Everyone who owns German shepherds knows that they struggle with hip issues. When we bred Clancy, who had “excellent” hip health, with another German shepherd, all the puppies came out with “good” hips…except one, Osita. Osita was a sweet, fluffy dog who loved everybody. A family in the neighborhood purchased her and were thrilled to have her home. And then she started to limp. Before long, she could barely walk. She wasn’t even four months old.
The family gave Osita back to us because she wasn’t healthy enough for a rough-and-tumble life with three young boys. We gave them a healthy pup, Scarlet, instead. And then we were left wondering what to do about Osita. We took her to a vet, who x-rayed her leg and hip and confirmed that the hip socket was loose. It didn’t fit together like it should, and this was causing the bones to rub painfully against one another, which then caused Osita’s limp. We were told the surgery to fix Osita’s hip dysplasia would cost anywhere from $3,000-5,000 — money that our family simply did not have. So we prepared to give Osita as comfortable a life as we could until one day the condition robbed her of her quality of life and she had to be put down.
Before we could settle into the sadness of Osita’s fate, she ended up with a serious infection from a wound sustained while jumping a barbed-wire fence. (Hip pain and all, this dog was unstoppable! She refused to stay inside the fenced yard because she wanted to meet everyone in the neighborhood.) When my mom took her to the vet, a man who happened to adore German shepherds (he was a well-known client of the vet) and also have plenty of money to spare adopted her on the spot. He paid for the surgery to fix her ear and also the surgery to fix her hip. A few years ago I got a photo of one of our friends who’d bumped into Osita in downtown Bozeman, Montana. She was happy and healthy and her name was Lucy, not Osita anymore. But she was the same sweet, fluffy dog.
But what if this hadn’t happened? What if Osita had remained with us? Could we have done anything for her hip dysplasia?
The answer is complicated. But one thing is for sure: quality hip and joint supplements could have drastically improved her quality of life and, indeed, allowed her to live a relatively long and comfortable one, too.
Fast forward to now, almost eleven years later. Our Alaskan shepherd, Eira — who is half Alaskan malamute and half German shepherd — has not yet presented with hip issues. She’s one year old and from two large breeds. Does that mean we should wait until joint pain strikes in her middle- or old-age years before doing something to help it? No!
Something people don’t grasp is that even puppies can benefit from joint-supporting supplements. Taking regular supplements can help prevent degenerative joint diseases like arthritis, which develops when the cartilage between your dog’s bones becomes thin or worn away completely.
We’ve rounded up the best soft chews and oils to give dogs from puppyhood to old age. We want your dog to live a long, healthy, comfortable life, and especially if you have a larger breed of dog, you’ll need to be planning for hip and joint issues before they actually attack.
The Best Soft Chews
Doggie Daily Glucosamine for Dogs
These chews taste like treats, not supplements. But even if your pup adores them, don’t be fooled: they’re packed with hip- and joint-supporting ingredients. Per ONE chew, their active ingredients are:
- 100 mg glucosamine, a “natural compound found in healthy cartilage, particularly in the fluid around the joints” according to Arthritis.org. Glucosamine has even been shown to help regenerate cartilage, making it a wonderful addition to any joint supplement.
- 100 mg MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), “a sulfur-containing compound found naturally in plants, animals and humans,” according to Healthline, and which studies show markedly reduces inflammation and slows the breakdown of cartilage.
- 50 mg chondroitin, which is found in cartilage and plays a role in helping cartilage retain water.
- 50 mg yucca schidigera, an herb that contains saponins that help relieve arthritic pain.
- 10 mg coenzyme Q10, which acts as an antioxidant and promotes healthy aging in dogs.
- 10 mg hyaluronic acid, a gel-like substance that’s already in your dog’s joints. Adding extra helps keep things smooth.
In sum, these ingredients impact your dog’s joint pain by reducing inflammation, slowing the breakdown of cartilage, and relieving pain. If the pain is caused by hip dysplasia like Osita’s, these ingredients can help lubricate your dog’s joints so that the bones don’t grate against each other, causing discomfort and pain. With other types of pain, these ingredients are known to reduce inflammation and even help repair damaged cartilage. Even if you have a younger dog who’s starting to struggle with joint pain, start supplementing now so that your dog’s joints have full support from an early age.
While this bottle of chews isn’t cheap, it is priced with value in mind. You get a whopping 225 chews in one bottle — enough to last your dog for quite a while, depending on size. The chews are chicken-flavored, and if you give your dog the recommended dose every day, you’ll start to see improved mobility and higher energy levels within a few weeks.
NaturVet Joint Health Chews
If you want to start your dog on a soft chew that comes in different levels to accompany her all throughout life, start with their Level 1 chews, which are the ones we got Eira.
These are the chews we got Eira. She thinks they’re treats!
You can start giving your dog NaturVet Joint Health Level 1 chews once they’re three months old, or twelve weeks. That’s why we got these for Eira: she’s almost one year old, so she doesn’t need super advanced joint supplements. But we would like to be proactive in keeping her joints healthy and strong throughout her life.
The NaturVet Level 1 Chews contain, per two soft chews:
- 500 mg of glucosamine HCI from a shellfish source.
- 90 mg yucca schidigera
- 60 mg chondroitin sulfate (from a porcine source).
- 58 mg calcium ascorbate (Vitamin C), which can slow diseases like hip dysplasia and arthritis.
- 60 IU DL-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E), which can help prevent breakdown of cartilage around joints.
- 1,800 mcg omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and flaxseed.
- 946 mc omega-6 fatty acids from fish oil and flaxseed.
The NaturVet Level 2 Chews, meant for middle aged dogs, contain the same amounts of the above active ingredients but with the addition of 500 mg MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).
The NaturVet Level 3 Chews, meant for aging and elderly dogs, contains:
- 500 mg of glucosamine HCI from a shellfish source.
- 500 mg MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).
- 200 mg chondroitin sulfate (from a porcine source).
- 200 mg green lipped mussels, which contain joint-protective and anti-inflammatory properties.
- 130 mg proprietary enzyme blend (alpha-Amylase, Lipase, Protease, Bacillus coagulans, and Fructooligosaccharides).
- 90 mg boswellia serrata, a tree extract that has pain-relieving properties.
- 90 mg yucca shidigera
- 60 mg calcium ascorbate (Vitamin C).
- 7 mg zinc.
- 5 ml hyaluronic acid.
- 60 IU DL-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E).
The Level 1 and 2 chews are the most similar, with their only difference being the MSM. (It’s absent in Level 1 and present in Level 2.) The advanced/senior care chews are quite a bit different, though, so make sure you carefully consider all the ingredients and their benefits before choosing a level for your dog. For example, while the Level 3 supplements contain extremely helpful joint-supporting ingredients, they’re missing the omega 3 and 6 that the first two levels have. I’m a firm believer in the power of omegas, so I would consider giving an older dog the Level 2s if they didn’t have obvious hip problems. If your dog is really struggling, go for Level 3 and give an omega supplement on the side for healthy skin and coat.
Now, onto Eira’s reaction to her chews. Did she like them? Have they helped?
Well, Eira didn’t have hip problems yet to begin with — the reason we give her supplements is so that her hips stay healthy throughout life. We want to support their optimal function from a young age. She does have boundless energy, which isn’t exactly new (she is still a puppy, after all!) and I feel happy that her joints are getting the strongest start possible in life.
Eira just got spayed, so she’s got an e-collar on for two weeks! Here, she’s ready to take a big bite of her NaturVet joint supplement soft chew.
And Eira loves her chew. The first time she had one, she wasn’t sure why she should eat it. I showed her the inside of the bottle but she didn’t see anything that looked all that different than kibble.
The chews look…like little brown lumps. But don’t be fooled! Dogs find them tasty once they bite into them.
I convinced Eira to at least put the chew in her mouth, which she did. But then she spit it back out! Silly girl. So I tried again, and this time she decided to actually bite into it. She ate it all and asked for another — which is perfect because for a dog of Eira’s weight, the appropriate amount is 2-3 chews per day.
Make sure you read the directions for use on ANY joint supplement bottle before giving them to your dog!
For the Level 1 NaturVet Joint Health Chews, click here:
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For the Level 2 Chews, look here:
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And finally, for the Level 3 Chews, click below:
Pawesome Hemp + Glucosamine for Dogs
Want to harness the power of hemp seed for your dog’s joint pain or inflammation? Try the hemp + glucosamine soft chews from Pawesome. Each chew contains the following powerful ingredients:
- 200 mg glucosamine HCL
- 125 mg organic hemp seed oil (see benefits below!)
- 100 mg MSM
- 75 mg ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)
- 75 mg organic hemp seed powder
- 65 mg chondroitin sulfate
- 50 mg organic turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory due to the curcumin inside.
- 15 mg yucca schidigera
- 10 mg egg shell meal (source of collagen)
- 25 IU d-Alpha tocopherol (Vitamin E)
I love how they include not only hemp seed oil but also hemp seed powder, 45% protein. Hemp contains significant pain-relieving and inflammation-reducing properties, so adding it to a joint supplement for dogs is genius. Why? Because the cannabinoid in hemp attaches to receptors in the body — cannabinoid receptors. These help both canine and human bodies produce natural cannabinoids. According to Healthline, this process can help reduce pain and the effects of inflammation — especially since the receptors in the body are those that deal with pain, coordination, movement, and the immune system.
If your dog is struggling and other joint supplements aren’t cutting it, try this one. The added hemp might just be the extra oomph your dog needed.
The Best Oils
If you’d rather not commit to a supplement chew just yet, you can always try adding some joint-supporting oils to your dog’s food. Here are our favorite joint-supporting oils.
ZestyPaws Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil
I live in Alaska, so each year I see the benefits of salmon firsthand. When the salmon run, everyone goes to the all the different rivers. You can even see salmon in shallow, clear creeks, flopping and thrashing on their way to their spawning grounds. Salmon are rich in quality Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, both of which promote hip and joint health. If you don’t want to give your dog the blend of active ingredients in the joint supplement chews mentioned above but you want to give Fido a head start on lifelong joint health, add this oil to your dog’s kibble. As a plus, this salmon oil supports skin and coat health, as well as immune system function.
Grizzly Pet Products Joint Support Oil
Like the wild Alaskan salmon oil, this supplement contains fish oil — Antarctic krill. But it also contains, per ounce, the following ingredients:
- 1250 mg glucosamine
- 1000 mg chondroitin
- 1000 mg MSM
- 350 mg krill oil
- 5 mg hyaluronic acid
This is a perfect supplement for dogs who hate any and all chews. Dogs will adore the fishiness of the oil, so spread the appropriate amount onto your dog’s kibble and watch her lap it up.
Does your dog struggle with hip and joint issues? If so, what supplements have been most helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
Laura Ojeda Melchor grew up with two beloved German shepherd dogs—Clancy and her daughter, Bella. From the time her family brought Clancy home, Laura took on the duty of pooper-scooper and potty trainer. As a teenager Laura helped her mother care for Clancy during her pregnancy. She still remembers fondly the exciting, frigid winter night when the seven special puppies were born. Laura kept the youngest puppy—Bella—and potty trained her, too. She taught Bella important commands, took her for long walks, and spent hours throwing tennis balls for her.
In November, Laura brought home a sweet new puppy, Eira Violet. Eira is half Alaskan malamute and half German shepherd, and Laura loves her deeply. She chose not to use a crate to potty train Eira and was pleasantly surprised at the results. She now has a sweet, energetic dog who always uses the potty outside, plays well with Laura’s toddler, and enjoys long family walks in beautiful Alaska. If you were to meet Eira, she’d bound up to you with a wagging tail and get you running around the yard with her in no time.