If your dog is reluctant to get up in the morning, hesitates when using stairs, or has begun to limp, then you may be looking at joint issues in your pup. As adult dogs get older, the protective cartilage between their bones begins to wear away. As those bones rub against each other, it's possible for your dog to experience inflammation and pain in their joints.
Jerry Klein, DVM, Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club, says that dog joint problems fall into two categories: developmental issues caused by the incorrect formation of joints (think elbow and hip dysplasia) or degenerative issues where a dog’s ligaments simply wear down as they get older (think osteoarthritis and patella luxation).
Thankfully, there are a few naturally occurring substances that exist in healthy dog joints that can be replenished. That is where joint supplements can be a game-changer for your dog’s comfort and mobility, according to Leslie Brooks, DVM, who practices in Lebanon, Ind. The right supplement can rebuild those natural substances to help relieve a dog’s worn-down joints.
“Most joint supplements contain ingredients that are healthy for joints, such as omega-3 fish oils, glucosamine, or chondroitin sulfate,” Brooks says. “These ingredients help decrease inflammation and swelling in joints while increasing the lubrication and health of the joints.”
Of course, your dog may have specific needs based on their other health attributes or breeding background, so always talk to your dog’s veterinarian before adding supplements to your dog’s routine.
When shopping for the best joint supplement for your dog, Klein recommends only choosing products recommended by your veterinarian and approved by the National Animal Supplement Council. The supplement market can be saturated with products that look good but ultimately do not use top-notch ingredients or quality-control checks.
“Be wary of claims that sound too good to be true, such as promises to alleviate diseases like parvovirus, cancer, and hip dysplasia,” Klein says. “Look for a brand that specializes in one area or that has commissioned clinical studies of their products. Look for certification from an organization that has independently verified the supplement’s contents.”
Not quite. Even if you recognize an ingredient from your own vitamins—like omega-3 fish oil—that does not mean your dog should take the same supplement as you, Klein says. Some ingredients that are healthy for humans can be dangerous for dogs (like garlic), and human dosages can provide dogs with an unhealthy excess of the vitamin. Your pet will often need their own special formulation, which is why dog-specific joint supplements are important for ailing pups.
Nutramax’s Cosequin Maximum Strength Joint Supplement is packed full of veterinarian-endorsed ingredients for dogs experiencing joint pain. The glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate promote cartilage production while other key ingredients (MSM) work to reduce your dog’s inflammation and pain. Veterinarians in clinical studies have also vouched for Cosequin’s ability to reduce pain and improve mobility in animals who are undergoing treatment for problem joints.
Shop now: Nutramax’s Cosequin Maximum Strength Joint Supplement Plus MSM with Glucosamine and Chondroitin, $14; amazon.com
This joint supplement was developed with family pets in mind. Over 20 years ago, the founders of NaturVet developed a joint formula for their Labrador who was diagnosed with arthritis and hip dysplasia. Today, they offer dozens of all-natural products to improve the quality of life for elderly dogs experiencing joint pain. This soft chew supplement includes ingredients to maintain healthy cartilage and connective tissues while reducing overall pain. Plus, the company is NASC-approved and has earned more than 970 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Shop now: NaturVet Senior Wellness Hip & Joint Advanced Plus Omegas, $35; amazon.com
Pet treatments featuring cannabidiol (CBD) have grown in popularity, but until recent years, science has been inconclusive on whether it’s truly an effective treatment for pets.
Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, works at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. He partnered with ElleVet Sciences on a clinical trial in 2017 to evaluate CBD oil as a treatment for dogs with osteoarthritis. The study indicated that CBD oil could potentially reduce inflammation in a way that other anti-inflammatory drugs (like NSAIDS) and traditional joint supplements did not, likely because of its influence on the dog’s nervous system.
Shop now: ElleVet Hemp CBD+CBDA Chews, $90; ellevetsciences.com
Certain dog breeds, such as golden retrievers and German shepherds, can be predisposed to arthritis as they age. This is why NASC-backed company WoofWell created breed-specific supplements designed to meet the health needs of different dogs.
Their foundational ingredients to address joint problems across breeds are similar to other products—measurements of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and omega-3s—but the slight variations in ingredients may help curb other potential issues in your dog’s breed. Thankfully for Fido, the bacon-flavoring is used across all WoofWell’s breed supplements, which currently cover golden retrievers, German shepherds, and Yorkshire terriers.
Shop now: WoofWell Golden Retriever Health Supplement, $40; woofwell.com
This all-natural supplement is among the best—offering a trifecta of high purchaser reviews, top ingredients, and the NASC seal of approval. The flavored, chewable tablets include pineapple bromelain for reduced inflammation and white willow bark for pain relief, alongside veterinarian-backed glucosamine and MSM. Plus, several Amazon reviewers remark that their dog loves the taste and mistakes the vitamin for a treat.
Shop now: Vet's Best Aspirin Free Aches + Pains Chewable Dog Supplement, $10; amazon.com
If your pup needs a tasty treat to take their vitamins, these chicken-flavored bites will likely do the trick. In addition to dog-friendly flavors, Zesty Paws’ senior supplements feature glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to keep connective tissue and joint cartilage strong as well as MSM for pain reduction. Even better: the company boasts the NASC quality seal, and their line of mobility supplements come in a range of flavors, from duck to bacon.
Shop now: Zesty Paws Senior Advanced Mobility Bites, $35; amazon.com
This veterinarian-formulated soft chew is completely gluten-free but still packed with the joint-supporting ingredients your dog needs. The preservative-free supplement features organic turmeric and yucca root for their healthy, anti-inflammatory properties—but it’s also flavored with chicken liver so your dog will still like the taste of it.
Shop now: Fera Pet Organics Hip + Joint Support for Dogs, $30; amazon.com
If you’re searching for a flavor-free fish oil supplement for pets who are picky-eaters, Nordic Naturals is a good find. This liquid joint supplement delivers omega-3s to improve immunity and joint health in dogs, and the formula is gluten-free. The liquid supplement has earned over 1,500 five-star reviews on Amazon for its good value and effectiveness.
Shop now: Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet, $14; amazon.com
Senior dogs with protein allergies (particularly to shellfish and beef) will appreciate this vegetarian-friendly liquid joint supplement. The formula contains glucosamine sulfate to protect cartilage structure, MSM for pain relief, and hyaluronic acid to rebuild the loss in damaged joints—but it skips the fish oil that other supplements often include.
Shop now: Liquid Health Store K9 Vegetarian Glucosamine, $23; amazon.com
A few dog joint supplements offer organic-only ingredients, but this organic formula is specifically designed to reduce pain for dogs with arthritis. The supplement’s superfood mushroom blend offers a boost of natural compounds that exist in healthy dog joints as well as chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. Plus, its high-quality organic ingredients are backed by the NASC seal.
Shop Now: BIXBI Organic Mushroom Powder Supplement for Dogs, $32; amazon.com