By T.J. Dunn, Jr., DVM
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate supplements are fast becoming the most widely used supplements in dogs' diets. The reason is this: Arthritis in dogs is one of the most common health problems seen by veterinarians. Unfortunately, dog owners and veterinarians rarely notice the early warning signs of arthritis in dogs because these animals have the character to ignore soreness and discomfort until the arthritic changes in the joints have progressed significantly.
But before we discuss Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfate and their effects on arthritis, it is important to note that no amount of consumed nutrients will correct structural damage to a dog's joints (this is true in humans as well).
If there are calcium deposits, scar tissue, cartilage tears and dissolution, or contour changes to the bones at the joint surfaces from long-term abnormal forces being applied, these abnormalities will remain present and will continue to affect the animal regardless of nutritional intake.
Supplements to the dog's diet, such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate, Omega Fatty Acids, Vitamin E, Selenium, and MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) all assist in decreasing inflammation and improving the body's ability to repair and strengthen tissues. Supplements, however, will not reverse structural changes in a joint such as torn cartilage, calcium deposits, and advanced scar tissue. Although you cannot reverse these changes, you can still treat the arthritis to make it a little easier on the dog.
How to Treat Arthritis in Dogs
Since it is difficult to remodel the joint without surgical intervention, attempts are usually made to reduce the inflammation at the nerve endings. This will at least make the dog a bit more comfortable, even if range of motion is compromised. Such treatments include the following...
Prednisone, Dexamethasone, and other corticosteroids will markedly reduce swelling and inflammation to affected joints. But there is a downside to the use of steroids for long-term palliation of arthritis: they can can actually contribute to additional joint damage and breakdown.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Rimadyl, and Etogesic can have noticeable beneficial effects on the arthritis patient. However, these medications can also have a downside in some patients and must be very carefully regulated to avoid bleeding disorders, gastric ulcers, and liver and kidney dysfunction.