A glucosamine supplement can be especially relevant for dogs where movement and suppleness of the connective tissues and cartilage may be compromised due to normal wear and tear that happens with age or through injury.
There is no doubt that this is a popular and beneficial supplement, but there has always been some concern as to where exactly the ingredients come from, the difference between the two types of Glucosamine available and whether there are any situations when it shouldn’t be given.
Glucosamine: What is it and why is it used?
Glucosamine is an amino sugar that naturally occurs in the connective and cartilage tissues and it contributes to maintaining the strength, flexibility and elasticity of these tissues. It is generally accepted that Glucosamine increases the concentration of proteoglycans (large protein molecules) in the matrix of cartilage and the synovial fluid. This, in turn, increases the water-retaining properties of these tissues, improving the lubricating and shock-absorbing function of the synovial fluid. Also, since proteoglycan synthesis and collagen synthesis appear to be linked, Glucosamine may stimulate the repair of damaged cartilage by increasing collagen deposition.
Although the body has a great ability to repair itself, when there has been an injury or as a result of the normal wear and tear that happens with age, more is required to support the connective tissues and cartilage. In this situation the body may not be able to naturally synthesize enough to keep up with the need, this is when supplementation is advisable.
Why do we use Glucosamine Hydrochloride (HCL)?
There are two types of Glucosamine that you will find in supplements. Glucosamine Sulphate which is the more widely used in human health supplements and Glucosamine Hydrochloride which is more usually abbreviated to HCL, and this is the type we use in the Dorwest Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Converting insoluble organic compounds into hydrochlorides is a common way to make them water soluble. This is particularly desirable for substances used in medications and many pharmaceutical substances are prepared as hydrochlorides so that they may be quickly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract; the body usually absorbs a hydrochloride within 15 – 30 minutes. For dogs and cats who have a short digestive tract and therefore also a short transit time for nutrients to be absorbed, this is particularly important.
Where does Glucosamine Hydrochloride come from?
Glucosamine is obtained from the shells of crustaceans, usually a mixture of shrimp, oyster and crab shells and so is making use of something that would otherwise be discarded, making it a sustainable ingredient that is a by-product of the food industry.
What is Chondroitin?
Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones in a joint and provides much of its resistance to compression. Chondroitin sulphate is an important structural component of cartilage and is part of a large protein molecule (proteoglycan) that gives cartilage elasticity.
Since Chondroitin is not a uniform substance, and is naturally present in a wide variety of forms, the precise composition of different supplements will vary. This is why it is so important to use a product with the highest possible quality and that is most suitable for pets.
Where does our Chondroitin come from?
Chondroitin is the ingredient where there are most concerns over its source. It can be bovine, porcine or marine sourced and with the majority coming from bovine origination. At Dorwest we only use marine sourced Chrondroitin as this avoids the problems associated with cattle or pig diseases, especially BSE in cattle, which could raise other concerns.
However, there has also been concern that the marine sourced Chondroitin often comes from sharks and could result in these fish being killed especially to fill the huge demand for this ingredient. Acquiring from such sources would be unethical and not something which we would condone. Therefore the Chondroitin we use is sourced from squid cartilage and is a by-product of the food industry – which would otherwise be discarded. It is a sustainable source that we are happy to use, rather than the more commonly used shark fin, as it makes use of an otherwise waste product and so does not require any animals to be killed specifically to obtain the Chondroitin.
Why combine Glucosamine with Chondroitin?
As can be seen both these compounds are important in providing the building blocks for the body to manufacture collagen and the proteoglycans in the joint cartilage and the synovial membrane which produce the fluid that lubricates the joints. When combined together in a supplement they have a synergistic effect, meaning that they have more effect when given together than when each is given separately.
However, it is important that they are made available in the correct ratio to be most beneficial, and this means that there needs to be twice the amount of Glucosamine to Chondroitin for the best results to be obtained. This is why our Glucosamine & Chondroitin Tablets each contain 400mg of Glucosamine and 200mg of Chondroitin.
“The food I give contains Glucosamine, so do I need to give a supplement as well?”
Many commercial pet food manufacturers nowadays add a selection of herbs and other nutrients, including Glucosamine, into their feeds and so you might be forgiven for thinking that there is no need for extra supplementation. This is not always the case as most processed foods are subjected to heat treatment during the manufacturing process. The heat treatment process destroys many of the vital nutrients and in any case the quantities included in the feed are usually too small to have any real benefit. They are often simply added to appeal to the owner who imagines they are of benefit whereas in fact they have very little value when added this way. Knowing exactly what you are giving and using a formulation especially made for dogs is a much better way to make sure your dog gains the great benefits that a properly researched and appropriate supplement can give.
By using the most suitable type of Glucosamine for pets and combining it with the correct amount of Chondroitin and sourcing both these ingredients sustainably and ethically, you can be sure that this Dorwest supplement will bring the most benefits for pets who have need of extra support in their joints.
How should I give it?
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Tablets are normally given when it becomes obvious that the joints are in need of support or when your vet recommends that a supplement of this type would be beneficial.
It can be given alongside any conventional medication that your dog is receiving, but please note there are situations (shown below) when you should take veterinary advice beforehand. When you start giving this supplement to your dog you should give the recommended quantity for the first month of administration, reducing this to half the amount thereafter.
This supplement can be given from 8 weeks of age, if required, and many owners of the giant dog breeds like to give it from a young age as there appears to be some benefit in having these extra compounds to support the joints as they grow rapidly in these breeds. This is particularly common practice in mainland Europe.
Are there any situations when this supplement shouldn’t be used?
There are a few situations that you should be aware of when considering giving this supplement to your pet.
- Glucosamine is an amino sugar and you should check with your vet before giving this to animals suffering from diabetes.
- Chondroitin Sulphate should not be given in addition to any prescribed blood-thinning medication. It has a similar in structure to the blood-thinning drug heparin, and the combination has the potential therefore to cause bleeding, so always consult your vet for advice.
- Allergies to shellfish are uncommon but not unknown for dogs and cats. However since Glucosamine is derived from the shells of crustaceans and allergic reactions are normally to the actual flesh of the animals, it is probably safe even for those with shellfish allergy. There is also a lower likelihood of allergic reactions to Glucosamine Hydrochloride than to the Sulphate type, which is good to know.
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