How Effective Is Shark Cartilage in Canines?

Sharks are deadly but their cartilage is thought to be a useful supplement.
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There are new natural supplements coming out all the time that promise to get your arthritic Rover back up and running again. One such supplement is shark cartilage, a powder or liquid made from the deadly predator. Even though you want to try anything to help your dog, you should know the facts about how effective it is before you put Rover on a shark cartilage regimen.

The Claims

Shark cartilage is supposed to alleviate pain and inflammation in your dog's joints from arthritis, dysplasia and other painful conditions. Since Rover won't be in as much pain, his mobility is supposed to increase, too. Claims have also been made that shark cartilage stimulates the immune system and can inhibit blood vessel formation, leading some to hope that it can be used to treat or prevent cancer.

Mixed Results

It's unclear how effective shark cartilage is for the treatment of both joint problems and cancer in dogs. According to Shawn Messonnier, DVM, in "The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs," some studies show questionable benefits while others show no benefits at all. The University of Utah states there is no evidence that shark cartilage is beneficial for any medical condition.

Expensive Treatment for Big Dogs

In his 2010 book "Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats," Messonnier acknowledges that daily doses of 750 mg of shark cartilage per pound of body weight over three weeks improved mobility and decreased pain and swelling for some arthritic dogs participating in a study. However, shark cartilage is one of the more expensive supplements on the market, and plying a medium to large dog with big doses of shark cartilage commands a high price. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are less expensive, so vets typically recommend them first.

Proceed Cautiously

You should always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your dog, especially before administering any type of supplement or medication. While shark cartilage may help some dogs and is readily available, it's a dietary supplement, not as a pharmaceutical. As with any nutritional supplement there is a concern about inconsistent purity levels in different brands because supplements are not subject to guidelines as strict as medications are.