Keep your pets limber this winter | Pet Chat | December

With the cold weather upon us, many of us are feeling the aching in our bones. The same goes for many of our pets because the symptoms of osteoarthritis tend to get worse this time of year.

If your dog seems to have a hard time getting up or down from a sitting or laying position, struggles with stairs or just doesn’t run around and play as much as he did a couple of years ago, it could be the pain of arthritis that’s slowing him down.

Normally our joints are cushioned by a layer of soft cartilage. That cartilage is continually being broken down and rebuilt fresh by our bodies. As we age, the rate of rebuilding slows and the layer of cushioning can thin to the point that the bones rubbing on one another causes pain. In some dogs, the condition of hip dysplasia exacerbates this process causing excessive soft tissue loss even in young dogs.

When we think of arthritis in dogs, we usually think of the hips, but the pain can occur in other joints as well, such as the shoulders, knees and elbows.

Glucosamine is one of the primary building blocks of cushioning cartilage. When the body runs short on its supply of glucosamine, it has a harder time maintaining proper levels of this cushioning tissue. Supplementing glucosamine has been shown to promote growth of the cartilage and reduce the pain of arthritis. When our pets begin to show signs of osteoarthritis, making sure they get adequate levels of glucosamine and chondroitin can help to keep their pain to a minimum.

Glucosamine isn’t a “one-time use” cure for osteoarthritis, it is continually necessary in your dog’s diet. If you stop giving it to your dog, the tissue breakdown will resume and the arthritis will return.

There are many supplements on the market. Some are better than others. For example, there are different types of glucosamine used. Glucosamine HCl is purer and better utilized in the body than glucosamine sulfate. Glucosamine supplements made for dogs will generally add ascorbic acid or manganese to provide better absorption levels. Dog supplements will also usually have a flavoring added so dogs will think of it as a treat, not a pill. But cost can be an issue as well and human glucosamine supplements can provide a good level of quality glucosamine at a much lower price.

Another consideration is whether the supplement provides other beneficial ingredients, such as anti-inflammatory vitamins, msm, or chondroitin. Chondroitin slows the breakdown of joint cartilage, helping to keep the cushioning in place. Many glucosamine supplements include chondroitin to provide this added effect.

An important source of quality glucosamine can be the food your dog eats. Some quality foods can contain enough glucosamine to meet almost half your dog’s glucosamine needs, significantly reducing the need for supplements. But be careful, many foods that advertise glucosamine on the front of the bag have less than one tenth of the glucosamine your dog needs — even senior foods. Be sure to read the back of the bag. If the food is providing less than 800 mg/kg of glucosamine, it shouldn’t be considered a significant source of supplementation.

Choosing a good glucosamine supplement at a good price is a matter of doing your homework – read the package. You can also get additional information from a good, natural pet food store. It’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian when considering the benefits of supplements in your dog’s diet.