by Shawn Messonnier, DVM
Holistic Veterinarian and Director of Paws & Claws Animal
Article used with permission.
Dr. Shawn Messonnier is the author of The
Arthritis Solution for Dogs, The Allergy Solution
for Dogs, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible
for Dogs & Cats and 8 Weeks
to a Healthy Dog (Rodale.) Check out Dr. Shawn's Holistic
Pet column each week in your local newspaper, distributed
by Knight Ridder News Service.
Glucosamine is the most commonly used chondroprotective
supplement used for the treatment of osteoarthritis while chondroitin
is the second most commonly used supplement for the treatment
of osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is an aminosugar that is incorporated
into articular (joint) cartilage; it is supplied as a supplement
in one of three forms: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride,
or N-acetylglucosamine. Studies show that while all 3 forms
of glucosamine are effective, glucosamine hydrochloride and
glucosamine were more effective than N-acetylglucosamine.
Glucosamine is rapidly taken up by cartilage cells and helps
stimulate the synthesis of synovial fluid and cartilage and
also helps inhibit the destructive enzymes that can destroy
cartilage and proteoglycans. The anti-inflammatory aspect
of glucosamine may result from the scavenging of harmful free
radicals. Glucosamine is used by
the cartilage for the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans. A number
of studies in people and pets show that glucosamine is equally
effective for treating osteoarthritis when compared to NSAIDS
without the side effects.
Glucosamine is very safe supplement with
no side effects; mild GI upset is rarely observed. Dosages
vary depending upon the product. As a guideline, a starting
dose of 1000-1500 mg of glucosamine is recommended per day
for a 50-100 pound dog. This dose is then lowered after 4-8
Chondroitin sulfate is the major glycosaminoglycan
found in cartilage; it also helps inhibit enzymes that are
destructive to the joint and has been shown to be is an effective
treatment for osteoarthritis. Since chondroitin production
by the body decreases with aging, supplementation with this
compound may be especially helpful for older pets with arthritis.
Chondroitin is often added to supplements
containing glucosamine; 800-1200 mg of chondroitin is recommended
per day for a 50-100 pound dog. While significant studies
are lacking, many feel that adding chondroitin to glucosamine
enhances the ability of both substances to repair cartilage.
The following points concerning chondroprotective
therapy are important to maximize success when using these
1. They are equally effective when compared
to NSAIDS but much safer for the pet.
2. Cost may be an issue for some pet owners.
The typical daily cost of using a glucosamine-chondroitin
supplement is approximately $1.50/day for a 50 pound dog.
This cost can decrease as the dosage of the supplement is
lowered to allow the owner to use the least amount of supplement
to maintain pain relief. However, the comparable cost of the
most popular NSAIDS is approximately $2-3/day for a 50 pound
dog, making nutritional supplements less expensive.
3. Since these supplements nourish living
cartilage cells, they are most effective when used early in
the course of the disease. This requires adequate and early
4. Because they are not drugs but rather
nutritional supplements, response may not be seen for 4-8
weeks (response to drugs is typically immediate.) During the
first 4-8 weeks, an increased "induction" dose is
used and then the dose is lowered as improvement is seen.
Additional short term therapy (with NSAIDS, acupuncture, etc.)
can be used during the induction phase.
5. The supplements can also be used effectively
when no clinical signs are present but yet disease exists.
In my practice, many dogs are diagnosed via screening radiographs
with hip dysplasia and started on the supplements.
6. Quality of the products is important. There
are many generic "knock-off" products that sell
for much less than patented products. Studies that have been
done showing the effectiveness of these compounds have used
high quality products. Products of lesser quality, while
often costing less, may also be less effective. Unlike traditional
drugs these compounds are not regulated and labelling can
be inaccurate or misleading; manufacturers are not required
to analyze their products regarding quality, uniformity, or
content. Purchase only quality products from reputable manufacturers
as recommended by your doctor.
7. Because the chondroprotective supplements
are so effective after 4-8 weeks in improving signs seen in
arthritic pets, the diagnosis should be reevaluated after
this period of time if improvement is not seen.
Dr. Shawn Messonnier is author of the Natural
Vet series from Prima publishing, which includes The Arthritis
Solution for Dogs, The Allergy Solution for Dogs,
and the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs
& Cats. For your weekly dose of holistic pet care,
read Dr. Shawn's column The Holistic Pet, in your local paper.
He can be reached at 972-867-8000, firstname.lastname@example.org, or
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Be sure to visit the Glucosamine Product Guide for a review of commercially available glucosamine products.