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Best Dog Foods With Glucosamine and Chondroitin For Joint Health

Emma Braby

Last Updated: March 23, 2020 | 13 min read

Best Dog Food With Glucosamine

Glucosamine is an important ingredient, or compound, that should feature in your dog’s diet. While it is something that is a must for your senior dog, it is better to start thinking about this in his early adult stages in order to avoid any early degeneration of joint tissue and cartilage. Chondroitin also helps, and is often included as a nutrient with Glucosamine rich dog food.

There are so many ingredients, antioxidants, superfoods, vitamins, and minerals thrown onto labels and food packaging, so much so that unless you have a PhD in canine nutrition it can be difficult to know what your dog really needs, or even if what the product is claiming is true! But Glucosamine really is one of the most important compounds for your dog, so trust us when we say that you need to understand  how it can benefit your pup. Here in this guide we go through what Glucosamine is, what it does for your dog, and the best dry dog food available that all have higher levels of Glucosamine.

While this might not be the most interesting subject, if you want the very best for your beloved pooch he deserves the very best nutrition, so this is a must-read! Some breeds need Glucosamine more than others, so if you own a Labrador or a Golden Retriever pup, then you’ll definitely want to read up! Let’s jump in and look at Glucosamine in more detail, as well as our favorite foods that are rich in the nutrient.

At a Glance: Our Favorite Foods with Glucosamine

Top Overall Pick: Science Diet Healthy Mobility
Budget Pick: Diamond Naturals Cage Free

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Why Dogs Need Glucosamine

Why Dogs Need Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Dogs need glucosamine and chondroitin that can come from a variety of sources.

Glucosamine is a compound, made from sugar and amino acids, that is naturally found in the cartilage of dogs, and humans for that matter, and it is a building block that allows the body to replace and maintain healthy cartilage. Cartilage is a tough yet flexible tissue that functions as padding between bones and their connective joints, and Glucosamine molecules have a low compressibility rate, meaning that it makes it an excellent natural shock absorber. As your pooch ages, his cartilage becomes weaker and thinner, and ultimately starts to break down, and not only does this grind your pups’ bones with every movement which will cause him pain, but if the cartilage is not rebuilt it will eventually cause crippling osteoarthritis.

Whilst all bodily systems are amazing things, they can sometimes be their own worst enemy. In this case, when your dog’s cartilage is damaged, his body releases enzymes in order to alleviate the inflammation that has been caused, but these enzymes further break down the cartilage, and this is where your dog’s body needs an extra bit of help to stop this vicious cycle, and this is where nutrition comes in. So, giving your dog an extra boost of this compound will ensure that his cartilage will stay as healthy as it can for as long as possible. It also acts as a lubricant for your dog’s joints, so not only does this prevent, or soften, the grinding, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory, which will stop his body releasing as much of those pesky enzymes.

Of course, whilst it is better for your dog to get the extra Glucosamine in his early adult years which will delay this breakdown and decrease his chances of developing arthritis, as with many things in life, it is better late than never.  So, even if your pooch is already aging and suffering with mobility issues or joint pain, pumping extra Glucosamine into his system will benefit him massively, and if he is at this stage, then it really is a must!

In addition to the above, it goes without saying that if your pooch is stiff and sore because of his joints, then he is less likely to want to be active and move about, so he is then more at risk from piling on the pounds and becoming obese. Not only is this unhealthy in itself, but it will also lead to further health issues and put extra pressure on his already weakening joints. So not only is Glucosamine important for his joint health, but it is really important for his overall wellbeing.

Why Dogs Need Chondroitin

Chondroitin is found in cartilage and has shown benefits to dogs that may be suffering from joint pain or arthritis later in life.  Pets with severe arthritis can benefit for Chondroitin supplements to help improve the function in their joints as they age.  It’s added to several of the foods we recommend in our list, which means that additional supplementation may or may not be used.  

Chondroitin can not only be successful in helping your pup’s joints feel better, but it can also help reduce other pain medications that they may be taking.  It’s shown effective in reducing other pain meds over a prolonged period of time when it’s introduced into a dog’s diet.  It’s very possible your dog can benefit from being on a dry kibble that’s rich in chondroitin, but as always, you should consult your vet to be sure what’s right for your dog.

It’s Not For Every Dog

Toy Dog Breed Glucosamine Needs
Toy dog breeds don’t have the same glucosamine needs as larger dogs.

Please note here that high levels of Glucosamine, or Glucosamine supplements, are not advised for all dogs. Larger breeds typically do better on Glucosamine or Chondroitin enriched foods.  Larger breeds are harder on their joints and ligaments, so supplementing at the appropriate time can help.  The breeds that should stay away from Glucosamine and Chondroitin enhanced foods fall under the following groups:

Dogs who suffer with blood, or blood clotting diseases: If your dog suffers from diseases like Von Willebrand’s disease or Hemophilia A to name a few, then he should not be given Glucosamine in any extra amounts above that of a standard kibble, as Glucosamine is known to increase the time it takes for their blood to clot.

Dogs who have, or are at high risk of, Diabetes: Glucosamine is a sugar-based nutrient, so it is not suited to dogs who either have Diabetes, or are at high risk of Diabetes, such as toy breeds like the Morkie or the Chihuahua Shi Tzu mix.

Certain breeds are more at risk of blood clotting diseases and Diabetes, so before you switch your pup to a high glucosamine diet or provide him with extra supplements, discuss it with your Veterinarian. If your Veterinarian confirms that your pooch should not be given extra Glucosamine, then Chondroitin Sulphate is a suitable alternative, so be sure to ask them about this too.

Canine Glucosamine Requirements

Scientific research has shown that a healthy adult dog needs, on average, 20mg of Glucosamine per pound of body weight every day, and to put this into perspective this means that a 50 pound dog would need around 1000mg of Glucosamine every day. A dog with specific mobility or joint issues, would need a fair bit more as prescribed by your Veterinarian.

According to Rodney Habib, who is often described as the Gordon Ramsey of Pet Food, albeit a health-focused one, conducted a test on dry kibble available from the local pet store and veterinarians. He wondered whether labels regarding Glucosamine were misleading, and if your dog could actually get their recommended daily allowance of the compound from dry dog kibble alone. What he found was rather disconcerting to say the least, and after buying an undisclosed top-quality kibble from the Veterinarian shelf (at $120!) he calculated the following …

Alas, 950mg per 8.8 cups would mean our 50-pound dog would need over nine cups a day to receive the 1000mg of glucosamine needed. According to this product’s manufacturer, we should only feed 3 ½ cups a day, meaning our pooch would only receive 377mg of glucosamine a day. This is a far reach from our desired amount of 1,000mg.”

Ultimately, what this means is, your dog, particularly if he is a senior dog or one with mobility and joint issues, is unlikely to ever receive his recommended daily allowance on senior formula dry dog kibble alone. Unless of course he eats a whole lot of food that is going to make him fat, and in turn develop joint issues anyway.

So, there are two lessons to take from this. Firstly, do not trust product labels, you must read the ingredient list and nutritional profile yourself. And secondly, you either need to feed your dog additional raw meat treats, or Glucosamine supplements. There are plenty of adequate supplements available on the market, and plenty of misleading ones too, but this requires another guide altogether, so watch this space!

We recommend that you feed him the best quality kibble that you can find that has the highest levels of Glucosamine, and then top it up with the raw treats throughout the day. Including high quality kibble in his diet will not only provide him with a wide variety of nutrients that raw meat alone cannot provide your dog, such as much needed fiber, probiotics and antioxidants, but it also keeps his teeth healthy, amongst many other benefits. So dry dog kibble still is a must for his diet!

Glucosamine & Chondroitin Sources

Natural Sources of Glucosamine and Chondroitin
There are many natural sources of Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

There are many sources of natural Glucosamine available which include mussels, chicken feet, pork tails, beef knuckle bones, beef trachea, cartilage of any kind and raw bones.  While each of those might all sound revolting to you, not only are they rich in Glucosamine and other much needed nutrients, your dog will love them! Any whole prey based recipes, which include meat, bones, organs and cartilage of a particular animal is great, and labels such as ‘Chicken Meal’ or ‘Salmon Meal’ signify that the whole animal has been used, and most high quality kibble will use meat meals as a source of Glucosamine.

Chondroitin is natural, and found in cartilage of other animals which include cows, and other animals.  It’s naturally occuring, so picking a dog food that’s rich in both Glucosamine and Chondroitin can be helpful to in remedying joint pain as your dog ages.

Of course, you shouldn’t forget about the other important ingredients and contents in the nutritional profile. As a basic rule, all food should be a minimum of 22% in crude protein, and a minimum of 12% in crude fat, as outlined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), who govern all pet food nutrient profiles.

Best Dog Foods With Glucosamine

Dog Eating Dry Dog Food With Glucosamine and Chondroitin
There are several different choices of dry kibble that can supplement Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

After scouring the dog kibble market and putting the above information to good use, we have created a list, just for you and your pup, that recommends the best natural high-quality kibble, that not only has the higher levels of Glucosamine that is available on the market, but they are also all complaint with the AAFCO guidelines in regards to the other ingredient contents.

We have also set out a nutritional content table where you can compare the nutritional profile of each product side by side, as well as looking at the first 5 ingredients of each product, which are the heaviest in weight within that recipe, so that it is easier for you to compare! So, in no particular order, here are our top 6 higher Glucosamine kibbles that will help to improve your dog’s joint health.

Victor Performance
Science Diet
Wellness Complete
Merrick Backcountry
Ziwi Peak
Diamond Naturals

Victor Purpose Performance

VICTOR Purpose - Performance, Dry Dog Food 40...
  • Nutrient-dense recipe made with premium-quality beef, chicken and...
  • Excellent choice for sporting dogs and dogs with high physical...
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin promote long-term joint health
  • Formulated with our scientifically advanced, proven VICTOR Core...

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Glucosamine: 800 mg/kg

Victor have created this recipe with an energetic dog in mind, with much higher calories compared to the majority of other available kibbles. This recipe is made from gluten-free grains, so it is a great choice for those dogs with gluten allergies or intolerances (but please note that it is not grain free!). In addition to the first five ingredients, as listed in the chart below, it also lists blood meal, chicken meal and pork meal, which are all great sources of Glucosamine. This kibble is aimed at dogs of all sizes, although probably not toy dogs!

We love that this recipe includes both prebiotics and probiotics, so it is a good choice for those pups with a weaker digestive system that also need digestive support!

Science Diet Adult Mobility

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult,...
  • A dry large-breed dog food shown to improve mobility in 30 days
  • Supports improved joint health in big dogs with EPA from fish oil
  • Supports your grown dog's joint health with natural sources of...
  • Uses a balanced set of minerals to promote strong bones in large...

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Glucosamine: 644 mg/kg

Hill’s science diet boasts that an American study has shown that dogs with mobility issues have improved within the first 30 days of feeding. It has additional fish oil, which is also great for joint health, as well as other bodily functions. They also list a balanced set of minerals that promote strong bones in larger dogs. This kibble is designed for large breeds, so it is not suited to small breeds.

We love that this science diet is recommended by Veterinarians across America, so whilst it does not have the highest levels of Glucosamine, it certainly must be a good kibble!

Wellness Complete Health

Wellness Natural Pet Food Complete Health...
  • ENJOY A LIFETIME OF WELLBEING: High quality proteins and...
  • WHOLE BODY HEALTH: Supported by omega fatty acids, antioxidants,...
  • FIND THE RIGHT FOOD: Wellness offers a full range of foods to...

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Glucosamine: 800 mg/kg

This recipe also lists Whitefish in the first 10 ingredients, and this is a great source of fish oil which is another ingredient that assists in your dog’s joint health. It is full of antioxidants and superfoods such as spinach, apples and blueberries which all aid his immune system and his healthy oxidative state, which he would not get from a raw meat diet alone.

We love that this recipes offer the highest amount of calories per cup, so if you have a working or super energetic dog who needs the extra level of Glucosamine, then this is the best choice! It’s also one of our favorite foods for a Labrador Retriever in the adult stage.

Merrick Backcountry Raw

Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Dry Dog Food...
  • #1 Ingredient Is Real Deboned Beef
  • Freeze-Dried Real Raw Meat Pieces To Lock In Fresh Taste
  • Grain-Free Nutrition With No Gluten Ingredients For Easier...
  • Recipe Is Rich With Omega Fatty Acids For Healthy Skin And Coat...

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Glucosamine: 1,200 mg /kg

This premium recipe offers the joint highest level of rich protein, which is great for maintaining his lean muscles and muscle repair, which is important if he is a super energetic or working dog. The first three ingredients are deboned beef, lamb meal and salmon meal, which are great sources of Glucosamine, and other ingredients include pork meal, lamb, rabbit, salmon oil and beef liver. It also includes freeze-dried raw pieces that lock in that fresh meat taste that your dog will love, as well as encouraging him to eat it if he is a bit of a fussy pooch. Merrick boasts that their kibble provides all of the nutritional benefits of a raw diet, but in the convenience of kibble, but with the added antioxidants and superfoods such as blueberries and apples.

We love that this recipe offers all of the above, but it is also a grain free recipe for those dogs with sensitive stomachs!

Ziwi Peak Air Dried Food

ZiwiPeak Air-Dried Chicken Recipe Dog Food...
  • ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE: 100% ethically and sustainably sourced...
  • NUTRIENT DENSE: 3 portions of raw ingredients make 1 portion of...
  • MAY HELP PROMOTE: Allergy relief, healthy skin and coat, improved...
  • AIR-DRIED NUTRITION: Centuries-old slow and gentle air drying...

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Glucosamine: 1,500 mg/kg

This premium recipe offers the highest Glucosamine level on this list, as well as the joint highest level of protein at 38%. Not only is this recipe made from 96% fresh meat, but it also lists cartilages, organs and bones in its ingredients, so it offers that all-important whole prey meat ratio that was mentioned earlier. This recipe is also grain-free for those with sensitive stomachs, and there are no added sugars or glycerin, only the added vitamins and minerals that he needs. The kibble is made by an air-dry process, which not only preserves the nutrients as much as possible, but it also eliminates pathogenic bacteria. Whilst this is a much smaller bag than the rest of the recommendations on this list, because it is jam-packed with superior goodness, your pup needs much less compared to standard kibble.

We love that this offers one of the very best Glucosamine levels available on the market without a Veterinary prescription, and even then it is better than some of those. It also includes Green Mussels which are one of the richest Glucosamine sources around!

Diamond Naturals Cage Free

DIAMOND NATURALS Dry Food for Adult Dogs,...
  • High quality protein made with real CAGE FREE chicken; tailored...
  • Premium ingredients with added vitamins & minerals; superfoods...
  • Nutrient rich and HIGHLY digestible with PROPRIETARY PROBIOTICS...
  • Family owned & run, MADE in the USA choosing ingredients from...

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Glucosamine: 750 mg/kg

This recipe is tailored for large breeds again, and although it does not offer the highest amount of protein on this list, it does list chicken and chicken meal as the first two ingredients which are a natural source of Glucosamine. It lists kale, blueberries, pumpkins and coconut, all of which are superfoods and antioxidants which provide him with the nutrients that he needs and would not get from raw meat diet alone. It also has dried beet pulp and dried chicory root which are both a great fiber source for his digestive system.

We love that this is one of the most affordable kibbles on the list, but it does not have the lowest level of Glucosamine!

Transitioning Foods

So you are now sure that you’ve found the higher Glucosamine kibble for you, and more importantly, your dog, but you can’t just jump straight in! You will need to transition him over to his new higher Glucosamine diet slowly because a quick switch will only upset his stomach. Below you can find our transitional chart that you should follow when changing his diet. Even if your dog has a hardy gut, do not be tempted to rush the transitional process, otherwise he will likely get a poorly tummy, and both him and the rest of the family will not be very pleased with you!

You also need to remember just because he might show improvements within the first 30 days of eating the new kibble and other raw meat treats, does not mean his mobility is cured. Just as Glucosamine starts working in 30 days, it also starts wearing off within 30 days, so don’t return to your old kibble. He needs to be given Glucosamine daily for it to be effective, and therefore it is something that needs to be included in his diet for the rest of his life.

Days 1-4
Days 5-8
Days 9-11
Days 12+
75% Old Food
25% New Food
50% Old Food
50% New Food
25% Old Food
75% New Food
100% New Food

Don’t Forget The Vet

Please remember that we are not your Veterinarian, and therefore we cannot offer tailored or specific advice about your beloved dog. So, whilst the products in this guide really are the some of the best higher Glucosamine kibbles around, your dog might need a specific diet or prescribed supplements that are much higher in Glucosamine.

For this reason, if you suspect that your dog is suffering from joint or mobility issues then you really need to get him checked out to see if he needs anything over and above the standard recommended daily allowance of Glucosamine. It’s also possible that your vet may prescribe a dog food with higher fiber content, so it’s always important to make sure you get your vet’s opinion.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Glucosamine is extremely important for your dog and his joints, so you need to pick the very best kibble that is going to offer higher Glucosamine content. Whilst it is unlikely that he will ever reach his daily allowance with dry dog kibble alone, dry dog kibble plays a crucial role in his nutrition, so you need to include it in his diet.

If you follow and pick from one of our recommendations above, then you will be ensuring that your dog is getting the very best levels of Glucosamine. All of the above recommendations are natural products that each have their advantages, so you are bound to find one in our list that is perfect for both you and your pooch. And if you chuck in some chicken feet or beef trachea as a treat during the day, then he will undoubtedly get his much-needed Glucosamine and Chondoitrin levels to protect and improve his joints. And remember, do not stop the new kibble once he has shown a bit more flexibility, this is an ongoing requirement which he will be forever thankful for.

Just remember that each dog is different, and each dog has his own nutritional needs, just like we do, so be sure to involve your Veterinarian in his nutrition. You might not find him in your Yoga class doing the downward dog position, but you will certainly see an improvement in his mobility if you increase his Glucosamine intake! While Glucosamine might not be the sexiest of subjects, you really need to educate yourself on it, and we hope we have enlightened you a little bit more.

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