Ingredient research shows benefits to pets’ joints

Research has shown the benefits glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, MSM, boswellia and hyaluronic acid have on animal joint health.

Dr. Eleanor Kellon, Veterinary Specialist

December 21, 2018

5 Min Read
Ingredient research shows benefits to pets’ joints

Fifty years ago, pet supplements were virtually unheard of except for the odd vitamin product. Today, as we sit poised to enter the third decade of the new millennium, that picture has changed dramatically. “Pet Supplements Market in the U.S., 6th edition” conservatively estimated sales topped the US$600 million mark in 2017.

According to a recent article in BusinessWire, a Technavio market research report stated the pet supplements market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 5 percent during the next four years. The Americas account for 42 percent of the global sales. Canine products and the joint health category dominate.

This fits with the major factors believed to be driving the market—shifting priorities leading to the humanization of pets and a growing emphasis on being proactive about their health with natural substances.

Young people are marrying and having children later, if at all. This has contributed to the switch from seeing the family dog as a pet to a “fur baby.” They are looking to protect their pet's mobility as it ages. Older owners are also aware of the effects of age on joint function and may themselves have experienced the benefits of joint supplements. Another plus is the high visibility of joint supplements.

Since the publication of Jason Theodosakis' book “The Arthritis Cure” in 1996, and countless articles and television features that followed, people have become familiar with the concept of joint nutraceuticals and the names of many of the more common ingredients. What they perceive as safe and trust for their own use carries over naturally to what they will give to their animals.


The structure and function of mammalian joints is the same across species, and ingredients used to support human joint function are also appropriate for a dog. Two important, time-honored and proven choices are glucosamine sulfate (or chloride) and chondroitin sulfate.

Glucosamine, as the name suggests, is a glucose molecule with an amine (NH2) group attached. It is the precursor for chondroitin sulfate, which is a major constituent of joint cartilage and contributes to its resistance to compression by virtue of its ability to retain fluid in the cartilage matrix.

Supplementation with both glucosamine and chondroitin is documented to reduce systemic markers of inflammation.1 A proteonomic study has demonstrated the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin synergistically works to preserve cartilage and encourage production of hyaluronic acid (HA) and collagen.2

A randomized, double-blind, positive controlled multicentric study compared the response of arthritic dogs to either the anti-inflammatory drug carprofen or a combined glucosamine and chondroitin supplement.3 Although response was slower, significant improvement was noted in the glucosamine/chondroitin group.

Response to type-2 collagen, both alone and in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin, has been evaluated with dogs using force plate testing, which gives an arthritis pain specific evaluation in terms of the force of movement.4 Type-2 collagen was found to result in significant improvements.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) has been documented to be both an antioxidant5 and anti-inflammatory6. It has been documented to be effective in relieving pain both alone and in combination with boswellic acid, and clinical results compare favorably to glucosamine.7 Both MSM and boswellia are being utilized in canine joint products.

Oral hyaluronate salt of hyaluronic acid (HA) is a relative newcomer to joint supplementation, with proven oral bioavailability in dogs.8 It has also been evaluated, as part of a combination supplement, for prophylactic and therapeutic effect in canine elbow dysplasia.9  The conclusion of that study was that oral treatment “may have a potential cumulative action that provides protection against elbow dysplasia and significantly improves symptoms of elbow dysplasia.”

Other support nutrients and botanicals appropriate for canine supplements include devil's claw, turmeric, superoxide dismutase, bromelain, phellodendron extract and eggshell membrane matrix.


Traditional supplement options were primarily hard tablets or powders for mixing into food. Tablets often had to be buried inside a palatable treat to get the dog to consume them. Even flavored tablets were not an optimal vehicle since cat and dog dentition is not designed for masticating hard tablets. While there is still a place for these options, soft chews are coming into their own.

Search of a major online pet food supplier,, brings up over 600 soft and chewy dog treats. Even the iconic Milk-Bone® has a soft chew version. Soft chew supplements are a natural outgrowth, and the same supplier offers over 1,400 products in the soft chew dog supplement category.

Uncooked soft chews are compatible with even fragile ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids. They can accommodate generous dosages for large breeds or be scaled down for smaller animals. The consistency is readily, easily and efficiently consumed even by older dogs, which are the most likely to receive a joint support supplement. Animal-targeted flavorings such as brewer’s yeast and liver make supplements more like treats. Owners identify with providing their pets with a pleasurable experience that parallels their own use of soft chew supplements.

Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.


1. Kantor et al. “Association between glucosamine and chondroitin supplement use and biomarkers of systemic inflammation.” J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(6):479-485.

2. Calamia et al. “A pharmacoproteonomic study confirms the synergistic effect of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine.” Sci Rep. 2014;4:5069.

3. McCarthy et al. “Randomized, double-blind, positive controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis.” Vet J. 2007; Jul 174(1): 54-61.

4. Gupta et al. “Comparative therapeutic efficacy and safety of type-II collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin in arthritic dogs; pain evaluation by ground force plate.” J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr. 2012;96(5):770-777.

5. Nakhostin-Roohi et al. “Effect of single dose administration of methylsulfonylmethane on oxidative stress following acute exhaustive exercise”. Iran J Pharm Res. 2014;12(4):845-853.

6. Ahn et al. “Methylsulfonylmethane inhibits NLRP3 inflammasome activity.” Cytokine. 2015;71(2):223-231.

7. Notarnicola et al. “Methylsulfonylmethane and boswellic acids versus glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of knee arthritis: randomized trial.” Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2016;29(1):140-146.

8. Schauss et al. “Absorption, distribution, excretion and tissue uptake of 99mtechnetium labeled hyaluran (HA) after single oral doses in rats and beagle dogs.” FASEB J. 2008;22(2).

9. Marti-Angulo, Garcia-Lopez, Diaz-Ramoz. “Efficacy of an oral hyaluronate and collagen supplement as a preventative treatment of elbow dysplasia.” J Vet Sci. 2014;15(4):569-574.

About the Author(s)

Dr. Eleanor Kellon

Veterinary Specialist, Uckele Health & Nutrition

Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience.

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