Dog looking at a pill bottle of MSM

What is MSM for Dogs?

Posted by Nicole Wanner, D.V.M. on

Dog looking at a pill bottle of MSM

You likely want to support your dog's health as best you can If you're a proud dog owner. This feeling can be especially powerful if your pup is getting older or has health concerns like joint pain or arthritis.

One of the best things you can do for your dog's health is to take them in for regular checkups with your veterinarian. These visits will help with essential disease prevention strategies, such as vaccines, flea and tick prevention, weight management, and more.

Still, your pet's well-being is strong motivation to do more, even if you're already in touch with your vet.

Many run into a product called MSM when researching new supplements for dog health. But what is MSM for dogs?

Is MSM safe? Is it effective?

We'll answer these questions and more in the article below.

What is MSM? 

Hand holding a pill with a pug looking at it

MSM is short for methylsulfonylmethane. It is marketed as a dietary supplement and a natural source of sulfur for people and pets. 

MSM's full name may be a mouthful, but it naturally occurrs as a sulfur-based compound. You may see it sold under other names, such as methyl sulfone, but "MSM" is the most common. 

Methylsulfonylmethane is sold alone or in comprehensive joint supplement mixtures, such as Dasuquin with MSM for dogs. Products like Dasuquin also contain other supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin.

Is MSM Safe for Dogs? 

Fortunately, MSM is generally safe for humans and dogs (1).

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists MSM under a special status called Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) (2). This rule allows manufacturers to add MSM to human and animal food products.

Still, monitoring how much MSM your dog is taking is necessary. Talk to your vet before giving your dog MSM for the first time.

Safety monitoring is critical if your dog takes a comprehensive joint health supplement like Dasuquin with MSM or Cosequin with MSM. These products contain other ingredients, like glucosamine, chondroitin, or manganese. 

Veterinarians have published multiple reports of dogs getting dangerously sick after eating too many joint supplements (3). The toxicity in these cases comes from ingredients other than MSM.

Supplement overdose incidents usually happen when dogs chew a bag or pill bottle open. Unfortunately, overdoses of joint supplements in dogs can be fatal (4). Always store your dog's medications and supplements in a secure location.

Benefits of MSM for Dogs

MSM is generally a safe supplement, but safety is different from effectiveness. In other words, does MSM work

Like many other dietary supplements, we don't yet have definitive "slam dunk" evidence that MSM is effective for treating disease. A few small animal research studies suggest that MSM may help reduce inflammation, with the most substantial evidence for joint arthritis (5). However, clinical studies with dogs are lacking at this time.

A vet saying "intriguing!"

Still, the information we have so far from MSM research can help us separate facts from marketing fiction. 

Supplement brands sometimes promote MSM as a natural source of dietary sulfur, implying that your dog could be suffering from a sulfur deficiency. However, there is no official Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for sulfur (6). 

The body requires only a tiny amount of sulfur to function, so people and dogs almost always get plenty of it in their regular diets. Dietary sulfur comes from meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, leafy greens, and other sources. 

How is MSM Given to Dogs?

MSM supplements for dogs usually come in the form of powders, capsules, and soft chews. Chewable tablets resemble treats and can make supplements fun for your dog, especially if they're not fond of pill capsules. 

If your dog is picky about treats, you can sprinkle MSM powder on their food at mealtime instead. MSM is tasteless and odorless despite its sulfur content. Regardless of which formulation you choose, give MSM around mealtime to avoid stomach upset.

Always discuss new dietary supplements like MSM with your veterinarian ahead of time. They will consider your dog's medications and health history to help you decide if MSM is appropriate.

MSM Dosages for Dogs

The appropriate MSM dosage for your dog will depend on several factors. Your dog's weight, breed, age, health status, and other medications will all matter when taking an MSM supplement. That's why it's best to consult your veterinarian before getting started.

Still, how much MSM is safe for dogs? The FDA has not approved MSM to treat any disease, so there are no official dose guidelines. Because of this lack of official standards, it's best to find a high-quality MSM product and follow the dosing guidelines provided by the manufacturer. 

Each MSM brand uses a unique formula, with multiple MSM concentrations per chew or capsule available. MSM products for large dogs will be "extra strength" compared to products for small dogs, for example. 

Generally, starting your dog out with a low dose of MSM is best. Then, you can gradually increase the amount as desired while monitoring your dog for side effects.

So, What's The Verdict?

Happy dog leaping on the beach

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a popular dietary supplement for dogs. There are currently very few research studies on MSM in pets. 

Still, MSM is generally safe when the dosage is appropriate. A small body of scientific research shows that MSM could support joint health, and we will know more as MSM research continues. Scientific evidence does not support claims about MSM as a needed source of dietary sulfur.

If you'd like to add MSM to your dog's wellness regimen, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will review your dog's medications and health history to help you determine whether MSM could be beneficial. Working closely with your veterinary team is the best way to build a happy, healthy life for your dog. 

References

  1. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/3/290
  2. https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/NoticeInventory/ucm153891.htm
  3. https://doi.org/10.1111/vec.13033
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4357907/
  5. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-813820-5.00032-5
  6. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

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AUTHOR

Dr. Nicole Wanner graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2018. Currently, she is an academic research veterinarian studying CBD and DNA. Her research has been published in trusted international research journals. Dr. Wanner is passionate about pet wellness and has professional interests in genetics, behavior, and healthy aging. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and reading sci-fi novels. She shares her home with her husband Evan and their two mischievous rescue cats, Sylvie and Nemo.


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