What is glucosamine?
Glucosamine is an amino sugar that occurs naturally in the body and plays an important role in forming and maintaining the body’s tissues such as nails, skin, ligaments, tendons, bones, heart valves, discharging mucous from the lining of the digestive tract, urinary tract and respiratory tract. Glucosamine also helps belnd sulphur into cartilage, hence its popular use as a joint cartilage supplement. As animals age, their bodies can lose the ability to produce enough glucosamine so cartilage in weight bearing joints weakens and becomes more vulnerable to wear and tear and arthritis.
Glucosamine is produced naturally in the body. Glucosamine is also a component of gelatin and cartilage is likely to be ingested in quantity by animals consuming ground bones in frozen ground meat-based diets.
Glucosamine supplements are often made from chitin, a substance found in the shells of crustaceans like crab and lobster as well as from animal connective tissues. While it is uncertain how much of glucosamine is absorbed when given orally, some studies have indicated it is as much as 87 percent.
Glucosamine is supplied in one of three forms: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride (a salt of D-glucosamine, which is eventually converted by the body into glucosamine sulfate) or N-acetylglucosamine. Studies show that while all 3 forms of glucosamine are effective, glucosamine hydrochloride (which is a salt of D-glucosamine) and glucosamine sulfate were more effective than N-acetylglucosamine. N-acetylglucosamine may be more beneficial for animals with ulcerative colitis.
Many glucosamine supplements also contain chondroitin sulphate. Glucosamine is a precursor to chondroitin, which is typically more expensive and slightly less well-absorbed. Like glucosamine, chondroitin is also a glycosaminoglycan aimed at stimulating cartilage repair and reducing inflammation.
Why recommend administration of glucosamine to my pet?
Pets with lameness, bowel, or bladder disease may benefit from treatment with glucosamine. Results may take 4-8 weeks to develop but may last for several weeks after glucosamine supplements are discontinued. Other patients experience a more rapid improvement and some none at all.
What species of animals are being treated regularly with glucosamine?
Horses, dogs, and cats are routinely treated with glucosamine.
How can my pet benefit from glucosamine?
Glucosamine works to stimulate joint function and repair. Pets with lameness (arthritis/osteoarthritis), sports injuries and tendonitis may show significant improvement when treated with glucosamine.
Other emerging potential indications for glucosamine include the treatment of intervertebral disc disease, recurrent cystitis, and severe inflammatory bowel disease. Disc disease is associated with abnormal compressive forces on discs, necessitating their re-modelling and repair. Glucosamine has been suggested as a potential source of the proteoglycan molecules needed during these processes.
"Disc disease is associated with abnormal compressive forces on discs, necessitating their re-modelling and repair. Glucosamine has been suggested as a potential source of the proteoglycan molecules needed during these processes."
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) such as glucosamine are not just needed for joint remodelling, but are used as a mechanical and electrostatic defense against penetration of infective agents, toxins, and antigenic proteins through the mucosal lining of the bladder and intestinal tract. This GAG layer also prevents the leakage of normal body fluids through these same linings.
A degraded GAG layer has been proposed as the start of the disease process for ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and interstitial cystitis in humans, and may be a factor in the development of similar conditions in animals. Efficacy of glucosamine supplementation in the management of such conditions is not yet known, but should probably be attempted given the potential for benefit and low risk of harm.
Other possible uses include food and respiratory allergies, asthma, vaginitis and other conditions affecting mucous membranes.
How successful is glucosamine?
Despite its widespread use, success using glucosamine for the treatment of lameness is variable. Some animals respond exceptionally well, while others experience no improvement. One of the possible reasons is the wide variation in quality of products, with some having very little of the active ingredient in them. Given that glucosamine is extremely safe and easily available, it should probably be a component of the first line of treatment for all arthritic conditions in small animals. Animals that don’t respond should receive more thorough evaluation.
How safe is glucosamine?
Glucosamine is very safe for long term use. While there have been concerns about the possibility of glucosamine raising blood sugar levels in diabetic pets, current research shows that glucosamine is safe to use in pets. However, it is still prudent to monitor blood sugar levels in diabetic pets (especially if higher doses of glucosamine are used) as alterations in insulin levels might rarely be needed. Animals with heart disease, hypertension should be given salt free glucosamine supplements.
Side effects of glucosamine include gastric irritation, nausea, diarrhea, indigestion and these can be avoided by giving with food.
Where do I obtain glucosamine and do I need a prescription?
We use a range of Glucosamine products in this practice. If you would like more information, please see one of the vets. Generally a prescription is not required.
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