Health

Giving a Dog Glucosamine – Reducing Arthritic Pain

To appreciate how glucosamine can help to manage osteoarthritis in dogs, we need to understand a little science.

When a dog has osteoarthritis, the fluid in his joints becomes thinner and is less effective at lubricating the movement of the bones. Also, the cartilage at the end of the bones becomes damaged and eroded over time. Both of these changes lead to pain and stiffness when he moves.

Glucosamine supplements can help to counteract these changes and reduce the discomfort of arthritis.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is considered to be a nutraceutical. This means that it is not a drug, but instead a substance that is given to provide ingredients that are involved in normal body process, with the specific intent of improving your pet’s well-being.

In its simplest terms, glucosamine is a sugar that contains nitrogen. It is produced naturally in your dog’s body by the combination of glucose and glutamine, an amino acid. Feeding your dog a balanced diet will ensure he has enough glutamine and glucose to produce enough glucosamine for his needs.

Glucosamine is involved in one of the first steps in the production of glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans. These two ingredients with the long names are an important part of many body processes, but the two that interest us are their use in the formation of joint fluid and cartilage.

It has been suggested that as we get older, the body’s production of glucosamine slows down. Less glucosamine means that less glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans will be produced, and this may have an adverse effect on the health of our joints. Taking a glucosamine supplement may help to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis by providing more of the “building blocks” for healthy joint fluid and cartilage.

Side Effects of Glucosamine

Because glucosamine is already produced in the body, side effects are highly unlikely. In fact, studies have consistently reported that glucosamine is safe.
There have been some suggestions that glucosamine does in fact cause health issues, but because it has been used for so many years, any serious problems would have shown up by now.

It’s important to remember that you can have too much of a good thing. Some people that take glucosamine for osteoarthritis will increase their dose to beyond recommended levels because they haven’t seen enough of an improvement in their symptoms. If you do this for your dog, then you may notice some vomiting and diarrhea. These aren’t serious and usually resolve with a lower dose of glucosamine and symptomatic treatment.

There are three situations in which you may need to take care if you’re giving glucosamine to your dog.

  1. Diabetic animals. Glucosamine may have an effect on blood sugar levels and how insulin works in your pet’s body, but this effect is very small. In normal animals, there is no reason to be concerned about this and even in diabetic pets, it’s not significant. If your pet has diabetes, just let your veterinarian know that you’re giving him a glucosamine supplement; it is highly unlikely to make any difference to his treatment but it’s a good idea just to have it on his record.
  2. Dogs with bleeding disorders. High doses of glucosamine given either by injection or by mouth can affect animals that already have a problem with blood clotting. Again, it’s not a problem at all in normal pets.
  3. Dogs with fish allergies. Many glucosamine products are made from chitin, a substance in the shells of sea creatures. If your dog does have a sensitivity to fish products, it could cause a reaction. Food allergies in dogs tend to show up as inflammation and itching of the feet, skin and ears and if it does occur, then you can stop the glucosamine and if necessary, take him to your veterinarian to have his itch treated.

Conclusion

Glucosamine will have a positive effect on the symptoms of osteoarthritis in pets. The results aren’t immediate, and it can take a few weeks before you see any improvement in your pet’s comfort level. The response also varies between individuals. Your pet’s symptoms may improve significantly or he may stay much the same. Even if glucosamine on its own doesn’t give you the results you’re after, it can be used in conjunction with other treatments for osteoarthritis. It may allow you to reduce the dose of any drugs you are giving him, which can lessen the chance of side effects. Given that it is very safe, and you should be able to find a product that doesn’t hurt your budget, it is worth trying on any dog that is suffering from sore and arthritic joints.

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