One of our standard questions we ask all clients is whether your dog is taking any supplements. Whilst there is some good evidence of real added value to a variety of supplements it is also a £50,000,000 industry in the UK known as Nutraceuticals – with that comes some big bucks in advertising spend which can make it difficult to pick through the fact from the fiction. In this article we’ve done our best to unpick, on a very broad and consumer focussed level, the detail behind supplements and reviewed some of the top recommended brands.
LAST UPDATED: 25TH AUGUST 2020
The International Centre for Nutritional Excellence, an independent laboratory specialising in nutraceutical analysis, surveyed label claims of human joint supplements and found 6 out of 10 failed to meet label claims. Their advice is that ‘consumers need to be very careful when purchasing such supplements be it for themselves or for their pets’.
Avocado soybean unsaponifiables
This is a relatively new supplement made from a specific part of the oil of avocados and from soybeans. It is believed to promote cartilage repair and reduce inflammation within the joint. It is thought that the efficacy of ASUs is similar to NSAIDs in dogs, but they have a delay in onset similar to glucosamine and chondroitin. When combined with glucosamine and chondroitin, ASUs modify and amplify the actions of each and reduce the amount of chondroitin required.
Boswelia is extracted from the bark and resin of the Indian Boswelia tree (the same tree that the biblical anti-inflammatory frankincence comes from). This tree extract is said to have an NSAID-like effect with one study showing statistically significant reduction of severity and resolution of the signs of osteoarthritis in dogs, such as intermittent lameness, local pain and stiff gait, after six weeks of treatment with Boswellia serrata.
Most commonly this is known as gelatin and is made from collagenous structures of mammals such as bovine tendons. It is thought to supply proteins to help cartilage repair.
Chondroitin is a substance that occurs naturally in the connective tissues of people and animals. It is essential for the resilience of cartilage – responsible for maintaining the resistance to compression through the creation of watery spaces within cartilage. By restoring fluid to the cartilage, Chondroitin supports the repairing action of Glucosamine, working at a cellular level to alleviate the actual cause of joint discomfort and stiffness. It also aids the repair and formation of connective tissue.
Curcumin is the active ingredient of the spice, Turmeric. It is a natural and powerful antioxidant and supports the normal anti-inflammatory action of the body. A huge problem exists due to poor quality control and standardisation of herbal products worldwide. This is potentially why the results are so variable when owners source their supplements. Curcumin should be avoided in dogs with concurrent with gall bladder issues or urinary oxalate bladder stones and can have side effects with other drugs so always consult your vet if other medication is being taken.
Glucosamine is used as a building block to form tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and synovial fluid (joint lubrication). It gives cartilage its strength, structure and shock absorbing qualities. There are also unanswered questions of how much would actually reach the joint to have the effects suggested. If used, you should wait for a minimum of 2-3 months before judging its effect.
HA is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG), which is a substance that attaches to collagen and elastin to form cartilage. HA not only helps keep the cartilage that cushions joints strong and flexible, but also helps increase supplies of joint-lubricating synovial fluid. Injection hyaluronic acid into the joint has been found to improve the joint fluid’s physical properties, as well as protect the cartilage and act as pain relief and an anti-inflammatory. However, given by mouth it is not so effective as only 5% is absorbed through the gut.
Dogs need manganese to produce energy, metabolize protein and carbohydrates, and to make fatty acids. Maganese supports collagen formation in the cartilage, tendons, and ligaments for added strength.
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a natural form of bio available sulphur essential for the health and elasticity of tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The sulphur found within MSM is needed for the proper repair and maintenance of collagen, such as that found within the connective tissue of healthy joints. It is also thought to help maintain the natural anti-inflammatory actions of the metabolism.
Supplementing Omega-3 fatty acids helps to replace the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids in cell walls. The less Omega-6 available the less inflammation in and around the joint. This will slow the progression of arthritis and reduce the clinical signs of pain and reduced joint function. When it comes to Omega-3s, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from wild-caught coldwater fish is best. Farm-raised fish have low levels of omega-3s and high levels of omega 6s
In the main, scientific conclusions are drawn from human studies, and as such there is limited scientific evidence specifically targeted at dogs and joint supplements. Where there have been studies we’ve outlined the findings and evidence base below:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There is substantial scientific evidence to support the use of Omega-3 and recent studies have shown statistically significant mild improvement in owner perception of comfort and mobility.
A study has suggested 17/24 dogs had improvement in clinical signs when taking this resin. The study was unblinded, based on subjective data and not placebo-controlled.
There are some promising studies out there in support of using curcumin, but most trials are on humans and lab animals. There has been one controlled study in dogs with no objective difference but there was improvement in subjective indicators.
The well-respected GAIT study in 2006 suggested that glucosamine alone or with chondroitin sulphate did not perform better than placebo, whereas the Mayo Clinic suggests there is moderately strong evidence of its beneficial effect. In one study Dogs treated with glucosamine-chondroitin showed statistically significant improvements in pain scores, severity and weight-bearing by day 70.1
Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs)
This is a relatively new supplement made from a specific part of the oil of avocados and from soybeans. There are no clinical trials looking at it in dogs with established naturally occurring arthritis.
There is only weak evidence of its effectiveness both structurally and in improving clinical condition of arthritis in dogs. Chondroitin requires a loading dose similar to glucosamine.
It has been found to reduce joint pain and improve mobility in some trials in humans, but there have not been similar trials in dogs.
There have been a few trials in humans that have shown positive results, but the trials were not clinically strong. No trials have been performed in dogs.
You will note that some of these compounds have limited evidence as stand alone compounds but add benefit when combined with another. These kinds of compounds are known as a synergist, which means that when administered together they help each others effects, providing a more powerful joint supplement.
Here we have chosen to some of the leading brands on the market as well as some emerging brands being recommended by Veterinary surgeons. There are hundreds of choices out there but please be aware that some brands actively try to make it difficult to discover what nutrients their products include. This is our interpretation of their labels and the ingredients they have publicly declared – we chose not to approach each company directly as didn’t want to get sucked into marketing madness – in our opinion if it’s not publicly available information then they might have something to hide. The figures below are calculated on a ‘medium’ dog on a normal dosing level.
from GWF Nutrition
Joint aid was one of the more difficult labels to interpret as the manufacturers list ingredients by % of the dose and then confusingly as a % per kilogram. Of the four supplements we have reviewed this product contains the least amount of each active nutrient per serving:
200mg of Glucosamine
100mg of MSM
100mg of Chondroitin
50mg of Collagen matrix
0.5mg of Manganese
This product also includes Tumeric (50mg per serving) and Salmon Oil (150mg) however we cannot calculate the volume of active ingredients – Curcumin and Omega-3. As this product is a tablet there are a range of other inactive ingredients used to bind and flavour the product including black oats, hemp seed, vegetable oils and molasses. We cannot find any clinical studies that show these ingredients have a positive active benefit in the quantities implied by the label.
from Pet Lab Co
This product is available as a chew and uses Green Lipped Muscle as both a source of Omega-3 and Chondroitin. We cannot calculated from the label the exact measures of each compound so has been listed below as it’s source ingredient.
600mg of Glucosamine
100mg of Green Lipped Muscle
150mg of Salmon Oil
25mg of Curcumin
This product includes 23mg of Calcium fructoborate which is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. As a chewable product there are lots and lots of inactive ingredients to make it tasty and chewy – these include acetic acide, yeast, coconut, pork liver, whey, honey, tocopherols, molasses, flavourings, gelating, soy and tapioca. We cannot find any clinical studies that show these ingredients have a positive active benefit in the quantities implied by the label.
Canine Joint Plus
Riaflex were definitely the most open about their ingredients of the four brands we have analysed. This is unsurprising as their major selling point is the lack of any other added ingredients which in theory makes the compound mix more pure. It also had, by a long way, the most amount of active ingredient per serving:
2100mg of Glucosamine
2000mg of MSM
830mg of Chondroitin
50mg of Manganese
44mg of Hyaluronic Acid
44mg of Vitamins C and E
Notably missing from this compound mixture however is the scientifically proven contribution of Omega-3 to reduce inflammation. You could however buy their pure Green Lipped Muscle powder to provide this.
Add £0.25 per day if you add Green Lipped Muscle
This is probably the UK leading brand in supplements what is unclear is as to whether this is due to marketing investment, time of entry to the supplement market or whether it is genuinely the best product. YuMove recommend double dosing the following levels for several weeks to kick start the programme – at the maintenance levels of compound ingredients contained within this product this is what the science we’ve read would also suggest. Each maintenance level serving includes:
500mg of Glucosamine
300mg of Green Lipped Muscle
26mg of Vitamins C & E
6mg of Manganese
3mg Hyaluronic Acid
Unfortunately Lintbells do not publicly publish online, as far as we could find, all of the other ingredients that go into binding the product as a tablet. We can’t therefore tell you what else goes into making YuMove.
YuMove Advance 360
YuMove Advance 360 is a veterinary exclusive product which means it is normally only available through your Vet or a specialist like ourselves. YuMove recommend double dosing the following levels for several weeks to kick start the programme – at the maintenance levels of compound ingredients contained within this product this is what the science we’ve read would also suggest. Each maintenance level serving includes:
1000mg of Glucosamine
600mg of Green Lipped Muscle (Natural Chondroitin)
280mg Purified Fish Oil Powder
50mg N-Acetyl D-glucosamine
24mg Vitamin C
10mg Vitamin E
5mg Hyaluronic Acid
2mg Natural Antioxidant
We’re increasingly hearing that Veterinary Surgeons are moving over to prescribing Dasuquin particularly for advanced Osteoarthritic cases. Combined both products contain a total of:
1,100mg of Glucosamine
650mg of Chondroitin
45mg of Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables
6.4mg of Manganese
Protexin don’t publish how much Boswellia is included within the Dasuquin mix however it is a listed compound. These tablets are chewable so also contain a variety of non-active ingredients such as brewers yeast and tea extract.
Protexin claims that the Chondroitin compound contained within the mixture is a low molecular weight of Chondroitin Sulphate to ensure that it can be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream and ultimately, into joint tissue.
*Price per day calculated on the published RRP on each brand website and does not include any recommendations for double dosing. The ACCLAIM score is based upon recommendations from CanineArthritis.co.uk and Stephen M Fox, author of Multimodal Management of Canine Osteoarthritis.
Where to buy these products
Having conducted our reviews we’ve chosen to sell only the best of these online
Some thoughts about these products
If you are looking for a longterm alternative to NSAIDs …
… then consider looking at the Dasuquin combination from Protexin because it contains a positive amount of the active ingredients Glucosamine and Chondroitin along with Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables.
If you are looking for a pure and high compound dosage …
… then consider looking at the Canine Joint Plus combination from Riaflex, boosted with some Green Lipped Muscle because together they contain a very generous amount of the active ingredients Glucosamine and Chondroitin along with Omega-3. Riaflex products are pure without any added ingredients.
If you are looking for the most bang for your buck …
… then consider looking at the Canine Joint Plus combination from Riaflex, boosted with some Green Lipped Muscle because together they are likely to contain an effective combination of support for your dog at just £0.87 per day for a medium dog.
If you are looking for what your Vet would recommend …
… then it’s most likely they will suggest YuMove Advance 360 as it is the leading product in the UK with good subjective and objective evidence of success.
Making the most of supplements
It is recommended that you start chondroprotective agents as early as possible in large-breed dogs or dogs predisposed to development of osteoarthritis. Joint supplements can be given to puppies as young as 8 weeks of age that are predisposed to development of osteoarthritis due to conformation or injury. The main concern is typically gastrointestinal upset so please consult your vet if you are ever worried.
The omega-3s in most maintenance diets are not high enough to treat disease states. If an arthritic dog is eating a maintenance diet formulated with omega-3s, it is suggested that you will need to administer an omega-3 supplement on top of that to attain therapeutic levels.
These is evidence that Glucosamine and Chondroitin work, but the onset of action is slow. Initial dosing levels for many supplements encourage double dosing in the early weeks.
Joint supplements are a waste of your money if your dog has end-stage bone-on-bone osteoarthritis in every joint. Don’t bother. But if just one joint is affected, supplements may be given to protect the other joints.
Many dog treats contain glucosamine and chondroitin, but look at the label! Most of these treats would require the pet owner to feed obscene amounts of treats to get therapeutic levels of glucosamine or chondroitin so probably best to avoid wasting your money here.
The information contained on this page is an overview of the summaries made by:
Alt?nel L, Sahin O, Köse KC, et al. [Healing of osteochondral defects in canine knee with avocado/soybeanunsaponifiables: a morphometric comparative analysis]. Eklem Hastalik Cerrahisi 2011;22(1):48-53.
Boileau C, Martel-Pelletier J, Caron J, et al. Protective effects of total fraction of avocado/soybean unsaponifiables on the structural changes in experimental dog osteoarthritis: inhibition of nitric oxide synthase and matrix metalloproteinase-13. Arthritis Res Ther 2009;11(2):R41.
Colitti M, Gaspardo B, Della Pria A, et al. Transcriptome modification of white blood cells after dietary administration of curcumin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in osteoarthritic affected dogs. Vet Immunol Immunopathol 2012;147(3-4):136-146.
Fritsch DA, Allen TA, Dodd CE, et al. A multicenter study of the effect of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on carprofen dosage in dogs with osteoarthritis. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010 236(5):535-539.
Fox S M (2017) Mulitmodal Management of Canine Osteoarthritis;
Hielm-Björkman A Ass Prof (small animal surgery) at the Univeristy of Helsinki at ESVOT 2016;
McCarthy G, O’Donovan J, Jones B, et al. Randomised double-blind, positive-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. Vet J 2007 174(1):54-61.
Moreau M, Dupuis J, Bonneau NH, et al. Clinical evaluation of a powder of quality elk velvet antler for the treatment of osteoarthrosis in dogs. Can Vet J 2004;45(2):133-139.
Rialland P, Bichot S, Lussier B, et al. Effect of a diet enriched with green-lipped mussel on pain behavior and functioning in dogs with clinical osteoarthritis. Can J Vet Res 2013;77(1):66-74.
Reichling J, Schmökel H, Fitzi J, et al. Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd 2004;146(2):71-79.
Vanderweerd J M et al (2012) Systematic Review of Efficacy of Nutraceuticals to Alleviate Clinical Signs of Osteoarthritis. J Vet Intern Med 2012.
This list is not a definitive guide, nor does it represent any form of endorsement of recommendation of any particular specific supplement.