Glucosamine is a widely-used arthritis remedy for humans. But can it also benefit your dog suffering from arthritis? Is it safe or are there risks you should consider? Here’s your complete guide to using glucosamine for dogs.
Your Dog and Arthritis
Arthritis is a common disease among aging dogs, as it is for humans. The disease develops when the cartilage that provides the cushion between the ends of two bones becomes damaged or worn away, which results in more friction when the associated bones rub against each other.
Over time, the constant friction causes the ends of the bones to thicken, so that movement becomes limited. Pain and inflammation also develop. Damage or the wearing away of the cartilage can be caused by disease, trauma, or lifelong wear and tear.
Arthritis is a progressive disease; this means that it only gets worse over time, and it has no cure. However, the symptoms of arthritis can be managed through therapy and medication, and the worsening of the condition can be slowed down with appropriate treatment.
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is one of two structural components that make up cartilage, with the other one being chondroitin. The body naturally produces glucosamine, which enables cartilage to provide adequate cushion to the joints. However, once cartilage becomes damaged, it does not repair itself on its own.
Glucosamine is also present in the shells of shellfish; it can also be manufactured in a lab. Glucosamine supplements fall under the category of nutraceuticals because glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound.
As a natural component of cartilage, glucosamine supplements can help repair damaged cartilage so that symptoms of joint damage, such as those associated with arthritis, are alleviated. Glucosamine supplements are best used as an early treatment intervention, while cartilage damage is still minimal; but they are also an effective alternative treatment when used throughout the progression of arthritis.
When used in humans, dogs, and other animals, the benefits of glucosamine include:
- Helping adult and aging dogs remain in peak condition.
- Providing relief from joint stiffness after normal daily activities.
- Maintaining health and function of bones, joints, and connective tissue.
- Alleviating joint wear and tear and pain caused by cartilage damage, hip dysplasia, or other diseases.
- Facilitating quicker recovery from joint surgery.
- Providing treatment support for spinal disc injury.
Treatment with glucosamine often also includes chondroitin - the other structural component of cartilage, and which further stimulates cartilage repair. Chondroitin can be derived from the cartilage of cows or pigs, from the shells of shellfish, or from plant sources and synthesized in a lab.
When Should You Give Your Dog Glucosamine?
About 80% of dogs over the age of seven develop arthritis. As a progressive disease, the stiffness, inflammation, and pain only get worse over time. These symptoms can be managed with prescription drugs and over-the-counter pain medications; using supplements, such as glucosamine, is also typically recommended by most vets.
Aside from arthritis, some dog breeds are also genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia, and glucosamine supplements can also help improve their symptoms.
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog, you should take him to the vet for a check-up and a proper diagnosis:
- Difficulty standing up or sitting/lying down
- Difficulty climbing the stairs or car
- Inability to tolerate long walks
- Refusal to run or jump during playtime
- Trembling of the legs after getting up or when trying to pee or defecate
- Favoring one leg over the others
- Lifting a limb while standing in place
- Swollen joints
- Popping or cracking sounds in the hips
Giving Your Dog Glucosamine
Always consult your vet before giving your dog new medicine, whether it’s an over-the-counter drug, prescription drug, or a nutraceutical. This is especially important if your dog has yet to be diagnosed to have a specific condition, or if he’s already taking other medications or supplements. Additionally, your vet would be the most qualified to determine the correct dosage for Fido. Most veterinarians recommend glucosamine for dogs suffering from arthritis and joint pain.
Glucosamine for dogs is usually available as an oral supplement - in liquid, powder, pill, or flavored tablet form. The product should provide instructions on recommended use and dosage.
Does Glucosamine Work?
Unfortunately, some dogs experience adverse side effects when taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for arthritis. Glucosamine, typically administered in conjunction with chondroitin, is an alternative treatment recommended by vets for these dogs; it’s also often used alongside NSAIDs to augment symptom relief.
Additional studies are still needed to establish the benefits of using glucosamine for the treatment of arthritis in dogs, and there have only been a few side effects recorded, including:
- Allergic reaction, if the animal is allergic to shellfish
- Poor quality of sleep or insomnia
- Excessive thirst and frequent urination, when glucosamine is given in high doses
Glucosamine For Your Dog - Final Thoughts
As with all health supplements, the benefits and risks of using glucosamine have yet to be solidly established by science. But the studies that have already been done, combined with numerous anecdotal evidence, have shown that glucosamine can help provide relief from symptoms of arthritis.
It’s hard for a pet parent to see their beloved dog suffering from a progressive disease, such as arthritis. Talk to your vet about adding glucosamine to your canine companion’s course of treatment. While his running days may be over, it may well help improve his quality of life. If your dog is still in the early stages of the disease, starting him on a hip and joint supplement can help slow down the progression of the disease.