Glucosamine is a substance that is now gaining widespread recognition as one of the most important breakthroughs in veterinary science especially in the management of various conditions of the joints of animals, especially dogs. That is why a lot of products, from nutritional supplements to dental chews to dog food, are now fortified with glucosamine, often in tandem with another joint health-friendly substance, chondroitin. Despite this, however, there are still those who remain skeptical about the whole glucosamine phenomena.
Is glucosamine really good for dogs? Or are we again seeing the effects of marketing-induced perceived need? In this post, we will try to examine what glucosamine really is, why it is considered beneficial for our canine friends, and where we can obtain the best possible quality of this particular substance.
What is Glucosamine?
Biochemically, glucosamine is a combination of a sugar molecule and an amino acid molecule. It is a fundamental component of the substances that make up the exoskeleton of many crustaceans and shellfishes. This substance is also found in the bones and the bone marrow of animals and the cell walls of certain fungal species as well as other organisms.
Because it contains both sugar and amino acid, glucosamine is involved in the production of uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine, a substance that is very important in the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, glycolipids, and proteoglycans. It is through this relationship between glucosamine and the production of these 3 structural molecules that many scientists believe glucosamine is able to exert its many health benefits.
To better understand this, let us try to see what these three substances do.
These are molecules that have a very strong attraction for water. They function primarily as the body’s main shock absorber and lubricant. There are 4 different types of glycosaminoglycans. These include heparin, chondroitin, keratan sulfate, and hyaluronic acid. Heparin helps prevent blood clot while keratan is involved in maintaining adequate tissue hydration. Chondroitin, on the other hand, is known to promote cellular proliferation which is important in tissue repair. Hyaluronic acid is best known as an important component of the tissues and fluid of the synovial joint. This substance is known as highly viscous while being elastic as well.
As you can perhaps already imagine, glycosaminoglycans are important since they make sure that the tissues are well-hydrated, that the tissues are immediately repaired if injured, and that the joints are moving freely. And since glucosamine is needed in the production of glycosaminoglycans, it can thus be said that glucosamine can indirectly produce the benefits that glycosaminoglycans bring.
Proteoglycans are large protein molecules with attached glycosaminoglycans. They are very important components of the extracellular matrix in animals, typically serving as ‘fillers’ between cells. They can combine with other proteoglycans, with collagen, or even with hyaluronan. However, of clinical importance to dogs is the combination of proteoglycans and collagen. This forms the cartilage that makes up the tip of the bones located at the joint capsule.
These are important parts of the cell membrane which help to facilitate recognition of cells. They are important in connecting cells to form tissues as well as in the initiation of the immune response.
Let us recap what we know about glucosamine so far. It is a substance that is naturally found in the shells of crustaceans and shellfishes as well as the bone and bone marrow of animals and the cell walls of fungi. Glucosamine is important in the production of glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans, and glycolipids which are responsible for a variety of important functions in the organism.
Why is Glucosamine Good for Dogs?
Based on what we know about glucosamine, we can say that it is good for dogs for a number of reasons. Here, we’ll explore them one by one.
Promotes optimum health of the joints to facilitate optimum movement
It doesn’t matter if your dog has joint problems now or is genetically predisposed to the development of such disorders. Studies show that giving glucosamine to dogs can help improve the overall integrity of the joints.
Recalling our discussion on the relationship between glucosamine and the production of glycosaminoglycans, it is readily apparent that this can lead to an increased synthesis of hyaluronic acid. This results to an improvement in the formation of synovial fluid which is the lubricant of the joints. The fluid eliminates friction and allows the two opposing surfaces of cartilage-tipped bones to glide effortlessly on each other. Hyaluronic acid is also important in the production of the various cells that make up the synovial tissues especially those forming the joint capsule. What this simply means is that glucosamine helps build synovial tissues and stabilize the production of the lubricating fluid of the joints. This helps promote optimum movement at the joints.
That’s not all. Since glucosamine also helps in the production of proteoglycans, they can combine with collagen to form cartilage. These tissues are important as they are softer or less dense than bone, helping absorb any vibrations or impact forces that may be generated through the joint capsule. If the cartilage were also made of dense material, the shockwave will reverberate through the entire length of the bone and increase the risk of fractures. It’s a good thing cartilage is porous enough that it serves as shock absorber, limiting vibration and pressure injuries in the bone.
Helps minimize the severity of canine osteoarthritis
In canine osteoarthritis, just like in humans, the integrity of the cartilage is severely compromised. While the dog’s body has the innate ability to repair itself, the continuous application of pressure and vibration through the joint only increases the number of damaged cartilage tissues such that the rate of tissue destruction occurs much faster than the rate of tissue repair.
Glucosamine can help by stimulating the production of the glycosaminoglycan chondroitin. As we have already mentioned, chondroitin is involved in cellular proliferation or the increase in the number of cells, specifically the chondrocytes that make up the cartilage. This helps promote faster tissue repair and healing such that the rate of tissue destruction becomes a lot slower than the rate of tissue repair.
The action of glucosamine on the production of proteoglycans can also help since these molecules can combine with collagen to form cartilage. The more cartilage is formed, the greater is the improvement in the symptoms of canine osteoarthritis.
Do understand that this will not lead to complete reversal of canine osteoarthritis without additional veterinary treatment. Nevertheless, just being able to produce substances that can help boost the reparative processes of the dog’s body should be enough in reducing the severity of the symptoms of the disease.
Helps ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs while improving digestion
One of the lesser known yet equally important benefits of glucosamine in dogs is the improvement of their digestive functioning as well as the reduction of the severity of the symptoms of canine inflammatory bowel diseases.
Glucosamine plays a role in the production of glycosaminoglycans and glycolipids that play significant roles in tissue repair and in the initiation of the immune response, respectively. What this simply translates to is that dogs with ‘leaky gut’ syndrome will experience a reduction in both the incidence and the severity of the associated symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach upset. Glucosamine can assist in the more efficient repair of damaged tissues in the gastrointestinal tract, helping improve digestion and absorption of food and nutrients, while also reducing inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
What are the Best Sources of Glucosamine?
As previously discussed, glucosamine is a naturally-occurring substance found in crustaceans and other organisms. While knowing the best sources of glucosamine is important, of equal importance is knowing just how much glucosamine you need to give to your pooch on a daily basis. The current recommendation is about 500 milligrams of glucosamine for every 25 pounds of your dog’s body weight. The dose is supposed to be given once daily.
So, where will you get glucosamine? Here’s a list of all the foods that are known to be the best sources of glucosamine.
- – Trachea: an ounce of beef trachea can provide your pooch with 1,400 mg of glucosamine
- – Chicken feet – a single piece of chicken feet of average size can contain 400 milligrams of glucosamine
- – Pig tails or oxtails
- – Bones of beef knuckles
- – Shells of shellfish
- – Green lipped mussels
- – Bone broth
Suffice it to say if you are not giving your pooch any of these types of food, then you might want to give your pet supplemental glucosamine instead. There are quite a number of good supplements with high levels of glucosamine. Many also come with additional chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, and MSM in their formulation. Just keep in mind the current glucosamine dose recommendation or better yet, check with your vet.
Glucosamine is a substance that is gaining ground as one of the most beneficial supplements for healthier joints because of its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and tissue reparative properties. Giving your pet glucosamine will definitely bring a lot of good, not only to your pet dog but also to you as its master.
About the Author
Olivia Williams is a mum of 2, dog lover and proud owner of MyPetNeedsThat.com which is a leading resource for the latest animal product reviews and tips on how to care for your pets.