Authored by: Sherry L. Granader
Does your pet suffer with osteoarthritis? Take heart, because there is hope in chondroitin sulfate, the major glycosaminoglycan found in cartilage. It inhibits an enzyme that is destructive to the joints and is a natural-occurring substance in the body. Since chondroitin production decreases with aging, supplementation with this compound may be especially helpful for older pets dealing with arthritis.
For years, many doctors and experts stated that oral chondroitin could not work or be absorbed by the joints because its molecules are too large to be absorbed in the digestive tract. However, new evidence has proven that at least 15% of chondroitin is absorbed intact and 70% of certain chondroitin sulfates are well absorbed in the joint cartilage. This is true for both pets and people.
Chondroitin can actually slow the progression of osteoarthritis; however more studies are needed to see if chondroitin can repair and reverse arthritis. Chondroitin may simply stop further destruction from occurring. In a nutshell, chondroitin may help cartilage by providing it with the building blocks required to do the necessary repairs, plus it can block the enzymes that break down cartilage in the joints in the first place.
Chondroitin has been shown to increase the amount of hyaluronic acid in the joints. Hyaluronic acid is a protective fluid that keeps the joints lubricated. Plus it offers a mild anti-inflammatory effect in the joints. You will often see chondroitin added to supplements containing glucosamine. Many significant studies have shown that adding chondroitin to glucosamine enhances the ability of both to repair cartilage by enhancing each other’s capabilities for maximum benefit.
Glucosamine is also produced naturally in the body and is a key building block for making cartilage. It is not obtained through food. The supplements are derived from chitin, a substance found in the shells of shrimp, lobsters and crabs. Results take at least 4-8 weeks to develop; however these improvements tend to last several weeks when the supplement is discontinued.
Glucosamine is rapidly absorbed by cartilage cells and helps stimulate the synthesis of synovial fluid and cartilage. It also helps inhibit the enzymes that can destroy cartilage. Glucosamine is equally effective for treating osteoarthritis when compared to NSAIDs, without the side effects.
This combination offers a powerful anti-inflammatory effect as a result of scavenging for the harmful free radicals. In both people and pets, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have been proven to effectively relieve pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis. Pets have also shown improved movements and reduced symptoms of this painful condition.
Dosages vary depending on the product and manufacturer. A starting dose of 1,000 to 1,500 mg of glucosamine, with 800 to 1,200 mg of chondroitin, is recommended per day for a 50 to 100 pound dog. The dose can be lowered after 4-6 weeks. It is rare to see cats with arthritis; however a supplement can be quite helpful for arthritic cats. The dosage should be for that of a very small dog. Ask your holistic healthcare practitioner or veterinarian for supplement recommendations.
Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of imallergic via Flickr (CC by 2.0)