A quick walk down the dog food aisle in your favorite pet store will reveal dozens of nutritionally formulated foods for each stage of a dog’s life. There are even specialty formulas that are purposed to treat specific ailments or enhance certain characteristics of a dog’s behavior or appearance. But what about nutritional supplements for dogs? Are they something we should consider for the overall health of our pet? In some cases, supplements can help, and are often suggested or prescribed by veterinarians. One of the most common of these is a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin, a nutritional supplement blend used to maintain healthy cartilage and joints.
What are glucosamine and chondroitin, and how do they work? Just like in humans, healthy joints are important to a dog’s mobility and comfort. Our joint cavities are composed primarily of three components – fluid, membrane, and cartilage. The cartilage acts as a shock absorber, keeping our bones from actually grinding against one another. The fluid acts as a lubricant for this process, as well as provides essential nutrients to the membrane and cartilage. All the joint components are constantly in flux and must be nourished and replenished to maintain joint health. As we (and our dogs) age, our bodies become less able to keep these components in balance, and the result is a degeneration of our joints, commonly referred to as arthritis.
According to Ian M. Stewart in his article “Glucosamine and Chondroiton for Dogs,” two of the major building blocks for optimal joint health are glucosamine and chondroitin. Glucosamine is responsible for the production of vital joint mechanisms, while chondroitin inhibits the production of destructive enzymes that are responsible for the breakdown of cartilage. These two supplements work in concert to help keep joints healthy and our aging pets comfortable.
How do I know if my dog might benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin? Watch for signs of pain or stiffness in your dog, such as getting up more slowly or taking the stairs one step at a time. Arthritic dogs may exhibit a slight limp, or in some cases, actually yelp or be otherwise vocal with certain movement. If you notice any of these signs, or others that make you suspect there may be a joint issue, make an appointment with your veterinarian. A simple physical exam may be enough to diagnosis the problem, or x-rays may be necessary. Once diagnosed, your vet will likely recommend a specific dosage based on your dog’s age, weight, and specific amount of degeneration.
Are there other nutritional supplements that do the same thing as glucosamine and chondroitin? There are other supplements on the market, such as Dasuquin, which may be recommended instead of glucosamine and chondroitin. It is important, however, to have your dog examined by a veterinarian to ensure you are choosing the right supplement specific to the individual needs of your pet.
More from this author:
Dealing with an Aging Pet
Protecting Your Pets Around the Pool
Rehabilitating a Rescued Pet: Fears and Facts
Stewart, Ian, “Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Dogs,” The Arthritis and Glucosamine Information Center