“A supplement a day may keep health issues away.” More and more veterinarians are giving their clients such advice, and two supplements they are recommending in particular are glucosamine and chondroitin.
While veterinary studies on chondroitin and glucosamine for dogs and cats are just getting underway in the U.S., vets in Europe have been using them for the past 20 years to effectively treat a variety of health issues in both cats and dogs.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are considered nutraceuticals: food, or parts of food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.
- Glucosamine is an amino sugar that is naturally produced and found in your pet's cartilage. It helps cartilage perform two of its main functions: lubrication and shock absorption. A common source for this supplement is the hard chitin shells of shellfish.
- Chondroitin is a carbohydrate naturally produced in animal cartilage. It keeps cartilage hydrated and healthy, and also helps inhibit some of the enzymes in the joints that destroy and degrade cartilage. Common sources for creating this supplement are cow and chicken cartilage.
Four health issues glucosamine and chondroitin can help improve:
1. Joint Health
Veterinarians have seen great progress when recommending glucosamine and chondroitin treatment for cats and dogs suffering joint health issues; be it calcium deposits, cartilage tears, or arthritis. Not only do these supplements help replenish protective fluid in the joints, but they also reduce inflammation at the nerve endings, which can otherwise cause the animal excruciating pain. The most common joint affected by arthritis is the hip joint, often resulting in hip dysplasia in larger breed dogs. But the knees, elbows, and shoulders are also susceptible to arthritis. Vets will often recommend these supplements for healing after joint surgery. Chondroitin, in particular, has been shown to help repair damaged connective tissue.
2. Heart Health
Glucosamine is a key component in the formation of the heart’s valves and chondroitin is one of the main components of collagen, the substance that provides structural supports to all the cells. Since trial glucosamine and chondroitin treatments have been successful for heart health conditions in humans, vets have been considering the benefits of such treatments in cats and dogs. No clinical veterinary studies have yet been done in the U.S., but these supplements have been shown to rejuvenate structures within the heart, as well as the rest of the cardiovascular system.
3. Skin Health
Some vets believe glucosamine supplements can improve skin health, since the supplement is known to promote the production of hyaluronic acid — found not only in the protective fluid in the joints, but also in the deeper layers of skin. It may be recommended to treat wounds or skin conditions, such as psoriasis, in cats and dogs. Hyaluronic acid helps your skin hold on to water, aiding in the healing process and possibly diminishing complications related to scarring. And don’t forget, chondroitin is one of the main components of collagen, which is key when it comes to skin health, even in pets.
4. Digestive Health
Some vets also believe glucosamine supplements can improve digestive health, since glucosamine aids in the production of a substance that lines the mucus membranes of the digestive tract. It is thought that when levels of glucosamine fluctuate so does the structural integrity of the mucosal membrane, in turn allowing in irritants. However, the use of glucosamine supplements for digestive conditions requires further studies, as does chondroitin.
It will typically take eight weeks to a few months of routinely taking the supplements for progress to be seen. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both suitable for long-term use. Do not administer any new medications without speaking to your vet first.
More on Joint Health
Joint Health Exercise Routine for Dogs
Dealing With Patellar Luxation in Dogs
The Complete Guide to Dog Arthritis
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.