Holistic approaches for pets fourth page

Nutritional Supplementation for Pets

by Shawn Messonnier, DVM
Holistic Veterinarian and Director of Paws & Claws Animal Hospital
Article used with permission.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier is the author of The Arthritis Solution for Dogs, The Allergy Solution for Dogs, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats and 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog (Rodale.) Check out Dr. Shawn’s Holistic Pet column each week in your local newspaper, distributed by Knight Ridder News Service.

Nutritional Supplementation for Pets

There is a normal amount of wear and tear on the joint cartilage. The various cells and fluids are constantly being broken down and synthesized. It is important that the cartilage receive proper nutrition, especially when it is damaged and inflamed. Chondroprotective agents seek to replenish the raw materials that are essential for the healing and synthesis of cartilage, its matrix, and joint fluid. There are various products, each supplying different nutritients, that are available to assist in relieving inflammation and helping cartilage to heal when it is damaged. The following ingredients are among those most commonly included in chondroprotective nutritional supplements.

Shark Cartilage

In the laboratory, shark cartilage has been shown to contain chemicals that inhibit blood vessel formation. Because arthritis is an inflammatory condition, and inflammation requires blood vessels, it has been suggested that by inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels, shark cartilage can benefit arthritic pets. In studies in people and in dogs, significant improvement is seen in patients suffering from arthritis. In one study, 80% of dogs showed improvement when treated at a dosage of 750 mg/5 kg of body weight for 3 weeks. The relief from pain and inflammation was theorized to occur as a result of decreased blood vessel formation; improvement may also result from a relief from pain due to the large amount of mucopolysaccharides (GAGS) contained in the shark cartilage, which can help nourish and heal the joint cartilage. The main problem with using shark cartilage to treat arthritis is the large dosage required which is expensive and requires giving a large number of capsules to the pet each day. Environmentalists are concerned about the harvesting of sharks to produce the supplements. Since other supplements work as well if not better than shark cartilage, and are more affordable, most doctors do not use shark cartilage for treating dogs and cats with arthritis.

Bovine Cartilage

In dogs treated with bovine cartilage, good results were seen in the treatment of degenerative disk disease and some spinal disorders. Like shark cartilage, bovine cartilage is high in glycosaminoglycans which can help the body repair damaged joints. The recommended dose of bovine cartilage is 200 mg/25 pounds of body weight.


Perna Canaliculus, the green-lipped mussel, is a shellfish that is a natural source of highly concentrated glycosaminoglycans (GAGS) including chondroitin, as well as a number of other nutrients, including complex proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids, naturally chelated minerals, and an inhibitor of prostaglandin synthesis which makes it effective as an anti-inflammatory supplement. Perna is inexpensive and readily accepted by most dogs; the recommended dosage is 300 mg/15 pounds of body weight.

Sea Cucumber

The sea cucumber (Cucumaria frondosa) also known by the names “trepang” and “beche de mer” are marine animals related to urchins. It is believed that these organisms inhibit harmful prostaglandins involved in causing pain and arthritis. They are also rich in nutrients needed by cartilage including chondroitin and mucopolysaccharides, and several vitamins and minerals. One popular product supplies the sea cucumber in a unique “jerky-type” treat which dogs find quite palatable. Other compounds found in this product include sea kelp, natural vitamin E, lecithin, garlic, omega-3 fatty acids, and glucosamine hydrochloride. Each jerky treat provides 1200 mg of chondroitin. These treats are perfect for the dog or cat who is hard to medicate. The jerky treats can also be used in conjunction with other similar pill supplements, as it is unlikely to overdose a pet on glucosamine or chondroitin. Many owners will give their dogs their recommended amounts of daily pills but will also reward the dog with a jerky treat. For those pets with arthritis I like the idea of giving them a daily treat that is good for them as is the case with this jerky product.

Continue to Glucosamine/Chondroitin Sulfate

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Be sure to visit the Glucosamine Product Guide for a review of commercially available glucosamine products.