Just like people, dogs suffer from a variety of age-related disorders affecting their ability to walk, see and think clearly. Osteoarthritis is one of these diseases experienced by many middle-aged and elderly dogs that reduce the quality of life, causing pain, lethargy and limping. However, because animals cannot speak, pet owners often do not realize something is medically wrong with a dog until the condition has progressed.
Initial symptoms are not immediately evident when a dog has osteoarthritis since animals tolerate pain and other uncomfortable conditions much better than humans do. By the time the dog’s owner realizes something is wrong, the disease has usually advanced into the debilitating stage.
Alleviating Joint Pain with Glucosamine
Fortunately, dogs react favorably to certain medications that humans also take to reduce similar symptoms. Glucosamine is one of those drugs, a substance that successfully alleviates the chronic joint pain and stiffness related to arthritis in humans. In addition, glucosamine for dogs also eases painful symptoms of disc degeneration, wound healing, tendinitis and other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Canine Immune System
Rheumatoid arthritis, unlike the uric acid-related disease of osteoarthritis, is the result of an overreaction of the canine immune system to its own protein molecules. The immune system erroneously thinks these proteins are foreign and begins producing antibodies to eliminate the protein.
Unfortunately, this “rheumatoid factor” attacks joints, where inflammation, swelling and pain quickly occur. Unless treated, RA in dogs leads to bone and cartilage erosion, causing lameness and chronic pain. Vets used to treat this type of dog arthritis with buffered aspirin or steroids, but glucosamine for dogs is being implemented with favorable results.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
Reactions to sickness vary in dogs depending on breed, size and level of socialization. However, dog arthritis and hip joint pain symptoms generally follow a pattern, with initial symptoms consisting of:
• Slowness or difficulty in rising or lying down (reluctance in getting up)
• Appearing less energetic than normal
• Lagging behind when taken on a walk
• Reduced appetite
As the disease progresses, dogs may begin to:
• Limp or favor one limb over another
• Develop swollen, stiff joints
• Avoid being petted or touched
• Have accidents in the house
The age at which dogs develop arthritis varies as well, influenced by diet and level of exercise received.
Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis occurring due to cartilage degradation and commonly manifests as hip joint pain in dogs. When cartilage is no longer capable of preventing bones from rubbing against each other, movement is impaired because joint mobility is no longer smooth and undemanding. Bones now scrape against each other rather than easily sliding and rotating around in the joint socket.
White blood cells flood the area in an attempt to remedy the damaged joint. Furthermore, the presence of these cells worsens the condition because of their detrimental impact on the synovial fluid, a vital substance that lubricates joints and facilitates movement. The result is an aging dog suffering from pain and partial immobility. Fortunately, glucosamine for dogs effectively defeats the disabling consequences of untreated dog arthritis.
Hip dysplasia is a common joint disorder effecting dogs, especially larger dogs such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, Saint Bernards and Retrievers. A genetic disease that produces abnormal joint architecture and poor muscle, ligament and tissue strength, it is primarily seen in purebred dogs, but can occur in mixed breeds as well.
Bones constructing the joint eventually disconnect from each other as the disease progresses, resulting in the complete separation of the joint, a condition referred to as subluxation. If left untreated, hip dysplasia evolves into moderate, to severe, osteoarthritis that could effectively cripple the dog and cause lifelong pain and suffering.
Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:
• Running with an abnormal gait (like a rabbit hopping)
• Inability to flex or extend rear legs
• Morning pain and stiffness in rear legs
• Less willingness to engage in physical activities
• Loss of overall muscle tone
Owners who are not aware of hip dysplasia may attribute these symptoms to the normal process of aging. However, once dogs start receiving supplements of glucosamine for dogs, owners are often amazed at the change in behavior of dogs that previously appeared lethargic and apathetic.
Risk Factors for Hip Dysplasia
Risk factors involved in the development of hip dysplasia primarily concern diet and weight. Obese dogs that carry the hip dysplasia gene are much more prone to suffering from this disease, as well as other joint problems. Providing glucosamine for dogs as well as a balanced, nutritious diet is essential in reducing the risk of hip dysplasia.
Moderate Exercise Helps
Dogs receiving adequate exercise may also be less likely to experience hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis as they age. Moderate exercise, such as swimming and running, targeting the gluteal muscles is beneficial to hip dysplasia-prone dogs. However, exercises involving frequent jumping (catching Frisbees, for example) apply excessive force to joints and may actually contribute to degenerative bone disorders in certain dog breeds.
Joint Health for Dogs
While age is the principle reason for dogs developing arthritis, diet also contributes influential components to the premature emergence of this disease. Most pet owners do not realize that grains or meat byproducts, found in most commercial dry dog food, contain high amounts of uric acid.
Uric Acid the Culprit
An excessive level of blood uric acid is a direct cause of arthritis, as well as other joint disorders, such as when humans develop swollen and painful joints of gout. High amounts of uric acid in the dog’s body (and humans), when sufficient amounts are not filtered by the kidneys, induce the formation of sharp, hard crystals that cripple joints. These crystals continue to accumulate unless dietary changes are made, eventually inflicting permanent damage to affected joints if nothing is done to eliminate them.
Changing a dog’s diet and giving the animal a dog joint supplement such as glucosamine will effectively reduce the presence of dog arthritis and allow dogs to live a normal, healthy and pain-free existence.
Dietary changes (including glucosamine for dogs) should consist of:
• Purchasing food especially made for arthritic dogs (Iams, Purina and Hill’s dog food companies manufacture such food)
• Avoiding any food containing corn gluten meal and artificial preservatives (BHT, BHA)
• Trying to incorporate fresh vegetables into the dog’s diet
• Including omega-3 fatty acids in the diet
• Making sure that purchased commercial canned food is all meat and contains no meat-by-products
What is Glucosamine?
Naturally produced by the body, glucosamine is created from glutamine, an amino acid, and glucose, the main source of muscle, brain and systemic energy for both humans and dogs. Glucosamine is necessary for the production of glycosaminoglycan, a molecule utilized in cartilage formation and repair. Humans, as well as dogs, naturally experience decreased amounts of glucosamine in the body as aging occurs, resulting in less joint mobility and possible development of arthritis.
Glucosamine supplements are available in capsule form for humans and liquid form for dogs. When synthesized in laboratories for use as a supplement, glucosamine is reproduced by using chitin, a material found in crab, shrimp and lobster shells. This substance provides cartilage with elasticity and enzyme protection in addition to furnishing cartilage with sufficient lubrication to allow for ease of joint movement.
Dogs suffering from hip joint pain or other joint pain due to osteoarthritis often improve dramatically with regular liquid supplements of glucosamine. Glucosamine for dogs is also a preventive to possible future encounters with painful joint problems in dogs, allowing them to experience their golden years without the crippling effects of arthritis. In addition, cats and horses suffering from arthritis, respond successfully when given glucosamine.
How to Use a Supplements of Glucosamine
After an examination and formal diagnosis by a veterinarian regarding your dog’s condition, the doctor will recommend giving your dog glucosamine supplements in an amount correlating to your dog’s size and severity of arthritis.
It is easy to pour the liquid form of glucosamine for dogs over its food so you won’t need to struggle to force pills down your dog’s throat. Dogs generally like the pleasant flavor of glucosamine for dogs as well and probably think you are giving them a treat!
Sometimes, veterinarians may suggest giving dogs double doses of glucosamine for the first couple of weeks to expedite elimination of painful uric acid crystals. After the dog’s blood contains sufficient amounts of glucosamine and symptoms begin to subside, the vet will usually reduce the dosage to a normal level. However, be aware that discontinuation of glucosamine supplements results in additional cartilage degeneration about four months after the dog stops receiving the supplement. Just because your dog is feeling much better doesn’t mean you should stop giving your pet glucosamine for dogs.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Frequently, glucosamine for dogs is used in conjunction with chondroitin, a mucopolysaccharide molecule contributing to cartilage formation and function. Chondroitin especially supports the cartilage’s ability to retain water and nutrients, both vital components in maintaining joint integrity throughout a dog’s life.
In addition, mucopolysaccharides (MPS) provide continuous joint tissue replenishment, which prevents premature degeneration and reduction of hyaluronic acid (an important lubricating substance). MPS also facilitates white blood cell effectiveness when combating bacterial or viral diseases.
Side Effects of Glucosamine
Side effects of glucosamine for dogs are minimal, with occasional reports of diarrhea, drowsiness and vomiting being the most common. Dogs who consume glucosamine with food, however, appear to experience few or no side effects.
While it is rare for dogs to experience allergic reactions to seafood, those that do may also suffer similar reactions when taking glucosamine, since the manufacturing of glucosamine supplements utilizes components of shellfish.
Dogs that are taking blood thinners require monitoring when taking glucosamine, which contains chondroitin sulfate, a molecule containing the same structure as heparin, a frequently prescribed anticoagulant. Furthermore, you should advise your veterinarian of any medications your dog may be taking before administering glucosamine supplements or any other supplements.
Growing a Healthy and Happy Dog
In addition to giving your dog a glucosamine supplement, providing additional dietary benefits such as vitamins for dogs will further ensure that your dog experiences an enjoyable and carefree life. Vitamins E and C help alleviate symptoms in older dogs suffering from joint inflammation as well as cognitive difficulties. Vitamin C may also prevent the formation of kidney stones in dogs. Vitamin E counteracts aging issues regarding arteriosclerosis and dry skin by effectively contributing to blood vessel health and reduction of oil produced by the skin.
Other dog health supplements to give are:
• Antioxidants – for the healthy functioning of your dog’s immune system
• Trace minerals – these are frequently missing from a dog’s usual diet. Implementing a homemade dog diet to reduce osteoarthritis conditions will help to provide sufficient amounts of trace elements.
• Digestive enzymes – enzymes work to disperse proteins, cellulose and sugars in your dog’s body. Low amounts of enzymes commonly cause seasonal allergies and the hair loss, scratching and sneezing allergies produce.
Homemade Dog Food
Combining regular doses of glucosamine with homemade dog food specifically meant to promote joint health is an effective measure that dramatically reduces the risk that your dog will develop osteoarthritis. Some recipes to make for your dog’s anti-arthritic meals include:
• One pound of lean meat (chicken, turkey)
• 2 cups of cooked rice
• 1 cup of vegetables, such as carrots, peas or mashed potatoes
• 2 cloves of pressed garlic
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon of brewer’s yeast
• 1 tablespoon of flaxseed or safflower oil
Cook meat thoroughly, mix all ingredients together and add water for consistency.
For variety, here is another homemade dog food recipe:
• 6 cups water
• 1 pound ground turkey
• 2 cups cooked brown rice
• 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
• 16 ounces of frozen broccoli, carrots and cauliflower combination
All dogs tend to prefer certain food more than others, so learn what your dog likes and adjust recipes according to his taste. Glucosamine for dogs has a flavor that is quite pleasing, so mixing this liquid with one of these homemade recipes will probably make these new foods more palatable to your dog.
Dogs should no longer suffer needlessly from hip joint pain or any other arthritic disorders. By implementing regular doses of glucosamine, changing diet and providing adequate exercise, dog owners provide their canine pets with the ability to experience a wonderful and pain-free life full of love, play and the joy of being a well-loved dog.
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