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What is Arthritis in Pets and What Are GLUCOSAMINE and CHONDROITIN SUPPLEMENTS
T. J. Dunn, Jr. DVM

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements are fast becoming the most widely used supplements in dogs' diets. The reason is this: arthritis in dogs is one of the most common health problems seen by veterinarians. Unfortunately, dog owners and veterinarians rarely notice the early warning signs of arthritis in dogs because these animals have the character to ignore soreness and discomfort until the arthritic changes in the joints have progressed significantly. Recent widespread availability of nutraceuticals such as GLUCOSAMINE and CHONDROITIN SULFATE have proven to be significant contributors to easing the discomfort of arthritis in dogs. Plus these substances actually promote healing and tissue repair. Glucosamine Pet Arthritis


Unfortunately, since we cannot remodel the joint without surgical intervention, attempts are made to reduce the inflammation at the nerve endings so that the dog is at least comfortable (even if range of motion is compromised). Very effective medication such as the steroids Prednisone, Dexamethasone, and other corticosteroids will markedly reduce swelling and inflammation to affected joints. But there is a downside to the use of steroids for long term palliation of arthritis. Intermittent use may be indicated; long term use should always be questioned. Long term corticosteroid use can actually contribute to additional joint damage and breakdown. Steroids and NSAIDs do not promote healing of joint tissues, whereas the nutraceuticals described here can.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Rimadyl and Etogesic can have noticeable beneficial effects on the arthritis patient. These medications, too, have a down side in some patients and must be very carefully regulated to avoid bleeding disorders, gastric ulcers, and liver and kidney dysfunction. Do not use NSAIDs without consulting your veterinarian first!


By their nature, nutraceuticals are substances that are consumed orally as an addition to a normal diet. These substances are much safer than traditional "drugs" in that they can be considered a form of food or nutrient. Toxicity levels are rarely attainable if they are used in reasonable amounts. Today, the most commonly used nutraceutical in pet health care is GLUCOSAMINE and CHONDROITIN SULFATE. The reason these two substances are so widely used is that in many patients, after a few weeks to two months of administration, very noticeable improvement in comfort, mobility and attitude are noticed. Because these substances tend to be incorporated into regenerating tissues the benefits of nutraceutical use are not generally seen "right away". With drugs, we would see apparent comfort and improvement almost immediately... but at the expense of potential undesirable side effects. Let's take a look at the most commonly used nutraceuticals...


Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound composed of a sugar and an amino acid and is involved with the body's production of joint lubricants and shock absorption necessary to maintain healthy cartilage and joint function. It is manufactured in the body in the joint cartilage and is one of the major components involved with the formation of the critical lubricants and shock absorbers necessary to maintain and restore healthy joint performance. Any degeneration or injury to joint cartilage can result in the failure of the joint to produce sufficient cartilage repair and maintenance substances. The net result with time is a wearing down of the joint cartilage to the point where pain and swelling can substantially reduce joint function. This is what is commonly called degenerative joint disease (DJD) and Osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine sulfate plays a role in other body structures besides joints. It is involved in the formation of nails, tendons, skin, eyes, synovial fluid, bone, ligaments, heart valves and in mucous secretions of the digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts. It is created in the production of proteins associated with cellular growth and structure. Test tube and animal studies show glucosamine supplements help increase cartilage production and reduce inflammation. Absence of glucosamine sulfate in the diet can result in early aging of cells, loss of cellular function, susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infection, and cell death. Glucosamine sulfate is one of the building blocks of the basic substance of articular cartilage. Glucosamine sulfate may also assist in the rebuilding of damaged cartilage.

Glucosamine as a nutritional supplement which is extracted from crab, lobster or shrimp shells. There are three forms of glucosamine so when purchasing it, look for the glucosamine sulfate form because it seems to be absorbed and utilized the best. Because dietary supplements are unregulated, the quality and contents may vary widely. Be sure to choose a product sold by a well established company. Read and understand the product label ingredient list.

Displayed with permission of T. J. Dunn, Jr. DVM and

Our recommendation for easing arthritis pain and hip dysplasia in dogs and cats, is a liquid glucosamine formula called Syn-flex®. More information on Syn-flex® can be found here.

Read an article on Canine Hip Dysplasia.

Read the A Guide to Glucosamine Products for Pets

More information on easing arthritis pain in dogs with glucosamine can be found in our Arthritis in Dogs Center

More information on easing arthritis pain in humans with glucosamine can be found in our Glucosamine Resource Center

Featured Resources
1. Arthritis in Dogs and Cats
2. Guide to Glucosamine Products for Pets
3. Canine Hip Dysplasia
4. The Scoop on Rimadyl
5. Arthritis in Pets
6. Recommended Books about Arthritis in Pets
7. Easing Arthritis Pain in Pets with Glucosamine
8. The Pet Arthritis Chronicle
9. Liquid Glucosamine Formula Syn-flex® for Arthritis in Dogs & Cats
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