Ready, Set, Glucosamine

Oh my aching bones. Many people, especially those suffering from arthritis, have been taking glucosamine to help soothe their aching joints or even to prevent the disease. Dogs can be helped in the same way.

Arthritis in dogs is one of the most common health problems seen by veterinarians. Unfortunately  the early warning signs of arthritis in dogs are often missed because these animals tend to ignore or hide soreness and discomfort until the arthritic changes in the joints have progressed significantly.  Supplements such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, Omega Fatty Acids, Vitamin E, Selenium, and MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) all assist in decreasing inflammation and improving the body's ability to repair and strengthen tissues. Many holistic veterinarians recommend taking a proactive approach to joint maintenance and injury prevention starting when an active dog is one to two years old.

Kirby is five years old with no signs of arthritis or joint pain. He runs, jumps and plays with great exuberance. He balks at pills so he’s happiest with a daily chew so each morning he receives a beef or chicken flavored Zuke’s Hip & Action treat containing 300 mg of Glucosamine and 50 mg of Chondroitin as a preventative. Once or twice a week we alternate with a Green Pet Bonies containing 50 mg Glucosamine, 5 mg Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and 50 mg Omega 6 Fatty Acids.

Kirby in action

Why Protect the Joints?

A dog’s movement depends on the cartilage that forms the protective cushion between the bones where they meet at the joint. Joint problems occur when the rate at which the cartilage degrades exceeds the rate at which the dog’s body replenishes it allowing bones to rub against bone, inflaming the bone itself and the surrounding nerves leading to pain and lack of mobility.

Injuries as a result of a dislocation, torn ligaments, or even the trauma of surgery can cause cartilage deterioration. Bone “spurs,” or the excessive growth of bone material in the joint inflame and break down the healthy cartilage. Inflammatory and degenerative joint diseases can affect dogs of all ages.  Osteoarthritis and Hip Dysplasia (improperly formed ball and socket joint in the hip) are painful diseases that affect the joints as they age becoming drier, thinner, and less effective at cushioning the bones in the knees, elbows, hips, and shoulders.

What Is Joint Cartilage?

Joint Cartilage is constantly turning over and renewing itself especially in young dogs. When cartilage suffers damage, the joint area becomes inflamed and releases enzymes into the joint. These enzymes further break down the cartilage and thin the joint lubricating fluid. The absence of healthy cartilage and the thinning of protective joint fluids make joints more susceptible to injury over time. More injuries add to the cycle of joint deterioration.

Supplementing The Cartilage

Proper nourishment of the cartilage tissue is important at all stages of an active dog’s life not just when visible signs of joint degeneration appear.

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound composed of a sugar and an amino acid. It is manufactured in the body in the joint cartilage and is one of the major components involved with the formation of the critical lubricants and shock absorbers necessary to maintain and restore healthy joint performance. Glucosamine sulfate is also one of the building blocks of articular cartilage and it aids in the rebuilding of damaged cartilage. It’s also involved in the formation of nails, tendons, skin, eyes, synovial fluid, bone, ligaments, heart valves and in mucous secretions of the digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts. The supplement is extracted from crab, lobster or shrimp shells.

Recommended glucosamine daily dosage:

• Dogs 5-20 pounds: 250-500 mg
• Dogs 20-45 pounds: 500 mg
• Dogs 45-90 pounds: 1,000 mg 
• Dogs more than 90 pounds: 1,500 mg

Chondroitin sulfate may be beneficial in preventing stress injuries to joints as well as aiding in the repair of damaged connective tissue. Unlike pain killers which only serve to dull the pain, chondroitin sulfate addresses the disease process itself. Chondroitin sulfate may actually help the body to repair damaged cartilage and help restore joint integrity. It may also protect existing cartilage from premature breakdown as well as keep cartilage tissue hydrated and assist in cushioning impact stress. Some studies suggest that supplementation with chondroitin sulfate can reduce joint pain significantly. Other studies have shown that combining chondroitin sulfate with glucosamine might improve each substance's beneficial effects.  Because chondroitin production by the body decreases with age, supplementation with this compound from green lipped mussels may be especially helpful for older dogs with arthritis.

Recommended chondroitin daily dosages:

• Dogs less than 80 pounds: 900 mg
• Dogs more than 80 pounds: 1,800 mg

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is another arthritis fighting supplement which provides sulfur compounds that may inhibit pain.

Choosing The Right One

There are many pet products containing these supplements to choose from such as chewy treats, pills, powders, and even liquid form so you’re bound to find the one your pup likes best. Be sure to choose a product sold by a well established company, and consult your veterinarian as to which would be best for your dog.