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Mobility in Senior Dogs

German Shepherd frolicking in an open field

It’s no secret to any of us that as we age, our bodies start to slow down and joints become stiff. This is true of senior animals as well. Throughout the aging process, cartilage and connective tissue begins to wear and break down, causing inflammation, pain and swelling in the joints. You may start noticing that your dog isn’t quite as active as they once were. Something that might get fido up and motoring around more are joint supplements.

Joint supplements are formulated to help alleviate the pain associated with several different types of joint and limb degeneration, including osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). The following are some ingredients that joint supplements may include as active ingredients to boost mobility:


The most common and effective ingredient, glucosamine is a sugar compound found in bones and cartilage. Naturally occurring in most animals, glucosamine is responsible for rebuilding cartilage and connective tissue in joints. Over time, the levels of naturally occurring glucosamine begin to decrease and need to be replaced. 

Joint supplements generally include either glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine hydrochloride to boost the natural glucosamine levels that have been lost through aging. These glucosamine supplements are generally derived from the shells of shellfish and act as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing swelling and pain in the joint. The therapeutic dose of glucosamine for dogs is around 40mg/kg. 

It is worth noting that because this supplement is derived from shellfish, caution should be exercised in those with a shellfish allergy.


Like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate is another naturally occurring sugar found in cartilage and provides resistance to compression. In joint supplements, chondroitin sulphate is included to replenish the chondroitin lost over time. The supplement source is usually derived from cow or pig cartilage. Chondroitin sulphate prevents the breakdown of cartilage and can also stimulate repair mechanisms. Additionally, it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent to alleviate joint pain and swelling. The therapeutic dose for this supplement is around 15-30mg/kg.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

Even though methylsulfonylmethane or MSM is a big, scary word, it too is a naturally occurring sulphur found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk. MSM inhibits an immune protein complex in the body called Nuclear Factor kappa-B. This protein is responsible for initiating an inflammatory response, contributing to joint pain. MSM inhibition of this protein helps to reduce oxidative damage responsible for pain and swelling in the joint. The therapeutic dose for an MSM supplement is around 22mg/kg.

Joint supplements can come in many different over the counter forms. Powder or liquid food toppers can be easily added to food and give an active, effective dose. Soft chews offer a fun treat but may not always offer an effective dose. Capsules or pill form of the active ingredients give the most effective dose of the active ingredients but it may be difficult to get certain dogs to swallow a pill.

Overall, joint supplements are a great pet product for pet owners who want to improve their dog’s mobility. If you are concerned about your pet’s joint health, consult your veterinarian and if you are considering a joint supplement, double check the concentration of the active supplements in order to ensure an effective dose.

Chihuahua curled up on the couch
Chihuahua curled up on the couch

View Sources


Watson, A. G., H. E. Evans, and A. De Lahunta. "Gross morphology of the composite occipito‐atlas‐axis joint cavity in the dog." Anatomia, histologia, embryologia 15, no. 2 (1986): 139-146.

Morgan, Joe P., Alida Wind, Autumn P. Davidson, and Lars Audell. Hereditary bone and joint diseases in the dog: osteochondroses, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia. Schlütersche, 2000.

Packer, R. M. A., I. J. Seath, D. G. O’Neill, S. De Decker, and H. A. Volk. "DachsLife 2015: an investigation of lifestyle associations with the risk of intervertebral disc disease in Dachshunds." Canine genetics and epidemiology 3, no. 1 (2016): 8.

Setnikar, I., C. Giacchetti, and G. Zanolo. "Pharmacokinetics of glucosamine in the dog and in man." Arzneimittel-Forschung 36, no. 4 (1986): 729-735.

Adebowale, Abi, Jianpin Du, Zhonming Liang, James L. Leslie, and Natalie D. Eddington. "The bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of glucosamine hydrochloride and low molecular weight chondroitin sulfate after single and multiple doses to beagle dogs." Biopharmaceutics & drug disposition 23, no. 6 (2002): 217-225.

Canapp Jr, S. O., R. M. McLaughlin Jr, J. J. Hoskinson, J. K. Roush, and M. D. Butine. "Scintigraphic evaluation of dogs with acute synovitis after treatment with glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate." American journal of veterinary research 60, no. 12 (1999): 1552-1557.

Herschler, Robert J. "Methylsulfonylmethane and methods of use." U.S. Patent 4,296,130, issued October 20, 1981.

Donato, Lisa J. "An Integrated Conventional and TCVM Approach to the Treatment of Suspected Cervical Disc Disease in a Weimaraner Dog."

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February 20, 2024
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