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Will Arthritic Dog Benefit from Boswellia?

A reader wonders whether the supplement Boswellia could ease joint pain for an arthritic dog. Research suggests it might.
Will Arthritic Dog Benefit from Boswellia?
Portrait of a Doberman dog. Isolated Studio photo on a white brick wall.

Is it safe to share your favorite joint remedy with your arthritic dog? That question is important, since dogs should never take at least one popular arthritis remedy for humans–gin-soaked raisins. Nor should they ever slurp grape juice, with or without plant pectin such as Certo added. Veterinarians suspect that grapes and raisins cause kidney injury in dogs (Frontiers in Veterinary Science, March 22, 2016). Other remedies might be helpful, though. Veterinary doctors sometimes recommend glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate for canine joint pain, though a double-blind trial did not demonstrate effectiveness (Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Sep. 12, 2017). What about Boswellia?

Would Boswellia Help Arthritic Dog?

Q. I have a nine-year-old Doberman with sore joints. When I read about Boswellia for human arthritis, I wondered whether it would work for an arthritic dog.

A. Boswellia is a resin from a tree, Boswellia serrata, that grows in hilly regions of India. A related tree provides frankincense, Boswellia sacra. For centuries, traditional medical practitioners in India have been using Boswellia to treat a range of ailments. Within the past two decades, scientists have confirmed its anti-inflammatory activity (Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2016). 

Canadian veterinary scientists did a randomized placebo-controlled trial of a product containing the Indian botanical medicine Boswellia with other herbs (Research in Veterinary Science, Dec. 2014).  The trial included 16 dogs in each group. According to the researchers, dogs receiving the herbal product moved more and had more power after two months than when they started. Dogs in the control group did not get the same benefit.

There are several canine formulations that include Boswellia. Unfortunately, these supplements may vary significantly in their boswellic acid content (BMC Veterinary Research, Aug. 1, 2019). Consequently, you should check with your veterinarian regarding an appropriate dose and to get medical supervision. We hope that this will help your best friend.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Cortinovis C & Caloni F, "Household food items toxic to dogs and cats." Frontiers in Veterinary Science, March 22, 2016. DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2016.00026
  • Scott RM et al, "Efficacy of an oral nutraceutical for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled prospective clinical trial." Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Sep. 12, 2017. DOI: 10.3415/VCOT-17-02-0020
  • Ammon HPT, "Boswellic acids and their role in chronic inflammatory diseases." Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2016. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-41334-1_13
  • Moreau M et al, "A medicinal herb-based natural health product improves the condition of a canine natural osteoarthritis model: a randomized placebo-controlled trial." Research in Veterinary Science, Dec. 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2014.09.011
  • Miscioscia E et al, "Measurement of 3-acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid and 11-keto-beta-boswellic acid in Boswellia serrata supplements administered to dogs." BMC Veterinary Research, Aug. 1, 2019. DOI: 10.1186/s12917-019-2021-7
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