Pets are predisposed to developing joint and bone pain in the same way that humans are. Knowing your dog’s risk for developing joint conditions is important, as well as the benefits of treatment. The use of glucosamine for dogs can help prevent or alleviate the pain of some joint and bone conditions, including hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis.
These conditions can be debilitating later in a dog’s life, so preventing them or at least halting the degradation of joints that these conditions cause can make your dog’s life more pleasant. Helping your dog remain pain-free is one of the most important things you can do for him.
Hip dysplasia is a congenital condition of the hips. It is more common in larger dogs. Dogs with hip dysplasia are born with hips that are not properly connected to the thigh bones. The sockets where the hip bones connect with the thigh bones may be loose and shallow, or the muscles around the hip and thigh area may be poorly developed. In addition to poor joint or muscle structure, the thigh bone and the socket it fits into to form the hip joint may be misshapen. When these conditions are present, the joint begins to erode.
Some dogs live with hip dysplasia from a young age and may be in chronic pain their entire lives without their owner even knowing. Dogs’ response to chronic pain is different than humans’ response: they simply learn to cope with the pain and do whatever they can to lessen the pain as much as possible. The erosion of the cartilage and caused by the misshapen socket and bone almost always turns into painful arthritis.
Because hip dysplasia is usually present in the dog at a very young age and thus the condition is usually advanced by the time the owner notices that something is wrong, glucosamine treatments for hip dysplasia are often given to the dog in tandem with pain medications to maintain the dog’s comfort.
This is because the hip dysplasia is often advanced enough that healing the cartilage is a slow process and it may be that slowing down the progression of the disorder is all that can be done for the dog. Although full healing and ceasing of pain medications may not be possible for your dog at this point, there is much to be said for maintaining what is left of a dog’s hips in some advanced cases. The use of glucosamine for hip dysplasia can be helpful in lessening the pain associated with loose joints and misshapen bones, even if the best results are not possible.
Osteoarthritis is the degenerative type of arthritis that often accompanies aging. As dogs age, the membrane around their joints called the synovial membrane begins to disappear. The synovial membrane is a thin layer of tissue that lines the surfaces of the joint and produces synovial fluid, a thick fluid that lubricates the joints and provides nourishment for the cartilage within the joint. As the synovial membrane disappears, the cartilage in the joints, particularly in the hip and knee joints, begins to wear down and eventually disappear in some places.
When the cartilage wears away, the surfaces of the bones are left to rub against one another with each movement of the joint. Depending on how much cartilage has eroded away, this can be extremely painful. Because of the bone-on-bone friction, fragments of bones may come apart from the surface of the bone and remain in the joint, along with fragments of cartilage from the erosion of the joint cartilage.
This typically causes even more pain. Glucosamine is an important compound in the production of synovial fluid and cartilage. It is naturally present in the body, but as the dog ages, the amount of glucosamine present in the body and thus available for synovial fluid and cartilage formation and healing decreases.
Because of decreased glucosamine, the synovial membrane of the joints begins to break down. By starting glucosamine treatments early in dogs at risk for developing osteoarthritis, a dog owner can help her dog’s joints curtail the degradation of the synovial membrane, which can extend the life and health of the dog’s joints. Even if glucosamine treatments are not started until a dog’s osteoarthritis has advanced, it is still possible to slow the erosion of joint cartilage and perhaps even to regenerate some of the cartilage, which can lessen joint pain and restore or maintain the dog’s range of movement.
Sometimes a dog may be in so much pain because of their bone and joint conditions that it may be more humane to euthanize them rather than force them to live in constant, excruciating pain. This is in extreme cases, but it happens frequently, particularly in larger dogs. A veterinarian may recommend this when the dosage of pain medication needed to control the dog’s pain would exceed the safe dosage for the dog.
Advanced cases such as these cannot be helped with glucosamine, but studies suggest that the use of glucosamine before degenerative conditions begin to develop can prevent this type of advanced case from occurring or at least slow the degrading of the joints. Having more time with your dog is the motivation behind all veterinary care, and enhancing the quality of that time is important.
If your dog is otherwise healthy but living with debilitating pain, then you may experience guilt or sadness at seeing your dog in such pain. You may begin to wonder if your dog is unhappy. Extending a dog’s life is good, but keeping her as happy as you can during that time makes it a better time for you and for your dog.
The use of glucosamine treatments in dogs can mean the difference between a long, healthy life for your dog and a life marked by chronic pain. There is evidence that glucosamine can prevent and treat degenerative joint conditions, and there are no known side effects associated with the use of glucosamine in dogs.
By keeping your dog’s joints healthy for as long as you can, you make your dog and yourself more able to enjoy your dog’s senior years. The time you have as your dog gets older becomes more and more valuable, and if your dog is as pain-free as she can be, you will both be happier because of it.