I get a lot of questions about supplements from dog owners whose dogs are aging and entering ‘the senior years.’
Three of the main supplements for joint support are glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid, or hyaluronan, is a major component in synovial fluid and has been found to increase the viscosity of the fluid. In older dogs, the synovial fluid becomes thinner and less able to support the joints. Originally given in injectable form, increasingly hyaluronic acid is found in oral supplements.
Glucosamine is naturally produced in the body and is a constituent of synovial fluid and cartilage, both of which help to support and stabilise the joints. Glucosamine is made 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.
Glucosamine sulfate is also one of the building blocks of articular cartilage and it aids in the rebuilding of damaged cartilage. Glucosamine sulfate is also involved in the formation of nails, skin, eyes, tendons, bone and ligaments.
Glucosamine supplementation enhances the body’s ability to manufacture collagen and proteoglycans, which are essential for rebuilding joints and supporting synovial fluid. Glucosamine in the sulfate form seems to be absorbed best by the body.
Chondroitin, or more appropriately chondroitin sulphate, is usually found in supplements containing glucosamine. Chondroitin sulfate may actually help the body to repair damaged cartilage and help restore joint integrity. It may also protect existing cartilage from premature breakdown as well as keep cartilage tissue hydrated and assist in cushioning impact stress.
If considering giving your dog a joint supplement, it pays to discuss dosage with your veterinarian or complementary health professional. Some dog food brands are adding glucosamine and chondroitin to foods and so supplementation dosage has to be considered in light of this.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand