eat them raw?
Answer: My dogs enjoy them raw. I do not think that the cooking will destroy the glucosamine, but it is not necessary, nor is it helpful to your dog in any way.
Question: Is it ok to give a dog chicken feet with the toenails still on? Could that puncture something as they swallow it?
Answer: Toes nails are just keratin and digest just fine. They will not damage your dogs GI tract when passing down.
I do not remove them before feeding my dogs.
Question: Where can you buy chicken feet?
Answer: Talk to a local butcher that sells chicken. They can usually order them from the company that is supplying them with chicken. They may not want to order for you unless you are buying 10 kilos at a time though.
Question: Is the puppy in the picture eating a chicken leg or chicken feet?
Answer: The puppy in the photo is eating a chicken foot. It is the lower part of the leg, not the meaty part that is covered with feathers in a live bird. Yes, the bottom part with claws that the chicken walks on. It is not meaty and contains mostly cartilage covered in skin. It is a great source of glucosamine.
Question: Should we source organic chicken feet for the best quality?
Answer: Yes. I am not able to where I live, but for the best health of your dog, organic chicken feet is an excellent choice.
© 2014 Dr Mark
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 23, 2018:
Hersh, I think it is important to get fresh. Not sure how much being organic affects the glucosamine levels. I would not want to buy the freeze dried product but I can not guarantee that it has no effect.
hersh1669 on February 23, 2018:
Fresh, raw organic chicken feet also? Or can we purchase the freeze dried feet off of Amazon and get the same effect?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 19, 2017:
Christina, should be fresh, raw.
Christina Pestana on July 17, 2017:
Should the beef trachea be fresh or can I buy the dried one at the local natural pet store?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 29, 2016:
Shannon, there is a lot of conflicting opinions, but for the smaller dog I would think at least two, and for the larger at least 3. Are they very expensive where you live? If you can find a good source, and they already have joint issues, I would give the smaller dog 4, the larger 6. (Raw chicken feet do not have that many calories but you do need to adjust the amount of commercial dog food you are giving so that your dogs do not become overweight, a big problem for dogs with joint issues.)
let me know if I can be of any more help.
Shannon on December 28, 2016:
My girls weigh 56lbs and 79lbs. I have been giving them one chicken foot a day. Is that enough? How many daily should they be getting? Both have joint issues so started giving these a few weeks ago.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 21, 2016:
Chicken feet do not need to be steamed. Raw chicken is much less likely to cause problems and your dog will enjoy them so much more.
Supeiya on June 16, 2016:
Hi, thank you for the information. Should the chicken feet be steamed? I read a lot about rush of choking from bone splintering is that a concern with feet? Thanks a lot
Bob Bamberg on January 04, 2014:
Beef trachea's not bad...a little butter on it helps it slide down the ol' esophagus easier.
Shelley Watson on January 04, 2014:
Enjoyed the interesting article and the alternative to giving pills. Up, interesting and useful.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 03, 2014:
Hi Bob, I hope Ajej never has to take aspirin or any other NSAID. Who knows, maybe I will be sitting down to a nice plate of chicken feet every week too! (Hmm, now I understand the ibuprofen part....I am not much into raw beef trachea either, but maybe that is just me.)
Bob Bamberg on January 03, 2014:
A chicken foot a day keeps the arthritis at bay. But, I'll take my chances, thanks. Pass the ibuprofen, please. Voted up, useful and interesting.