Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

"Half Ass" Hips

by User Not Found | Feb 17, 2013

When I was 23 years old I got my first job as a vet tech.  I also got an adorable, fluffy golden puppy named Gus.  Not too many pet owners can say they actually participated in their own dog’s neuter surgery, but I can.  Poor Gus, another embarrassing story….

I worked with a revolving door of vets, one of which was from the very rural part of Ohio.  He had a clever take on most things and I learned a great deal from him.  When Gus was still groggy from anesthesia, for a learning experience, we snapped a quick picture of his hips…oh that’s my lingo for X-ray.  Dr. B taught me to read the x-ray and showed me all the bones and joints of the hips, pelvis and anything else we happen to catch in the x-ray.  “Now what you got here are some half-ass hips.”  Some what?

As we know, Golden Retrievers are known for their propensity for hip displaysia, but so are all big dogs.  For those of you that have never met Gus, he’s long and lean like a basketball player and a big boy at 85 pounds.  What exactly Dr. B meant, I may never know, but he did advise me to put Gus on Glucosamine and that’s exactly what I did.  Back 10 years ago, there weren’t a lot of options for dog versions of Glucosamine and its usefulness was even less known.  Inquiring minds want to know and are sometimes annoying, I started questioning the dog vs. human versions.  Glucosamine is Glucosamine right?  Right.

Glucosamine is best known and embraced for its ability to help prevent lameness due to osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease).  As our dogs age, ‘wear and tear’ causes the cartilage in joints to break down and deteriorate.  If the cartilage (firm rubbery tissue that cushions bones) goes away, the bones rub together and this causes pain, swelling, and stiffness.  Ligaments and muscles around the joints then become weaker and stiff, man my knees hurt just talking about this!  Cartilage is pretty cool stuff, it can actually replenish itself, but as dogs age or because of things like surgery, bad genetics, injuries, etc cartilage can be used up faster than it’s replaced.  Typically the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl, aspirin, Dermaxx, etc. are the knee-jerk treatment of choice and although these can relieve pain, the also have a high risk of unwanted, serious side-effects, especially with long-term use.  In addition, these drugs do nothing to solve the root cause, the loss of cartilage and joint destruction, so they are really only masking the problem.  In recent years, more and more research has popped up surrounding Glucosamine.  It’s an element (remember that from high school chemistry?), a building block of healthy cartilage, it’s like food and Gatorade and a slip n’ slide for a joint.  Plain and simple, get your dogs on Glucosamine while they are active.  If you wait too long, much of the damage has already occurred.  Joint damage is a vicious cycle, cartilage goes away with wear and tear resulting in inflammation which then results in more cartilage being used up than is being made!  Ahhh!  How do we get ahead??  Give the cartilage some help right?  Enter Glucosamine no matter how old your dog is. 

Ok so what the heck do we buy?  Pet supply and vet offices overflow with options for glucosamine, many claim to enhance the effects of glucosamine.  Vets are recommending one thing, shapes, sizes and colors, dosages, and pricing run a-muck on our brains.  Once I was told not to use the human version of Glucosamine supplements because “we don’t know what’s in those since those supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA”.  Well of course not, it’s the Food and DRUG Administration not the Food and Supplement Administration. The FDA has not evaluated the safety or purity of these or any other supplements.  However, a testing of pet supplements by a consumer friendly company actually showed two pet products to contain not one drop of what was claimed on the label!  My recommendation is to look for something on the label that says “pharmaceutical grade”.  This label tells you that the supplement was processed under good manufacturing practices and these are safe to use in dogs.  If you choose to go with doggy version, that’s ok too.  Products intended for dogs have additional vitamin C, which makes it easier for your dog’s body to absorb and use the glucosamine.  Also, these doggy versions may come in more convenient dosages or may be flavored to make them more interesting.  My advice, no matter what you choose, read labels carefully.  Choose a concentrated high quality supplement, like glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine HCL.  Go with a name you know and look for label claims that are realistic.   

Many times Glucosamine contains other active ingredients like:

Chondroitin: similar to Glucosamine but Glucosamine gets to the joints and works faster and better so this isn’t necessary

MSM:  A coating to help protect the tummy from upset—may not be necessary if you can give Glucosamine with a meal

Sometimes the most expensive products are the ones that are combination products and most good information says you don’t need anything more than the glucosamine.  Choose something reasonably priced and look for sales at drug stores for buy one get one free or even shop for these products at wholesale clubs.  Be wary of dog food companies that claim their food contains Glucosamine.  If they do contain Glucosamine, the amount is small and will not likely be enough to supplement a big dog just from daily feeding…that is unless they eat the whole bag in one sitting. 

Read labels carefully.  Check that “serving size”, is it one or two or even three pills??  I shoot for a brand that will give me about 1000 mg in one pill so I only have to give Gus one a day.  Often times this is the “double strength” labeled bottles, be careful, you don’t want to end up giving 8 pills 2-3 times a day!!  Dogs that are 45-90 pounds should get about 1000 mg per day.  Keep in mind that if you decide to go with a powder or liquid, you may need to adjust your dose because these are absorbed differently than pills or capsules.  Also keep all this in mind when comparing costs, make sure the dosage amount is the same or compare the cost per day, not the cost per tablet.  Trust me, it will make your head spin, but your pup will thank you for it! 

One last thing to keep in mind, glucosamine should not be given to dogs who have trouble with bleeding, dogs who have been diagnosed with diabetes or who are at risk for diabetes.  You should also make sure to tell your vet about any supplements you are giving for a host of reasons.  Drug interactions, risks during surgery and allergic reactions are just a few examples.  Side effects are rare and you can usually help to eliminate them by giving supplements at mealtimes.

Adequate studies about Glucosamine’s benefit in dogs is still lacking, however there is still some evidence that it may be beneficial and more importantly, it appears to be safe.  I’ve been giving Gus (and now my entire pack) human version Glucosamine for years.  At ten he has no problems with mobility and is not on any pain killers or NSAIDs….For now, that’s good enough data for me.



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