Is Glucosamine the Best Supplement For Arthritis in Dogs?

It’s not exactly known how many dogs have arthritis, but the figure could be as high as 20%.

With 63 million domestic dogs in the U.S., it is is estimated by veterinarians that up to 20% of dogs over 1 year of age have arthritis. That’s over 12 million dogs. No wonder dog owners get so worried when it comes to figuring out what to do with arthritis in their beloved pets.

If you have noticed with alarm a decline in your dog’s level of activities, and there doesn’t seem to be any injury or obvious sickness, then there’s a possibility that arthritis is present. Your dog will appear stiff, in pain, and possibly have joint swelling. They appear to want to play and exercise, but then have reluctance and appear shy.

Various Types of Pet Arthritis:

  1. Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of the joint cartilage)
  2. Degenerative Joint Disease
  3. Hip Dysplasia (loosening of the ball and socket in the hip)
  4. Elbow Dysplasia
  5. Knee Dysplasia
  6. Knee (Stifle) Joint
  7. Osteochondrosis (hormone, diet, injury or genetic causes)
  8. Hypertrophic Arthritis (thickening of bone growth)
  9. Shoulder Degeneration
  10. Wrist (carpus) Arthritis
  11. Kneecap Dislocation
dog arthritis dog
Photo: Fredericksburg Arthritis Walk | Openverse

Understanding the Root Cause of Pet Pain

The onset of arthritis is similar to that observed in humans. Essentially it involves the breakdown of protective cartilage covering the ends of bones within the joint.

Primary vs Secondary Osteoarthritis

By their very nature, dogs are active animals and love to exercise. This often leads to injuries because often the consequences of jumping, leaping or chasing without much thought about what is going to happen next.

But where significant injury (trauma) has occurred, arthritis can progress rapidly in dogs. While people can endure injury without immediate arthritic consequences, dogs often develop arthritis following injuries. This is known as secondary arthritis. It can happen very fast and be seen just after several weeks. Contrast this with humans who might instead take years to develop arthritis.

Understanding the Signs

Recognizing signs of discomfort in your pet is crucial. Look out for:

  • Reluctance of your dog to walk, play or climb steps
  • Limping when your dog walks
  • Difficulty getting up from a dog bed
  • Vocalization, such as, yelping, barking, whining, snuffles, snorting
  • Personality changes – your dog just isn’t their normal self

Veterinary Intervention

If your dog shows any of these signs, it’s time to see your veterinarian. A vet can accurately diagnose the type of arthritis your pet is experiencing and recommend appropriate treatment.

Traditional Treatment Approach with NSAIDs

It is common for veterinarians to prescribe NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) for managing pain. More severe cases of arthritis may potentially require steroids or surgery. However, NSAIDs carry risks, including (but of course not always) damage to livers and intestines. There may be short term effects of appetite loss, diarrhoea and vomiting. But your dog’s age, health, and breed, will all need to be considered in the treatment given. With NSAIDs, there’s most likely going to be a trade-off in managing pain and putting up with the less pleasant side effects.

Exploring Alternative Solutions with Glucosamine

Some veterinarians may recommend alternative treatments that involve Glucosamine. These supplements don’t come with the side effects of NSAIDs. The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that supplements don’t have clinical evidence that approved drugs may have. But AVMA still recognizes that up to a third of all U.S. households with pets use supplements. Unlike NSAIDs, glucosamine offers relief without adverse side effects. Glucosamine may therefore be a safer alternative for pets.

Glucosamine supplements come in powders, tablets and liquids. They typically contain combinations of the following:

  1. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane): a naturally occurring sulphur found in plants and animals.
  2. Glucosamine: a naturally occurring amino sugar derived commercially from shellfish, animal cartilage, or new methods involving fermentation.
  3. Chondroiton: a complex sugar molecule that can provide lubrication between joints. It also can come from animal cartilage (especially shark cartilage) and newer vegan-friendly fermentation sources.

Opt for pharmaceutical-grade liquid glucosamine formulas. These will be absorbed the best, and also give the best pain relief.

Other supplements to be considered are synergistic ingredients like :

  1. Bromelain: Extracted from pineapple (often leftover waste) stem and core. It can be given to dogs in tablets, or as a topical cream to treat swelling joints.
  2. Frankincense: Also known as Boswellia, this is used as a topical cream for joint pain and inflammation, and also comes in tablets, capsules and powder.
  3. Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids for reducing inflammation and improving blood flow.
  4. Manganese Ascorbate for its anti-oxidant activity and energy production.

Note that using supplements may have negative affects with any medications that you are using for your dog. So please consult with a vet before using new supplements!

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