Treatments for Arthritis in Dogs:
Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, and NSAIDs.


Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and several other nutritional supplements are widely used to treat dogs with arthritis. The reason is simple arthritis affects most dogs as they get older. Unfortunately, dog owners rarely notice the early warning signs of the diease because dogs tend to hide sore muscles and any discomfort until the arthritis in the joints has become severe.

joint health for dogs

But before we talk about glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and their relief of arthritis, it is important to understand that no nutritional supplement will correct structural damage to a dog’s joints. If there are calcium deposits, scar tissue, or torn cartilage, and/or changes to the bones in and around joints, these abnormalities will be persistent and will continue to affect the animal regardless of nutritional intake.

Supplements to the dog’s diet – such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, Selenium, and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) – can help  in decreasing inflammation and improving the pets ability to repair and strengthen joint tissues. And while high-quality supplements are safe, they tend to work best in combination with other forms of arthritis treatment.

Let’s look at a few ways you can make life a little easier for your arthritic dog.

How to Treat Arthritis in Dogs

Dog with Arthritis

Since it is difficult to reconstruct an arthritic joint without surgical intervention, attempts are usually made to reduce joint inflammation and pain which make the dog more comfortable even if the underlying arthritic changes are still there. It is important to remember that many of the medications discussed below have significant side effects when used improperly or in especially sensitive pets. Never give your pet any prescription or over-the-counter medication without first consulting a veterinarian.


Prednisone, dexamethasone, and other corticosteroids can markedly reduce swelling and inflammation in arthritic joints but there is a downside to the use of steroids for long-term palliation of arthritis: they can actually contribute to additional breakdown of joints and damage and possibly have other unwanted side effects. Inaddition, corticosteroids can interact with other medications in negative ways when used in the treatment of arthritis. For these reasons, and due to the fact that there are newer and safer options, veterinarians do not prescribe corticosteroids for arthritis in dogs as often as they used to in the past.


Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs can have beneficial effects for the arthritis patient. However, NSAIDs that are intended for human should not be used in dogs and have a high incidence of potentially serious side effects. NSAIDs like Etogesic, Rimadyl, Metacam, and Deramaxx have been designed specifically for use in dogs and are safer than drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin. However, these “doggy” NSAIDs can still cause upset in gastrointestinal tract and in rare cases liver or kidney dysfunction. Inaddition, NSAID use in dogs should be supervised by a veterinarian.

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Additional Pain Relievers

Pain relieving medications like tramadol, Galliprant, Amantadine, and gabapentin may be prescribed by veterinarians if a dog’s arthritis is severe and/or does not respond to other forms of treatment.


Most nutritional supplements (also called nutraceuticals) are substances that are consumed orally in addition to a normal diet. These substances are safer than traditional drugs because they are considered a form of food. Side effects are very rare or unheard of as long as they are used in reasonable amounts. Stomach upset is one possibility, particularly at high doses, but generally diminishes as a dog’s digestive system adjusts.

The most commonly used nutraceuticals in pet health care are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Administering drugs to dogs and cats in proper doses improved comfort almost immediately. Conversely, nutraceuticals may take several weeks to months of administration before noticeable improvement in mobility and attitude are apparent but with less side effects.

1. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that will improve the pets  production of joint lubricants and the health of shock-absorbing cartilage within joints.

Also Glucosamine sulfate is beneficial to other body structures besides joints. It is involved in the formation of nails, tendons, skin, eyes, synovial fluid, bone, ligaments, heart valves, and in mucous secretions of the digestive, respiratory, and urinary tracts. In healthy pets,  It is created in the production of proteins associated with cellular growth and structure.

Glucosamine as a nutritional supplement is usually extracted from crab, lobster, or shrimp shells. There are three forms of glucosamine, so when purchasing it, look for glucosamine sulfate because it is absorbed and utilized the best.

Because dietary supplements are unregulated, quality and content may vary widely. Be sure to choose a product sold by a well-established company and/or consult your veterinarian as to which would be the best solution for your dog.

2. Chondroitin Sulfate

Studies on chondroitin sulfate suggests it can be beneficial in preventing stress injuries to joints as well as aiding in the repair of damaged connective tissue and possibly the bone that underlies cartilage within joints. Chondroitin sulfate may inhibit destructive enzymes in joint fluid and cartilage and help the body repair damaged cartilage and restore joint integrity. Also it may protect existing cartilage from premature breakdown as well as keep cartilage tissue hydrated and assist in cushioning impact stress.

Some studies suggest that supplementation with chondroitin sulfate can reduce joint pain significantly. Other studies have shown that combining chondroitin sulfate with glucosamine might improve each substance’s beneficial effects, though this effect is not universally accepted.

Because chondroitin production by the body decreases with age, supplementation with this compound may be especially helpful for older dogs or cats with arthritis. Chondroitin supplements are manufactured from the cartilage of animals such as pigs, cattle, and fish.

3. Other Joint Sparing Products

The green-lipped mussel is a source of chondroitin and other beneficial nutrients, and the sea cucumber is believed to assist in the elimination of pain. They provide essential nutrients required by cartilage. Another arthritis-fighting supplement is called methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). It provides sulfur compounds that may inhibit pain. Inaddition, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids can also help arthritic dogs.

More Arthritis Treatment Options for Dogs

Prescription medications and nutritional supplements aren’t the only forms of treatment available for arthritis in dogs. Physical therapy, weight loss, acupuncture, cold laser treatments, surgery, and other options can also improve a pet’s comfort and mobility. Although some of these options are very expensive, talk to your veterinarian about how your dog might benefit from some of the different options in arthritis treatment that are available today.