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The best joint supplements for dogs, according to vets

Updated June 28, 2020

Created By

Kristin Bobst,, Andy Bowen
Learn which supplements our vets recommend to help keep dogs active and pain-free 

🔍 How we picked our favorites

  • We started with our vets — We asked our vets for a list of the supplements they prescribe to patients on the regular based on quality and results.
  • Then we handpicked the absolute best — We analyzed the ingredients list of each supplement for synthetic vitamins using Green America’s methodology. We also skipped over any product that contained highly debated ingredients (synthetic fragrances, silicones, PUFAs, formaldehyde releasers, etc.). To no one’s surprise, zero of our vets’ recommendations threw up and red flags.

👉 VetriScience GlycoFlex Everyday is a supplement that gets a lot of praise, but it’s not on our list. VetriScience is one of our favorite brands, but we chose to exclude this supplement because one of the primary active ingredients, Dimethylglycine, is under scrutiny by the VCA. Dimethylglycine is extremely popular, but most of its nutritional claims have been refuted.

The essentials

  • Joint pain isn’t always obvious. While senior dogs might suffer from joint issues more often than roly-poly puppies, joint problems can cause pain in pups of all ages. Some dogs show common symptoms like limping, but behaviors such as excessive licking can also indicate joint problems.
  • Some breeds get the short end of the stick. Your dog’s body shape matters when it comes to their likelihood of developing joint problems.
  • Popular supplements include a variety of ingredients that tackle different problems. Treating joint pain involves reducing inflammation, supporting ligament health, and reducing pain to name just a few things.
  • Weight plays a role. If your overweight dog suffers from joint pain, talk to a vet about a healthy weight-loss plan.

At a glance: Our favorite joint support supplements for dogs

Joint supplements 101

Supplements are any medicinal compound or a mix of compounds used to support your pet’s health. There’s no precise definition, so when you hear or read the term ‘supplement,’ remember that it’s a general term. You’ll always want to look closely at the ingredients to see what the product contains.

👉 Check out our comprehensive guide to supplements and vitamins to learn more about the wide world of doggo nutrients.

We will go over each joint condition that might be helped with supplements in detail a little later, but two of the most common conditions you’ve likely heard of are arthritis and hip dysplasia. In addition to those, joint supplements can also help with the general aches and pains doggos experience as they get older.

Types of doggie joint supplements

Pet owners whose pups are OK with taking medicine won’t have to worry too much about the delivery method. However, many picky pups prefer taking medicine in a certain way. Some are happier to gobble up powder sprinkled over their food. Others refuse to consider a pill or even a tablet. Just keep in mind that you have some options when it comes to how to dose your doggo. It can impact your decision on which supplement to purchase.

  • Chews.  Often flavored for canine preferences, chewable supplements are an easy way to trick your dog into thinking they’re getting a treat instead of taking medicine. Chews are one of the most popular dog joint supplement formulations.
  • Tablets. Tablets have a crunchy texture instead of a chewy one, but some dogs also react to tablets as though they are getting a treat.
  • Powders. You simply sprinkle the powder over your dog’s normal food. Some pups won’t even notice that you’ve added a healthy topping to their kibble.
  • Liquids. Most dog owners mix liquids in with their pup’s food, similar to administering a powder. Some supplements can be pumped on top of your doggo’s food. Other liquid formulas are meant to be squirted down your dog’s throat. This is not a fun task, we know, but an important one! Other liquid supplements are added to water, which should be changed daily.
  • Kibble. Some dog foods are formulated with joint health in mind. Vets can recommend prescription diets, too. These diets are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and glycosaminoglycans like glucosamine.

Human joint supplements vs. dog joint supplements

As many of us know too well, people suffer from all kinds of joint woes. We have that in common with our four-legged friends. Never give your dog supplements formulated for humans unless directed by a veterinarian. While some of the ingredients in human and dog supplements might be the same, treatments formulated for people may also include substances like xylitol which are toxic to dogs.

👉 Learn more about what substances are toxic to dogs here.

Pet products and regulation

Since you’re on this page, we know you’re a dog owner who does their research. Good, pet parent, very good! Because there is no sole authority that oversees the pet supplement market, you have to be diligent. When it comes to pet products like supplements, you always want to make sure the product you give your dog is safe and vet-approved, which is what betterpet is all about.

When our veterinarians recommend a product, they choose those with natural, food-derived vitamins rather than synthetic vitamins. They also only recommend products made by companies that consult with vets and nutritionists.

The science of joint and hip supplements

Joint issues in dogs are usually either degenerative or developmental. Degenerative joint issues can be caused by the aging process or by injury from activity. Basically, wear and tear on our dogs’ bodies causes problems by damaging your dog’s tissues — such as cartilage — over time.

Developmental joint issues refer to improper joint development. This happens when a dog’s joint never forms properly or behaves incorrectly. Joint issues can also be caused by supplements. Our betterpet expert Dr. Erica Irish, DVM, explains, “Overuse of supplements early in life can contribute to the malformation of bones and joints! Many puppies just need a good, well-balanced diet and nothing more.” So, always talk to your vet about what your dog’s needs are before adding a supplement to their diet.

Joint supplements work by inhibiting certain enzymes that wear down or destroy cartilage. Cartilage is the tissue in between bones that adds as a shock absorber. Think of it as the cushion between bones.

Joint supplements differ from joint medications in that medications fall into the “drug” category. Drugs are regulated and require a prescription. Supplements fall into the category of nutrition. You’re supplementing your doggo’s nutrient intake by adding extra beneficial compounds.

Common joint supplement ingredients

To understand what the best supplement for your dog is, it’s helpful to know what the common ingredients are and how they work. Some supplements may contain several of these ingredients. Once you find the best remedy for your BFF, they’ll be feeling spry as a wee puppy.

Glucosamine hydrochloride. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that helps keep cartilage healthy by aiding in its restoration. It also helps reduce inflammation.

Chondroitin sulfate. This compound fights certain enzymes that harm cartilage.

Omega fatty acids. Omega fatty acids are helpful for lots of things such as general immune system health and organ health. For joints, they help reduce inflammation.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). This compound provides both pain relief and has anti-inflammatory properties. MSM also has detoxifying properties.

Green-lipped mussels. Yep, we are referring to mussels from the ocean. These little sea critters naturally contain glucosamine, chondroitin, and fatty acids.

Hyaluronic acid. This is a compound that helps keep connective tissues healthy. It helps with joint lubrication. It also coats cartilage to make it more resistant to wear and tear.

Collagen. Collagen is a compound found in connective tissues. As dogs age, they lose their collagen, so adding it back in their diets can be helpful.

Antioxidants. These are found in lots of supplements as they contain a myriad of beneficial properties. Antioxidants prevent damage from free radicals. They come in especially handy for supporting liver health.

Fish oil. Fish oils are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Krill oil. The ocean is awash in great sources of omega-3s. Krill is another great source.

Turmeric. You might know it as a spice, but turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists have actually studied its properties in relation to turmeric, and science says it works. Cue the arthritis-free tail wagging!

A note on Dimethylglycine (DMG)

This compound is often referenced as an anti-inflammatory, but many of its claims have not been conclusively proven. According to VCA, “all of its touted effects have largely been refuted by clinical and laboratory testi

Recognizing joint pain in your pup

If you notice that your dog is acting unusually or you think they might be in pain, never hesitate to call your veterinarian.

  • Limping and stiffness. Just like in people, these are tell-tale signs of pain.
  • Lethargy. If your dog is moving slower or sleeping more than normal, they might have movement issues.
  • Slower speeds. If your dog’s “zoomies” suddenly slow or become nonexistent, a joint issue could be bothering them.
  • Irritability. Animals in pain tend to have a shorter fuse.
  • Difficulty jumping. Whether it’s into the car or onto furniture, hesitation or refusal to jump could be a sign of joint pain.
  • Changes to running style. If you noticed your dog hopping or running awkwardly, they might be compensating for a painful joint.
  • Yelping/crying. If your dog yelps or cries, that’s a sure sign something’s wrong.
  • Swollen/tender joints. Always be careful when touching a joint you suspect is swollen.
  • Loss of muscle mass. If your dog starts losing weight, it could be a sign of muscle loss.
  • Excessive licking. When a dog licks a certain spot over and over, it can mean that the spot where they’re licking is a source of pain.

Breeds that can be more likely to have joint issues

Size and weight are the biggest contributors to joint issues in dogs. Bigger dogs simply have more mass to carry around. The heavier a pup, the greater the stress on joints. This is why we must also watch our dogs’ weights.

If your dog is overweight and has joint problems, your vet will likely suggest a safe and healthy weight loss plan. However, even young dogs of healthy weights can develop joint issues.

There are some genetic issues that certain breeds may be more likely to suffer from, too. Again, any dog of any breed can either be born with joint conditions or develop them with age or injury.

Dog Breeds with Joint Issues

A list of the most common joint conditions owners should be aware of

Breed Common Joint Condition(s)
American Staffordshire terrier Hip dysplasia
Bernese Mountain dog Elbow dysplasia
Boston terrier Luxating patella
Bulldog Hip dysplasia
Dalmatian Wobbler’s syndrome
Doberman pinscher Wobbler’s syndrome
Cavalier King Charles spaniel Luxating patella
Chihuahua Luxating patella
Great Dane Wobbler’s syndrome
Jack Russell terriers Luxating patella
Manchester terrier Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease
Maltese Luxating patella
Mastiff Hip dysplasia
Newfoundland Cruciate ligament disease
Pekingese Luxating patella
Poodles Luxating patella
Papillons Luxating patella
Retriever Hip dysplasia
Rottweiler Cruciate ligament disease, Wobbler’s syndrome
Weimaraner Wobbler’s syndrome
Small and miniature breeds Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Common canine conditions that cause joint pain 

We’ve compiled a list of the most common joint issues in dogs along with what causes each condition.

Osteoarthritis. When cartilage, the tissue that separates and protects bones and joints, deteriorates, the joints become inflamed. Arthritis can affect any joint. Veterinarian Erica Irish explains that in the term osteoarthritis, “the ‘osteo’ part refers to the way the body tries to stabilize joints by creating bone overgrowth in these areas.”

Hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip socket doesn’t form properly. The hip is a ball and socket joint. Because the socket is improperly shaped, the ball part of the joint rubs on it. As Dr. Irish says, “Bone on bone contact = OUCH.” Hip dysplasia is one of the leading causes of arthritis in dogs.

Connective tissue diseases. These diseases are relatively rare and take a vet to diagnose. They can be caused by genetics or the environment. They result in problems with the tissues that connect bones to muscles. A rare disease called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is one example of this type of condition.

Wobbler’s syndrome. This condition is also called “cervical spondylomyelopathy.” It causes issues with the spinal cord and spinal cord roots. It can cause neck pain.

Luxating patella. The patella is another word for the kneecap. This condition occurs when the patella moves out of place.

Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, anaplasmosis. These are all tick-borne illnesses. In dogs, they can cause joint inflammation.

Cancer. Synovial cell sarcoma, a type of cancer, can lead to a condition called cancerous arthritis.

Osteochondritis dissecans. When cartilage does not develop correctly, it can separate from the bone causing this condition. Puppies who grow too quickly due to diets high in calcium, phosphorus, and protein are more prone to this.

Panosteitis. This condition occurs when a young dog’s bones grow too fast. It leads to painful inflammation. Note that panosteitis mostly affects the bone rather than the joint.

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy. Similar to panosteitis, this condition is also the result of bones growing too fast. Also, similarly, this is a condition that causes problems for bones versus the joints themselves.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease. This condition occurs when the top part of the femur (thigh bone) deteriorates due to a lack of proper blood flow. It’s also known as aseptic necrosis of the femoral head. It can lead to pain and movement issues.

Injuries. Bone fractures and ligament tears will lead to joint pain and issues.