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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ask the Vet with Dr. Mark:
Arthritis Treatment & Prevention

by Mark Nunez, DVM
© courtesy surfneng via Flickr
Active Dogs May Need
Joint Supplements as They Age

Dear Dr. Mark, I would like some general advice on the use of glucosamine/chondroitin /MSM preparations. Is there anything I should look for in terms of manufacturing or formulas?, what mg. dosage for different sized dogs? (I have several in a variety of weights from teacup to 100 lbs.), do you advise use of all 3 or just gluc./ chon.?, once daily or split up? , and what age to begin for prevention of arthritis? Also, since larger dogs live shorter lives, should I begin giving earlier and begin later for tiny dogs? Are there any breeds that may not need this prevention or are not prone to hip or knee/elbow problems? Is this treatment helpful for luxating patellas? Sorry for so many questions but I think they are all related. Thanks for the help.

 Dear R-,

These are great questions.  Not all glucosamine supplements are created equal.  The main problem on the nutraceutical side of the house is there is no regulating body, like the FDA, to make sure that the product does what it says it does.  This makes sticking with a reputable brand VERY important.  This is the most important thing to consider when purchasing a glucosamine supplement.  The only glucosamine supplement for dogs that has been evaluated in a clinical study is Dasuquin with MSM.  In my book, it is the best.  Other name brands that I have had good results with are Phycox and Glyco Flex III.  These are the only 3 that I would ever recommend.  You absolutely get what you pay for.  Getting the giant bottle at Costco for 5 dollars is literally a waste of money and will not help your dog at all.  The 3 supplements I mentioned all have MSM.  I would not use one without it.  MSM is a natural anti-inflammatory and improves the efficacy of the supplement. 

I do not routinely recommend a glucosamine supplement unless there is an underlying issue that will lead to arthritis sooner in life, such as known hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, medial patellar luxation, or some other condition that causes instability in a joint.  In this situation, the sooner they start getting the supplement, the better. Any kind of joint instability will lead to arthritis much sooner than it would normally happen.

Giving the supplement once or twice a day does not matter.  When I have a dog that needs it, I give it once a day. 

Any individual of any breed can have joint problems.  Large breeds tend to be over represented with hip dysplasia, yet small dogs have hip problems as well, we just call it something different.  So, I take each case and evaluate on a case-by-case basis.  I do not routinely put German Shepherds on these supplements just because they are the poster children for hip dysplasia. It needs to be diagnosed, or at least be suspect because of limping, first. 

On a final note, there are MANY options for managing arthritis in dogs, a glucosamine supplement is only one.  Non-steroidal anti-inflamatories, steroids, pain medications, Omega-3 fatty acids, Hill’s J/D diet, Adequan, and acupuncture are other very helpful options.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Mark
Dr. Nunez is a practicing veterinarian while also assisting patients through The Balanced Canine blog and his own online veterinary pharmacyHave a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to You can also follow Mark on Twitter.

Want to read more from Dr. Mark? Try these, or visit his archives:

Controvery About Spay/Neutering Street Dogs
Water Safety for Dogs
Toy Dogs and Indoor Marking Behaviors
What to Expect with Congestive Heart Failure

Dr. Mark's virtual advice is not a substitute for an actual examination with a veterinarian.


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