Digging Deeper Into Canine, Feline, and Equine Arthritis

Hip dysplasia xray

This is an x-ray of a dog with hip dysplasia (hip arthritis) in both hips (arrows).

Glucosamine and Chondroitin have been used as a natural method of treating osteoarthritis for more than two decades in Europe. The U.S. has been more reluctant to prescribe these supplements to humans and animals, however, because natural supplements are regulated in the United States as food, rather than drugs. More recently, with the revelation of the safety and efficacy that these supplements are now well-known for, physicians and veterinarians in the U.S. have also been prescribing them to treat humans, horses, felines and canines who are suffering the symptoms that accompany osteoarthritis, such as lameness, swelling, pain and tenderness.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin – Digging Deeper into Canine, Feline & Equine Arthritis

While the majority of pet owners who have been recommended glucosamine and chondroitin to reduce their pets’ pain notice the difference that these supplements make in the gait and comfort level of their pet, not many know exactly why these supplements are effective. The following is a look at why glucosamine and chondroitin are effective in treating joint issues in canines, felines and equines, and whether various supplement compounds work differently.

Why Do Glucosamine and Chondroitin Work?


The reason why glucosamine works is complicated; however the process can be explained in a nutshell. Cartilage consists of different types of cells, but the cells that are accountable for synthesizing new cartilage are called chondrocytes. Cartilage is continuously being broken down due to normal wear and tear, and then it is replaced; however when a canine develops arthritis, the chondrocytes cannot replace the old cartilage as fast as it is being broken down, because they lack the necessary building blocks.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar which provides the chondrocytes the building blocks that are essential to synthesize the new cartilage. It is also the essential building block for the production of glycosaminoglycans, which, when combined with hyaluronic acid, creates proteoglycans. Cartilage is mainly made of collagen and proteoglycans, therefore glucosamine plays a major role in the body being able to replace cartilage that has broken down.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin is a complex carbohydrate. Like glucosamine, chondroitin is a crucial product that is required for the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans. However, chondroitin plays a fundamental role in neutralizing and combating enzymes which are destructive to the joint. While there are always destructive enzymes which can be found in the joints at low levels, when abnormal wear or injury occurs, these enzymes accelerate and increase the destruction of the cartilage. Chondroitin reduces the quantity of destructive enzymes in the joint.

Is There a Difference Between Glucosamine HCl and Glucosamine Sulfate?

Glucosamine can be found as three different formulations: glucosamine sulfate, n-acetyl glucosamine, and glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl), all of which work equally well for canines, felines and equines for joint issues. It was the sulfate form that was originally utilized in Europe for humans; however the HCl formulation is a more pure formulation, as it includes less residual ash, and it supplies more glucosamine per unit of weight. Therefore, the glucosamine hydrochloride is more popular in the United States for treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis and joint issues.

Sources of Glucosamine & Chondroitin

Glucosamine is naturally made in the body and cannot be found in any foods, so if there is a lack of glucosamine in the body, the supplement is the only choice for replenishment. Most of the glucosamine supplements on the market are made from the hard outer shells of shrimp, crabs and lobsters, called chitin. For people who are allergic to shellfish, there are other formulations of glucosamine made specifically for them.

Chondtroitin is derived from the cartilage of cattle or shark, bovine trachea, and like glucosamine, can also be manufactured synthetically. There is no scientific evidence that clearly points to which source would provide more efficacies in either the glucosamine or the chondroitin yet, hence more studies need to be conducted to better understand whether natural sources or synthetic manufacturing of these supplements is more effective.

The bottom line with these supplements is: The longer the patient takes the glucosamine and chondroitin, the more these two substances will be present regularly in the body to help to rejuvenate the cartilage and fend off the bad enzymes that destroy cartilage. This is why pet owners will notice that their dog or horse starts walking and running and playing more frequently after two to four weeks of giving the supplements; glucosamine and chondroitin need time to repair the damage that has occurred to the joints. Many dog and horse owners also notice a change in attitude and behavior of the animal, because they no longer are in as much pain.

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