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What canine arthritis is, how it forms, and how you can ease the pain!
Last review: 08/12/10  Administrator
Canine Arthritis (degenerative disk disease) is a disease in which joint cartilage deteriorates. The result is that surfaces that are supposed to glide over each other become rough, and lubrication within the joint is decreased. Movement is more difficult and often painful. The signs of arthritis in a canine are: difficulty in walking; such as limping or a stiff, slow, or ungainly gait; difficulty in getting up from a seated or lying position; difficulty climbing stairs; a creaking, crackling, or "ratcheting" sound in the joints; an overall decrease in mobility; an unwillingness to move; and dragging the back legs so that the tops of the nails scrape the floor. Canines who are experiencing the pain of arthritis also may become "snappish" if they are touched in the wrong place or made to move when they're not ready. They experience arthritis pain just as humans do.

How Do You Know When Your Canine has Arthritis?

If you notice any of the following signs, your canine may be suffering from arthritis:

  • Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump, or play
  • Limping
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Difficulty rising from a resting position
  • Yelping in pain when touched
  • A personality change
  • Resisting touch

How to Effectively Ease Canine Arthritis Pain

You can help your canine's arthritis in the following ways:

  • give your canine a reasonable amount of controlled exercise -- that is, the kind of exercise that does not overtax joints, but that helps maintain overall mobility and flexibility

  • control your canine's weight... the lighter they weigh, the less strain they will have on their load bearing joints

  • get an early diagnosis and recommended therapy -- which means taking your canine to the vet for a definitive diagnosis and recommendations on exercise program, nutrition and diet, medicinal treatment, and therapy
  • give your canine a high quality liquid glucosamine formula like Syn-flex®


Canine arthritis can sometimes be prevented by surgery when x-rays indicate joint malformations. If surgery is not indicated or advisable, relief can be achieved with painkillers, glucosamine, exercise, rest, and diet. However, even over-the-counter painkillers should not be used without the advice of a veterinarian.

Some common pain relievers for canine arthritis include:

  • Rimadyl (carprofen): A NSAID which has been effective in treating the pain, however has very serious and potentially fatal side effects
  • Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan)(5) given by injection twice each week for four weeks
  • Palaprin6: a buffered aspirin specifically for canines

However, these above medications have very dangerous side effects and in the case of Rimadyl, potentially fatal ones. Furthermore, the painkillers mentioned above only treat the pain, but do absolutely nothing to treat the disease of arthritis itself. We highly recommend that anyone with a canine who has arthritis or hip dysplasia, to give their canine glucosamine daily.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar produced from the shells of chitin which produces molecules called proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans. In turn, these molecules stimulate the production of synovial fluid, which is the substance that lubricates your joints and ensures cartilage does not deteriorate.

Glucosamine has been shown in numerous studies to be beneficial in the treatment for canine arthritis. However, the type of glucosamine product is very important. It is very important to have a pharmaceutical quality glucosamine product, and one that is delivered in liquid form with a number of other ingredients like chondroitin, boswellin, bromelain, and omega 3 and omega 6.

After reviewing all of the glucosamine products available for arthritis in canines, we recommend a formula called Syn-flex®. More information on this product can be found here.

Diet also plays an important part in arthritis treatment, especially to control the patient's weight. Excess weight causes more stress on the joints and exacerbates existing arthritis pain. In large breed canines, periods of rapid growth can lead to development of OCD and joint dysplasia if the underlying genetic code is present, so special attention should be paid to the diets of these puppies to prevent too-rapid weight gain.

Whether drugs, surgery, or both are indicated in arthritis treatment, owners should make sure their pets get plenty of rest and are not asked to perform painful exercise during treatment and recuperation. Veterinary advice in the matter of exercise should be followed even though it may seem that the recovery is slow. Ultimately, the type and duration of exercise will have to be restricted to reduce the pain as much as possible.