Photo: Vic Neumann
Glucosamine is one of the major building blocks utilized in the body’s synthesis of the lubricants and shock absorbing mechanisms necessary to maintain and restore healthy joint performance. Glucosamine supplementation enhances the body’s ability to manufacture collagen and proteoglycans, which are essential for rebuilding joints and supporting synovial fluid which lubricates your joints. Glucosamine supplementation is especially important in vaccinated dogs as they develop antibodies to their own collagen (see The Purdue Study results). Collagen is a protein found in fibrous tissues such as tendon, ligament and skin, and is also abundant in the cornea, cartilage, bone, blood vessels, the gut, and intervertebral discs.
When considering glucosamine supplementation, it is important to consider bioavailability: just how much of the supplement is useable by the dog? Bioavailability is one reason why raw feeding is a great option for dogs. There are many naturally occurring and reliable sources of glucosamine in the connective tissue and bone marrow of animals – and in shellfish exoskeletons. When considering raw meals for your dogs, remember that animal parts with lots of bone and joints will be an excellent source of naturally occurring glucosamine. Supplementing with beef trachea, chicken feet and bone marrow will make sure that your dog is getting enough glucosamine in his diet.
If you are feeding anything but raw, then your dog may be deficient in glucosamine. Kibble and other prepared foods may have bone and cartilage added in – or glucosamine added – but just because it goes into the food does not mean that it is bioavailable to your dog. Cooking and extruding can do much to destroy the health benefits.
Dog owners who want to supplement with glucosamine will need to find a quality supplement but there is some confusion between which is better: glucosamine HCL or Sulfate?
“Pure glucosamine is very “hygroscopic” and degrades (breaks down) rapidly when exposed to moisture or air. To avoid this, glucosamine needs to be bound to a stabilizer to be sold commercially. The sulfate and the HCL forms are two of the most common “agents” that glucosamine is bound to to ensure its stability. After glucosamine is bound, it is stable and will not degrade before it can get to the store shelf. This is why you never find “just” glucosamine and instead find Glucosamine Sulfate or Glucosamine HCL. However some manufacturers play a trick on you. They replace up to 30% of a “1500 mg” mixture and replace it with plain table salt. This means you are only taking 1050 mg of “actual” glucosamine! What’s worse is that this is entirely legal because they put the ingredients on the label and the product DOES contain 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate (NaCl or 2KCL). It’s just that the NaCl and 2KCL that is added on is just filler.
These manufacturers take glucosamine sulfate and add potassium (KCl) or ordinary table salt (NaCl). They then co-crystallize the resulting mixture and wind up with the same weight of “total” glucosamine but stiff you on the actual glucosamine dosage! As usual, you get what you pay for as these are commonly found in “no frills” glucosamine brands, in a low priced pill form with no other synergistic ingredients. In our opinion, they are simply a waste of money.
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Some Glucosamine Sulfate preparations even claim to be salt free when in fact they are actually just sodium free. They still contain up to 30% potassium chloride (KCl). Finally, an mg-to-mg comparison shows that the hydrochloride may provide more Glucosamine than the Sulphate salt, and this may be the reason why some people prefer to choose Glucosamine HCL. The jury is still out however as to which benefits you more and an easy fix is to just take both HCL and Sulfate forms.”
* From the glucosamine-osteoarthritis resource center
If you are considering supplementing your dog with glucosamine, dosage is important. Dosing is determined by body: 500 mg per 25 lbs. of weight. Because glucosamine is generally considered safe, there should be little concern of overdose if you’re trying to get close to the dose for your dog’s weight by splitting pills. For acute injuries, glucosamine can be given at a triple dose for one week. For dogs who have been diagnosed with arthritis, many vets advocate a double dose for life.
Dogs generally need to be on glucosamine for the rest of their lives, because cartilage degeneration can recur within months of stopping the supplement.