As dogs age, they develop some of the same problems people do -- and some of the same treatments help them cope. One such problem is joint pain such as arthritis, which limits mobility and makes moving painful. Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin lubricate the joints and generally improve mobility.
Glucosamine and chondroitin occur naturally in the cartilage between your dog's bones. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that helps the cartilage absorb the shocks that occur as your dog moves and keeps the cartilage lubricated so the bones slide easily across it. The amino sugar typically comes from the outer shells of shellfish, although it can be synthesized, which is the way to go if your dog has a shellfish allergy. Chondroitin is a carbohydrate that helps cartilage fight off enzymes that eat away at the cartilage, helping the cartilage stay thick enough to cushion the bones. Chondroitin usually comes from cow, chicken, whale or shark cartilage.
As dogs age, their bodies don't build cartilage the same way younger dogs' bodies do. Cartilage naturally breaks down under the shock and movement of bones. Without constant cartilage replacement, the bones can rub together, causing pain. Watch him for signs that he's having trouble standing up, navigating stairs, walking or running. These might signify joint pain that could benefit from supplements.
Glucosamine and chondroitin exist in a variety of forms, including hard tablets for your pooch to swallow, chewable tablets, treats, at-home injections and liquids that you can mix with food or given to your pet by the spoonful. Some dog food designed specifically for large-breed or senior dogs contains small amounts of the supplements, although rarely as much as an arthritic dog needs. Check with your vet to determine the correct dosage for over-the-counter supplementation. When you know the amount, you can better determine what form to use when administering the supplements.
Your vet might recommend forms of treatment for your dog's joint pain other than glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation. Anti-inflammatory pain relievers can help, although these sometimes have serious side effects such as ulcers and organ damage. Glucosamine and chondroitin rarely produce side effects, although some dogs experience indigestion. Another natural supplement that might help is methylsulfonylmethane, MSM, which includes pain-relieving sulfur compounds.
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