It typically begins with a little stiffness after vigorous exercise.You may notice that your usually energetic pit bull is resting morethan normal and experiencing difficulty rising from a lying position.He may have trouble climbing stairs or jumping on the couch to take hisfavorite spot next to you.
The likely diagnosis is osteoarthritis, alsoknown as degenerative joint disease, and it affects at least one infive dogs. If left untreated, your companion’s joints can quicklydeteriorate to the point where even a short romp around the yardentails significant pain and discomfort.
The Problem with NSAIDs
The standard treatment for canine degenerative joint disease consistsof a prescription for a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)such as carprofen (Rimadyl) or meloxicam (Metacam). However, whileosteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown, inflammation, andeventual loss of joint cartilage, the efficacy of NSAIDs is limited topain management. In fact, the drugs can hasten the disease’sprogression by interfering with cartilage synthesis.
And while NSAIDsare generally better tolerated than their steroidal counterparts, along list of side effects — including gastrointestinal bleeding,kidney damage, liver failure, and death — has been linked to NSAID usein dogs.
An Alternative to Drugs
What if there was a way to repair some of that damaged joint cartilageand provide anti-inflammatory benefits without adverse side effects?Well, placebo-controlled clinical trials have demonstrated that thefollowing supplements are capable of doing exactly that:
- Glucosamine: This amino sugarstimulates cartilage production, helps prevent thebreakdown and erosion of existing cartilage, and reduces joint pain andinflammation. However, not all types of glucosamine are equallyeffective. Glucosamine sulfate is generally considered the best choice,followed by glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl); avoid supplementscontaining n-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG), glucosamine KCl, or glucosamineNaCl.
- Chondroitin: Like glucosamine, chondroitinsulfate is a natural component of healthycartilage. In addition to lubricating joints and providing the buildingblocks for the formation of new cartilage, chondroitin is believed toinhibit the production of destructive enzymes responsible for jointdamage.
- MSM: Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), anaturally occurring sulfur compound, isan effective pain killer and anti-inflammatory agent that alsocontributes to skin, coat, and joint cartilage health.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fattyacids, specifically EPAand DHA, provide a myriad of health benefits, including significantanti-inflammatory activity. The best source of EPA and DHA ismolecularly distilled (to remove environmental contaminants) fish bodyoil.
- Cetyl myristoleate: CM (or CMO) is anester of the fatty acid myristoleic acid; it functions as ajoint lubricant, an anti-inflammatory agent, and a pain reliever.
- Boswellia serrata: The anti-inflammatoryproperties of this herb rivalthose of NSAIDs with none of the drugs’ harmful side effects. Formaximum effectiveness, look for a version standardized to 65% boswellicacids.
- Manganese: This trace mineral is essentialto the synthesis of cartilage and should be takenwith glucosamine/chondroitin formulas; however, high levels ofmanganese are toxic, so it’s important to exercise caution (see dosageinformation below).
Other supplements that may be effective in the treatment ofcanine osteoarthritis include bromelaine,yucca root, curcumin, hyaluronic acid, green-lipped mussel, seacucumber, devil’s claw, cat’s claw, aloe vera, and variousantioxidants; however, more studies are necessary to confirm thepreliminary findings.
Putting It All Together
Now you know what works, but what’s the right dosage? This supplementcocktail is recommended for a 50-60 lb pit bull:
Glucosamine Sulfate or HCL: 1200 mg
Chondroitin Sulfate: 800 mg
Opti-MSM (99.9% purity): 600 mg
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: 1500 mg
Cetyl Myristoleate Complex: 1500 mg
Boswellia Extract: 1000 mg
Manganese: 5 mg
Divide the above into two daily doses and mix theliquid, powder, and/or softgel supplements with a little yogurt. Mostpits will lap it right up.
It’s hard to find Glcosamine without Chondroitin these days, or vice versa. And typically you can find most of these in a single product, which is much more convenient.
While they do not represent a cure for degenerative joint disease, someof these supplements can indeed rebuild joint cartilage in additionto providing pain relief. You may notice decreased stiffness andincreased mobility in as little as 7-10 days of starting your pitbull on these supplements. Depending on the amount of damage to yourdog’s joints, it could be a couple of months before long runs and thelike are back on the agenda.
For best results, continue treatment forat least 8-12 months.
We put our girl on this supplement cocktail about a year ago andstarted seeing results after only ten days. Within 4-6weeks, she was back to going on hour-long runs. We were thrilled, butwe couldn’t help wondering: Were the supplements actually rebuildingher joint cartilage or merely providing pain relief? There was only one way tofind out. After eight months of treatment, we decided to temporarilydiscontinue all supplements. Well, it’s been over four months, andwe’re happy to report that our girl continues to enjoy long daily runsand vigorous exercise with our younger dogs. We plan to resume hersupplement regimen for preventative reasons when we reach thefive-month mark, but as far as we’re concerned, the evidence is clear: Glucosamine& co. really are capable of regenerating damaged joint cartilage.
Jason Harrington (Nina’s human), CA
Always consult your veterinarian before starting your dog on any supplementregimen.