No one likes to see an animal suffer. But watching a beloved dog struggle to get up from her bed, or a cherished cat hobble around the house, is truly heartbreaking. Yet, just as in humans, osteoarthritis is an equal opportunity disease, striking young and old, healthy and infirm alike. In fact, for many purebred animals, osteoarthritis is virtually a given, due to breeding practices that result in congenital joint problems, like hip dysplasia.
In osteoarthritis, cartilage breaks down, which is the spongy, protective cushion between bones that meet in a joint. In pets, these are often hip, knee and ankle joints, but others can be involved. As the cartilage wears away, the bones rub against one another, causing pain, inflammation and stiffness. For many pets, this means difficulty rising from a lying or sitting position, or limping or crying when a specific joint is touched.
Today, osteoarthritis, which plagues some 70 million Americans and millions of companion animals, doesn't have to be the crippling, devastating disease it once was. From dozens of studies worldwide, we now know that many of the symptoms of osteoarthritis can be minimized, or even eliminated, with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are both essential to healthy joints. Glucosamine is one of the structural elements found throughout the body, especially in healthy cartilage, where it serves as a building block. Meanwhile, chondroitin sulfate is a ""liquid magnet,"" drawing much-needed fluid to the cartilage, where it provides shock absorption and nutrients for the cartilage tissues.
For Prevention and Cure of Arthritis in Pets
Both of these supplements have been examined in clinical trials, separately and together, with impressive results. In one study, rats were divided into two groups and both groups were given injections to induce arthritis. But one group of rats was also given a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, while the other group was not treated. Only 54 percent of the rats which received glucosamine and chondroitin developed arthritis symptoms, as opposed to 96.5 percent of the rats that were not treated.
Symptoms of secondary arthritis, the type that occurs after an animal suffers an injury or has surgery, can also be relieved. A 1998 study involving dogs that had surgically reconstructed knee ligaments showed that those receiving glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements had significantly fewer symptoms of osteoarthritis than did the dogs that did not take the supplements.
The Right Stuff for Arthritis in Pets
Of course, we've all heard stories about animals given human medication with disastrous consequences. As researchers have found, though, in the case of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates, safety is not compromised. In fact, in a survey of some 1,500 veterinarians, 80 percent of the doctors believed these supplements to be effective and safe. Still, since there are special pet formulations of these supplements, consult your health-food store or veterinarian for pet-specific formulations.
In general, anything you can do to relieve stress on your pet's joints can help ease osteoarthritis pain. Help your pet lose excess weight, avoid repetitive motions (like those involved in agility trials), and choose low-impact activities, such as walking instead of jogging; these are ways to keep your pet active and pain-free in the years ahead.
We recommend a high quality liquid glucosamine product that also incorporates other beneficial nutritional ingredients like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Manganese, Boswellin, Yucca, Bromelain, and Omega 3 & Omega 6 as synergistic ingredients. More information on our recommendation for glucosamine products can be found here.
Anderson, J, Slater, J. ""Evaluation of clinical efficacy of an oral glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate compound: Survey of veterinary practices in the U.S."" In: Proceedings of the Seventh Annual American College of Veterinary Surgeons Symposium, October, 1997.
Hulse, DS, et al. ""The effect of Cosequin in cranial cruciate deficient and reconstructed stifle joints in dogs."" In: Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Conference of the Veterinary Orthopedic Society, February 1998.
Brenda Adderly, M.H.A. is the author of 14 books about health, including The Arthritis Cure for Pets (Little, Brown, 2000). She may be reached by visiting www.stayhealthy.com