Studies have shown that as many as four out of five dogs suffer from arthritis. The condition is most common in older animals over the age of seven. Canine arthritis is a chronic condition that can be extremely debilitating if left untreated.
So, what is arthritis in dogs and how can glucosamine supplements help?
What is canine arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term that is used to describe joint inflammation. This chronic condition usually starts by affecting the dog’s leg joints, before progressing to the spine. There are a number of different forms of arthritis, but the most common is osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD).
Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease, DJD)
The inner surfaces of the dog’s joint bones are usually kept apart by a layer of protective cartilage. The cartilage is lubricated by synovial fluid, which allows the surfaces of the joint to slide smoothly over each other without friction. In arthritic joints, the cartilage begins to degenerate and degrade, until it becomes roughened, allowing the surfaces of the bone to grate against each other when the dog moves.
Over time, further damage occurs, causing pain to the animal and damaging the joint even more. The dog’s body attempts to repair the damage by forming new bone around the joint. However, this simply makes the joint even stiffer and restricts its movement. Ultimately, the dog develops chronic osteoarthritis.
What are the symptoms of canine arthritis?
There are a number of different signs that could indicate that your dog is suffering from joint pain:
- stiffness when walking
- slow, stiff gait
- difficulty in getting up
- increased lethargy
- muscle atrophy
- weight gain or loss
- heat or swelling in the joints
- crying or whining when getting up
- loss of activity and reluctance to play
- uncharacteristic aggression when touched in certain areas
- inability or reluctance to jump up onto furniture or into the car
If your dog begins to exhibit any of these symptom, it is highly likely that he has arthritis. Ask your vet to examine your pet for a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment of canine arthritis
Once your pet has been diagnosed with arthritis, your vet will recommend a number of ways in which you can provide joint pain relief for your dog. Depending on the severity and extent of your dog’s arthritis, this treatment regimen will usually include drug therapy, diet supplementation, physiotherapy, and other complementary therapies.
There are a number of commonly used analgesic and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are used to provide joint pain relief for dogs. Sometimes, cortisone injections are very effective in reducing pain and swelling. An injectable joint lubricant may also be helpful in improving joint flexibility.
These drugs must be used in the long-term to keep your dog comfortable, although the initial dose can often be reduced, once the dietary supplementation part of the treatment takes effect.
Water therapy is a good way of providing arthritis relief for dogs. The dog is exercised on a treadmill immersed in warm water. This therapy allows the dog to exercise and build supportive muscle mass around the joints, without placing pressure on them. The increased mobility also helps to keep the joints flexible.
Massage therapy, acupuncture, magnetic therapy, and ultrasound treatment can all be very beneficial in providing joint pain relief for dogs.
Joint supplements are available in various forms, including tablets, gels, and in ready-to-use dry and wet foods. Supplements can be derived from naturally occurring substances, or they can be made synthetically.
Glucosamine and joint pain relief for dogs
Of all the dietary supplements that are used to treat arthritis in dogs, glucosamine is probably the most popular and effective.
Glucosamine is found naturally in your dog’s joints in both the synovial joint fluid and in healthy cartilage. Glucosamine is very important as an aid to providing joint pain relief in arthritic dogs. It produces a substance called ‘glycosaminoglycan’, which helps to create and repair cartilage within the joints. As your dog ages, his ability to produce glucosamine dwindles, inhibiting the natural joint healing and repair process. Together with daily wear and tear, this allows painful arthritis to develop.
Regular use of glucosamine supplements has been shown to have a number of benefits for arthritic dogs, including:
- pain reduction, due to anti-inflammatory effects
- naturally rebuilding damaged cartilage, extending your dog’s active life
- increasing lubrication of the joints
- glucosamine also helps to keep the dog’s gut healthy
When used regularly, glucosamine supplements may reduce the dose of pain-killing or anti-inflammatory drugs that your dog needs to have.
Tips on finding the best glucosamine supplement for your dog
There are a large number of different forms of canine arthritis supplements on the market, many of which contain glucosamine. But which one do you choose?
Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSN
When choosing a glucosamine supplement for your pet, look for one that also contains chondroitin and MSM.
Together with glucosamine, chondroitin is found naturally in healthy cartilage. MSM (methylsulphonylmethane) is a naturally occurring, sulfurous compound that has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. When used in combination, all these elements are very effective in the management of canine arthritis. After an initial ‘loading dose’, the amount of supplement you give to your pet can be reduced to a ‘maintenance dose’.
If you want to feed your dog a natural supplement, rather than one that contains synthetic glucosamine, look for a product that contains ‘glucosamine sulfate’. Glucosamine sulfate is a naturally occurring substance that is derived from the shells of shellfish. In addition to glucosamine, it contains sulfur, which is important for repairing damaged cartilage.
Glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL) is also found naturally in shellfish carapaces. This form of glucosamine very concentrated, but it does not contain sulfer. Studies have indicated that this form of supplement is not as effective as glucosamine sulfate.
NAG is a derivative of glucose. It works in conjunction with hyaluronic acid to keep the joints’ synovial fluid in good order, helping to improve mobility. As a bonus, NAG can also be beneficial for the dog’s gastrointestinal system.
Many joint supplements also contain organic turmeric. Organic turmeric is a natural supplement that is derived from a plant. All parts of the plant, including the leaves, flowers, and roots contain substances that are beneficial to your dogs’ health. The phenolic compounds and terpenoids contained in organic turmeric can help to control the age-related degeneration, pain and inflammation in arthritic joints. Turmeric can also help itchy skin conditions, infections, and even certain cancers.
Canine arthritis is a chronic and potentially debilitating condition that afflicts many adult dogs. Talk to your vet or nutritionist to find out how using glucosamine supplements could help to relieve your dog’s discomfort and improve his mobility.