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Small dogs are wonderful. Unfortunately, they are also prone to joint problems. While issues such as hip dysplasia tend to only plague large breeds, small dogs are exceptionally prone to slipped kneecaps (luxating patellas) and sprains from jumping off high surfaces. You can help ensure your small dog stays active by feeding it a supplement designed to treat joint discomfort or damage. Read on to learn about the best joint supplement for small dogs.
Consider the specific type of joint supplement you need
Not all joint supplements are made equal. There are a few different types of supplements you may want to consider for your dog. Glucosamine is the most well-known joint supplement, and it’s popular for a reason. However, it isn’t the only joint supplement you should consider.
Glucosamine helps build cartilage, which can be vital for treating all forms of arthritis.
Chondroitin helps keep cartilage elastic and prevents collagen around joints from breaking down.
MSM, which is short for Methylsulfonylmethane, improves the health of connective ligament tissues.
Omega-3 is a potent anti-inflammatory and can help injured joints heal and arthritic joints stay mobile.
Turmeric is also an anti-inflammatory with potent pain-relieving properties.
These may all sound like they do essentially the same thing, but there are some important distinctions to be made. It all depends on exactly why you want to give your dog a joint supplement.
Old and arthritic dogs need glucosamine, MSM, and chondroitin the most. I always recommend using a blend of the three rather than only feeding glucosamine, since I firmly believe they work together to improve overall joint health.
As far as pain relief goes, your pet will have less pain if its joints are more mobile. So, any joint supplement can aid in pain reduction. But if your dog has an actual injury, such as a torn ligament or luxating patellas, anti-inflammatories that relieve pain such as omega 3 and turmeric become far more important. I always feed my small dog prone to luxating patellas turmeric and there is a noticeable difference in her comfort levels.
Of course, turmeric isn’t to be discounted for arthritis either, but it isn’t the sole supplement you should give an arthritic dog. Fortunately, it is safe to mix turmeric with other joint supplements, and many formulas have it mixed in for its added benefits.
Keep in mind dogs don’t have to be old to benefit from a joint supplement. Many small breeds are prone to injuries such as luxating patellas and can benefit from a joint supplement from puppyhood and onwards. If you’re feeding your dog to prevent rather than treat an existing injury, they require a far smaller dose of glucosamine to see benefits. Omega 3 is an excellent way to keep joints healthy and minimize inflammation in young dogs, too.
The best joint supplement in the world won’t do you any good if you dog won’t eat it!
I’ve noticed my small dogs have always been infinitely pickier than large dogs. The large dogs tend to eat pills if they’re mixed in with their food, but the small dogs blatantly refuse to eat anything “suspicious”. For that reason it’s very important to me that my small dogs don’t mind eating the joint supplement.
Joint supplements come in many forms. The most common of them are the following:
Hard tablets. These tablets are often meant to be crunched and have a flavor. But they aren’t very appetizing for the average picky small dog. I’ve used hard tablets before, but I always take the extra time to crunch them up into a powder to be stirred into more appetizing food, which makes it less convenient.
Powder. Some supplements already come in powder form. Powder supplements are meant to be added to wet food, usually with the addition of water, so that it makes a “gravy”. Supplements like this almost always have a strong smell and flavor which drowns out the other food. I’ve found that none of my dogs really like powder supplements—they may eat them, but not very enthusiastically, which is unfortunate since some of the best supplements on the market are powder form.
Soft pills. These are by far my dogs’ favorite supplements. They are soft and resemble chewy dog treats. It is always most convenient to have a supplement you can simply hand a dog like a treat and be assured they eat it. But if your dog is so picky it doesn’t even like soft pills, they are easy to smash and mix in with food, and far less noticeable than hard tablet pieces.
Liquid. Some supplements come with a pump so you can easily squeeze it over your dog’s food. This is very convenient, but I’ve found the cost is usually less palatability. My dogs tend to find liquid sprayed over their food even less appealing than the powder supplements that create a gravy. They do tend to get used to them, but I wouldn’t say they ever really like them.
In short, you may have to do a bit of experimenting before you find a supplement that really works for you and your dog. But if your dog absolutely hates it, virtually all of the supplements can be masked by mixing them with tastier food, so you likely won’t be out money—just convenience!
Not every joint supplement is created equal
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, not all supplements are equal in terms of quality. You will want to pay attention to the percentages of each supplement to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
Many vets recommend dogs need 500mg of glucosamine, 400mg chondroitin, and 100mg of MSM per 25 pounds of body weight. Not all supplements will have these exact values, and that doesn’t automatically mean the supplement is bad. For instance, you may choose to feed a supplement that has a lower than recommended amount of glucosamine, but meets the requirements of chondroitin and MSM.
What you should be aware of are supplements that have drastically different values. Feeding your 25lb dog 300 or 600 instead of the recommended 500mg is not going to make or break anything. But if it’s only getting 100mg, or 1,000mg, it won’t be effective. When in doubt, it’s better to give the dog too little than too much.
When shopping for small dogs, it’s important to buy formulas intentionally made for small breeds. Virtually every supplement will have a “20lb and under” dosage, but those dosages tend to be wildly inaccurate compared to the dosages for large breeds. Conversely, pills marketed for small dogs tend to increase dose by 5 or 10 lb increments, which makes it much easier to make sure your dog gets the dose it needs.
My top recommendations for amazing joint pain relief and increased mobility in small dogs
I have had small dogs for many years, and I’ve pretty much always fed at least one of them a joint supplement. I’ve used some supplements that seem to be real duds, but all of the following have had varying levels of success depending on what I’m using it for and how picky the dog in question is.
Of all the joint supplements I’ve tried, Zesty Paws gets first place for small dogs. These soft tablets are highly palatable; I’ve yet to see a dog turn one down. Every tablet has 450mg of glucosamine for dogs up to 25 lbs. This makes it ideal when you need to give a larger dose without giving your dog a lot of pills, such as when dealing with a current injury. Zesty Paws is a great brand in general and has many joint supplements. I prefer the Mobility Bites formula geared towards senior dogs, because on top of including the ever-important chondroitin and MSM, it also has vitamin C, yucca, and kelp which all give a huge immunity boost.
I really like using Doggie Dailies for maintenance doses for small dogs. By maintenance dose, I mean for a dog not having an active flareup or injury. They come in small, soft treats that even my picky dogs are interested in—but if your dog is too picky to eat a treat, they are very easy to mash up with your fingers and add to soft food. Every tablet has 100mg of glucosamine, which makes it very easy to dose for small dogs; you will need to feed 1 tablet for every 15 lbs of body weight. In addition to glucosamine, they also have chondroitin, MSM, and additional anti-inflammatories such as yucca.
This supplement is marketed as “superfood” and it’s pretty on the money. It comes in a powder form and I have had great results from feeding it. The only reason I stopped is because my dogs are so picky that it’s a pain to get them to eat the powder. It lasts for a long time for small dogs, though, and is a great value for what you get. While this formula focuses on hips and joints, it also contains omega 3 and additional vitamins to fill in the gaps in your pet’s diet—hence the product name.
Don’t forget the supplements to add in addition to glucosamine!
While you should only feed one actual joint supplement (i.e. don’t mix two different glucosamine supplements), you can give your small dog an immune boost by feeding one of the following with their joint supplement.
I truly believe salmon oil is a miracle cure for many dog ailments. I’ve had dogs with severe allergies that went from pulling out all their hair to growing a glossy coat just from the addition of this supplement. It is packed with omega 3 fatty acid and will help your dog fight inflammation and help injured ligaments to heal. The only downside of this supplement is that it smells really awful! Strangely, most dogs will eat it even though it smells awful to people.
If you have a dog that is too picky for grizzly salmon oil (or you just don’t want to smell it!) Zesty Paws has a great solution in these soft omega 3 tablets. Dogs love them and it’s a very quick, mess and smell-free way to make sure your dog gets the benefits of omega 3.
Can you tell I adore Zesty Paws!? Like the others, these are a soft tablet (bacon flavored, too!) and give your dog a huge boost of turmeric. Turmeric is excellent for dogs that seem to be suffering from the pain of severe arthritis or a new injury and has been proven to be effective at reducing both discomfort and inflammation, which lets injured tissue heal faster. I love turmeric and use it for myself as well as my animals. It’s a wonder drug.
In the end, which is the best joint supplement for small dogs will vary by individual.
You may have to do a bit of testing to see which supplement your dog will actually eat. However, I hope I’ve helped take some of the guess work out of it by listing the supplements I’ve had the greatest success with. Our dogs are part of our family, and I truly hope your dog benefits from one of these amazing supplements as much as mine has.
4 thoughts on “Finding the best joint supplement for small dogs”
Really helpful article – appreciate the tips and also the specifics you have covered on a fairly difficult to navigate topic.
Hi Tina, thank you for a very informative article on joint relief for small dogs. It is interesting how a lot of ailments that affect us humans also affect them, and have similar medications. I would not be without my health supplements, so it is great to know what a wide choice we have for our pets. I had to laugh at how picky your small dogs are, I think this may be the case with all small dogs around the world. I wonder if you would be interested in doing a blog similar to this for cats?
Very informative blog, thanks again, Denise.
Hi! Thank you so much for this article.
I have a small dog (pomeranian). Molly is 14 yrs old now and she has some joint issues. We actually couldn`t go for long walks now, too hard for her.
I am glad you have recommendations, i will try some of the products.
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