Skepticism about Glucosamine for Arthritis in Dogs and Cats is Growing

Ok, maybe not. But still, any sign that folks are questioning this ubiquitous practice is a good thing.

I have written a number of times about the question of whether or not oral glucosamine and chondroitin are useful for arthritis in dogs and cats. Overall, the evidence in humans suggests it is likely no better than a placebo, and the much more limited evidence concerning veterinary uses is no better. Despite this, many veterinarians refuse to acknowledge the lack of support for their assumptions that glucosamine is beneficial. In looking for any skeptical perspectives on this subject, I was only able to find a couple.

A recent short feature in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association posed the clinical question,

Would treatment with a supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin be likely to yield a clinically meaningful improvement in the signs of chronic osteoarthritis in a dog without unacceptable adverse effects, either as an alternative or adjunct to NSAID treatment?

The answer, based on a brief review of the limited available literature was,

there was insufficient evidence to support a recommendation of glucosamine and chondroitin as an alternative to NSAID medication for treatment of clinical signs attributed to osteoarthritis in dogs…No literature addressing the possible use of a glucosamine-chondroitin product as an adjunct to NSAID treatment was identified.

A popular veterinary blog has also commented on recent studies in humans showing oral glucosamine to be no better than placebo for arthritis. The author expresses succinctly my own feelings on the subject:

I wish oral glucosamine worked. I want it to work. But I want many things that I cannot have. Effective arthritis treatment with oral glucosamine evidently is one of them.

Interestingly, the only other critical comments on veterinary glucosamine use I found was from a decidedly unscientific perspective. A proponent of BARF diets (which, as I’ve discussed previously, is even less rational a practice than using glucosamine) turns the unscientific and evidence-free arguments for raw diets against glucosamine supplements, He claims that,

glucosamine for dogs cannot work for any canine on a commercial dog food diet when the cocktail of chemicals they are comprised of routinely strip bones and joints of much needed nutrients…Only dogs on a diet of raw meat and bone have the proper balance of nutrients to ensure good bone and joint health throughout life.

Not exactly a position I can endorse, even if it sounds on the surface like it leads to the same conclusion on joint supplements. Glucosamine may not have significant proven benefits, but the risks are also apparently negligible. While the evidence does not suggest raw diets are beneficial, the evidence of potential harm is certainly greater than that for glucosamine, although still apparently quite small.

Obviously, the majority of veterinarians and pet owners are still more influenced by personal experiences and anecdotes that suggest glucosamine is beneficial than by the solid research data that shows it is not. Hopefully, the presence of at least a few skeptical voices will motivate more people to question the hype surrounding this supplement and to look closely  at the evidence.

If anyone finds any additional skeptical points of view on this subject, please let me know!

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95 Responses to Skepticism about Glucosamine for Arthritis in Dogs and Cats is Growing

  1. ellen says:

    skeptvet, for the treatment of osteoarthritis in people, isn’t the best evidence for glucosamine *sulfate* (not glucosamine hydrochloride), particularly a product called DONA (Rotta Pharmaceuticals, Italy)?

  2. skeptvet says:

    The issue of whether this glucosamine preparation is more effective than others has been discussed by R. Barker Bausell in his book Snake Oil Science, as well as on the Science-Based Medicine blog. Here is what Dr. Hall at SBM says about it:

    It has been suggested that the Dona brand of glucosamine sulfate produced by the Rotta company showed positive results and that negative studies were done on other brands. But Bausell points out that trials involving the Dona brand were primarily older trials in non-English speaking countries where the percentage of positive studies tends to be higher. Those trials were superseded by better quality trials in the US, Canada, and the UK that were all negative.

    I don’t have any additional information about the issue.

  3. ellen says:

    thank you for the links, skeptvet. i have some research and reading to do!

  4. Dan Scottn says:

    Hi, First off I’m not a proponent of BARF-too complicated, unecessary procedures and un-balanced.
    Second-the science label is thread bare and left wanting when it comes to canine nutrition. Commercial dog food is the case of the century in point, a nutrition disaster of the highest order.
    My arguments are based on practice and outcome. I fix dogs that have suffered from commercial dog food related diseases with plenty of cases in hand.
    Having been around natural canine nutritional practices for 40 years+ I know what a dog needs to eat for excellent health and its not a science based formular in a packet.
    As I said “Only dogs on a diet of raw meat and bone have the proper balance of nutrients to ensure good bone and joint health throughout life”.
    Popping pills to treat symptoms is too late regardless of the efficacy and reductionist science will not seek to understand a holistic approach… one that is as simple as using food as medicine for immune system strength and disease prevention.
    It’s not about science, it’s about results that speak for themselves.

  5. skeptvet says:

    What results? If you think 40 years+ of personal experience is as good as or better than controlled scientific research, then you’re mistaken. And if it’s all about anecdotes, I could easily point to thousands of dogs living long, healthy lives on the foods you claim are so terrible. A debate based solely on personal experience and opinion is one in which nothing is proven or learned. You think commercial dog foos have caused disease in the patients you claim to fix, but without scientific evidence to support that it’s just a story, and anybody can tell any story they want. I’ve never seen a dog wearing a blue collar with IMHA, so blue must protect against this disease. That’s how medicine used to work, and why it was so stunningly ineffective for most of human history. Sorry, it is about science!

  6. Dan Scottn says:

    The science is in the food, we do not have to have “controlled scientific research” we just have to feed our pets natural food ie not out of a can or packet…. no understanding necessary beyond the fact that it works otherwise nature would not have created it that way over millions of years. A canine carnivore needs canine carnivore specific food not kibble!

    You go play controlled scientific games and I’ll keeping fixing up the mess you and your reductionist collegues perpetrate on dogs for the sake of control and profit.

    I never expected to convince you of anything-you are not open and your arguments hide behind scientific convention as you demonstrate.

    Way too many of those long lived dogs on commercial food lead misserable lives for so many years before death with the attendant high veterinary costs… but I guess thats the idea and no I dont expect you to understand this.

    Here we have a classic case of science getting in the way when nature does the job, but wheres the profit in that.

    Now as by way of totally un-scientific reasoning. A 10 year old dog has bad joint movement as arthritis has set in after years of commercial dog food additives strip-mining its collagen the vital tough elastic fibre that keeps joints reinforced. Now because the dog is missing out on high quality biological protein from fresh meats, bones and organs and instead is ingesting heat processed grain based commercial food which blocks the intestine wall from absorbing vital nutrients, collagen depletion sets in and the skeletal support system is compromised.
    No rocket science necassary it’s just what happens as a result of bad diet. What is interesting is the multi million dollar industry that has sprung up to profit from this unfortunate situation, drugs, prescription diets et all.
    At the end of the day, good diet supporting a strong immune system is all thats necessary-no scientists need apply.

  7. skeptvet says:

    The notion that you don’t need scientific research because your guesses and theories about what is “natural” and what is best for our pets demonstrates the depths of both you arrogance and your ignorance. It was natural for nearly half of human children to die before reaching adulthood and the rest to be lucky to live 40 years, and we lived miserable but natural lives for thousands of years until we discovered how to “play scientific games.” The we made death in childhood or childbirth nearly unheard of and double the average life expectancy in only a couple hundred years. Of course, this only happens for those living in countries with the economic and political ability to play scientific games. Everybody else lives more “naturally” and expects to lose half of their children to malnutrition, disease, and trauma.

    The irony of you sticking to your completely made up theories and guesses without any real evidence and then accusing skeptics of not being open-minded is undoubtedly lost on you, but it is rich. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad that you fool well-meaning pet owners into thinking you know what you are talking about.

  8. Dan Scott says:

    For those who do, no explanation is needed, for? those who don’t no explanation is possible.

  9. skeptvet says:

    Meaningless gibberish to justify making stuff up.

  10. BB says:

    I agree with Skepvet about the commercial dog foods. So many people out there think they’re experts on pet nutrition nowadays. My two mastiffs lived to rip old ages, and they were on Purina One. My cats were also fed Purina. So far one lived to 20 and another is 18. My vet fed his cat Science Diet, and it lived to 23.

    To say online that you feed your pet either of these foods will result in a flame war.

    I didn’t come here about that though. I came here, because I’m skeptical about glucosamine and other joint supplements for pets and was looking for information. My 6-month old Saint Bernard puppy was limping yesterday, and a majority of my friends, including the breeder, told me to put her on Ester-c and glucosamine. I’ve been there, done that, with my English mastiff who suffered from elbow and hip dysplasia, and spondylosis. I had her on a strong dose of glucosamine for most of her life, and I don’t believe it did anything for her. The only thing that helped her elbows was surgery when she was young. Aspirin also helped her a lot early in the disease. Later, the pain was so severe that we put her on Tramadol and Rimadyl–it was that or put her to sleep. The medication gave her an extra year. She passed away from other causes at 10-years old.

    I recall reading a recent study that showed that glucosamine was no better than a placebo–yet people, and even some vets, still recommend it.

  11. Art says:

    I recall reading a recent study that showed that glucosamine was no better than a placebo–yet people, and even some vets, still recommend it.>>>>
    I sold it. The sales pitch that got me selling it was a German study with before and after dog xrays. You could see the arthritis go away on the X-rays with treatment. The bogus study done by those selling the stuff could not be repeated. Usually the first study in medicine showing a positive result is false. The government has spent millions of dollars trying to see if glucosamine works with negative results. So not only does the taxpayer waste millions or billions of dollars buying the drug for themselves and their pets but additional waste of taxpayer money was spent to see if it works. Glucosamine easy to sell but telling a client they wasted their money buying it from me when they came in to buy more was not easy for me.

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  13. Emily says:

    Thank you…enjoying your website. I have a Ph.D. in biology, and therefore have a ‘thing’ for evidence and ‘playing scientific games’. I’ve been lucky to find veterinarians who are like-minded, but even my current, wonderful vet blew it on this one. She tends to recommend glucosamine for adult large-breed dogs, under the premise that it can’t hurt. She typically doesn’t get wrapped up in fads…

    I found no peer-reviewed article suggesting that this would be a useful preventative or therapeutic agent. I will not be giving my dog this supplement. I have fed her good-quality food her entire life and kept her nice and lean, lots of exercise, appropriate check-ups, etc… I suspect she will fare just fine without glucosamine.

    And Art, I really appreciate your perspective. It must be a little disappointing to get into an industry and then find it’s based on snake-oil sales. Thank you for your honesty.

  14. Art Malernee Dvm says:

    Emily, the FDA was created and soon made doctor treatment outcomes better. The DSHEA education act of 1994 was created and soon made doctor treatment outcomes worse. Essentially, the supplement industry and sympathetic lawmakers created this law to pretend to regulate herbal remedies and other dietary supplements while effectively stripping the FDA of the ability to control the sale of these products for the prevention or treatment of disease. Even if a veterinarian or human doctor is able to resist selling or advising this arthritis quackery think of all the time and money wasted trying to get the client patient or doctor not to use it.

  15. BB says:

    Art, don’t be too hard on yourself. You were recommending something you believed would help, and your honesty with your clients is commendable. Unfortunately, most people won’t admit their mistakes.

    Does anyone here have an opinion about Dasuquin with MSM or know of any studies about its effectiveness? This seems to be the supplement that everyone is pushing now.

    In November, I’d posted about my 6 month old Saint Bernard puppy limping. Well, she was just diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia and will eventually need hip replacements in each hip at the cost of about $10,000. Needless to say, my family and I are absolutely devastated about this news. Coming up with that kind of money will pose a great hardship on us, but we’re going to do it. Everyone is telling us to give her Dasuquin with MSM. It’s very expensive, and I’m skeptical about whether it will do anything–other than drain our bank account. It seems to have become the new glucosamine.

  16. Ian says:

    Thanks for this blog post. I took my 9 year old, 100 pound retriever/chow mix to the groomer this morning. Yeah, he’s getting a bit older. His eye sight is less acute and his hind quarters are starting to look a little wobbly at times. The groomer suggested a glucosamine supplement. I told her I’d look into it and possibly buy some when I pick him up. In reality, I figured less than a minute spent with a Google search would only confirm what I already suspected from my knowledge of these supplements in humans (oops, I’m admitting to confirmation bias here).

    Now the question is, do I want to risk a multi-year relationship with a local, neighborhood business by printing this out and telling her she’s selling (with good intention, no doubt) the canine equivalent of snake oil?

  17. skeptvet says:

    Always a tough call. I’m all for educating people and promoting skepticism, but doing it in a way that is respectful, substantive and supportive of maintaining good personal relationships is a never-ending challenge. Good luck!

  18. s says:

    I am flipping through websites today looking for info on glucosamine for cats and have come across this site. Thanks to all for your comments. I will add mine.

    I had a dog for ten years, She weighed sixty-three pounds. Over a period of several months, she displayed increased difficulty descending stairs, and eventually waited at the top of them, unable to walk down. I would have to pick her up and carry her down.

    Our vet recommended glucosamine pills be taken daily.

    I am of a scientific mind, but I also have enough confidence to try out suggestions by those whom I trust, based on their personal/business experiences.

    In this situation with my dog, the glucosamine worked well, and very quickly. My dog received daily flavored pills that she eagerly digested. I no longer saw hesitation to walk down stairs. This continued until her death a couple of years later.

    My dog was quite clever, but I discount her ability to be physically influenced by a placebo effect from taking the daily pill. For us, it worked.

    As I said, I am now looking for comments by others so as to assist in my decision of whether to follow a similar path with my cat.

    Without scientific testing, there is no proof that this works. But the lack of scientific testing does not mean that it does not work. Best of luck to everyone with your individual decisions.

  19. skeptvet says:

    The problem with glucosamien is not a lack of scientific testing, but the fact that such testing generally shows it doesn’t work. The data is robust in humans. There is a lot less data in animals, but the best research available shows no benefit. Against this you cna, of course, stack your individual experience, but since similar anecdotes exist for every therapy ever used, relying on anecdote effectively means we can never decide any therapy doesn’t work.

    As for the placebo effect, what I wouldn’t discount is your own ability to be affected by it on your dog’s behalf, since such caregiver placebo effects are seen consistently in veterinary research.

  20. v.t. says:

    S,

    Please talk to your vet about other options, for example, adequan – discuss overall health, age etc of your kitty, and blood work parameters before opting for adequan. I believe it is off-label use in cats but reports seem favorable in a large number of cats. It will require an initial course of injections, but after the initial course, it is on an “as needed” basis. I think an option such as this would at least offer far more benefit than glucosamine, something worth discussion with your vet.

  21. Jesse says:

    My ten yo Airedale is on Adequan and she is so frisky and active. She has arthritis and limps occasionally when she runs too much. Now I wonder, should I put my one yo GSD who has mild dysplasia on Adequan or should I use Dasequin which my vet recommended?

  22. Manyu says:

    My dog Rasta developed a limp in his left rear knee about a year ago. My vet advised me to put him on glucosamine and that has worked wonders. It took a month or so, but he seems much better now. Not as much pain anymore and not stiff like he used to be.

    So, while I dont think this is a cure, it definitely helps treat him and give much need pain relief.

  23. skeptvet says:

    Or, he got better with time despite the glucosamine. The body heals itself much of the time, which fools us into thinking what we did made the difference.

  24. v.t. says:

    Jesse, adequan should be based on the individual, assuming a full evaluation has been done for your GSD, and depending on progression I suppose, ask your vet which of the two treatments might offer the better long-term results (per your dog’s age, activity level, progression of disease, pain levels, etc). If your dog happened to be overweight, for example, a weight-loss protocol would be helpful and put much less stress and pressure on the hips and joints, possibly in conjunction with using one of the two mentioned treatments. Mine is just an opinion however, ultimately your vet has to advise you.

  25. Catherine says:

    Six weeks ago I started my 6 year old collie on Cosequin DS because he was limping on his left front leg whenever he got up from lying down, but was fine after several seconds of walking around. This had been going on for some time. I took him to the vet and she did a thorough exam, including x-rays and blood work. She said that she thought he had mild arthritis in his left elbow, although I don’t think anything “arthritic” actually showed up on the x-ray. (Although, his left elbow felt slightly thicker than his right when she was palpating him!)

    Now, six weeks later, the dog is fine. No symptoms, and I’m just starting him today on the “maintenance” dose.

    Did the Cosequin DS help him? I don’t know, really. It would appear that way, but I’m not so sure I truly believed the “arthritis” diagnosis in the first place, because not too long BEFORE his symptoms appeared, I SAW him injure that left front leg. He was running at full speed and made an abrupt, pounding stop at the fence line. I SAW him hold up and limp on THAT leg for about 10 minutes and then it was gone. So, I thought he was fine, but was he?

    Along with the Cosequin DS, I also kept him on leash only, to go out and do his “business,” and then back in the house. When I did start exercising him again, it was leash walks only. No running, no fetching, no nothing, but leash walks only.

    It could be that his running injury healed with time and management and that the Cosequin DS had nothing to do with it. I don’t know. I’m going to finish the bottle of Cosequin DS that I bought, because it’s all paid for, but once that’s gone, I really don’t know if I should buy another bottle or not. I just don’t know.

    Skeptvet- if he were your dog, what would you do? I trust your judgment.

  26. skeptvet says:

    You’ve hit on the key problem with deciding how to treat our pets- The way things appear to us is quite frequently not how thye really are.

    Cosequin is almost certainly harmless, though it is not cheap. There’s likely little risk ion continuing it, but again the research literature suggests pretty strongly that it doesn’t do anything.

    For my own pet, I would probably keep as strict a daily log of symptoms as possible as well as noting all the things you are doing-meds, exercise restriction, Cosequin, etc. Then, if you choose to change something (discontinue the Cosequin, increase exercise), you’ll have at least somewhat of a record of how things were to compare with how they are afterwards. Myself, I would probably discontinue the Cosequin and see what happens. I did that for myself with a drug I was taking that I thought might be causing symptoms. I stopped and resumed the drug in 2 week blocks three times before it become fairly clear it wasn’t consistently associated with the symptoms I was worried about. But often, it can be really hard to tell!

    Good luck.

  27. Amberlynn Partridge says:

    While the research does not seem to support glucosamine efficacy in dogs or people, i have personally noticed my dog seems to do better on it. A vet told me to give it to her years ago, so i was spending a small fortune on the highest grade supplement i could find. Then i read the research regarding glucosamine, so i cut the supplements from her diet. Within a few days, my dog was limping up the stairs. I took her to the vet who did a full work up and confirmed there was no trauma, just the arthritis. As it was the only supplement i cut out, i decided to try adding it again. After two weeks, she was navigating the stairs better. I am not arguing with the research, I have read the scientific papers and they are sound studies. My dog gets the highest quality everything. Most of her meals are homemade and balanced, she is active and we take long walks daily. Since it doesn’t seem to hurt anything but my pocket book, and my dog is my little girl and she seems to do better on it, I’ll keep giving it to her. Thanks for the article! Hopefully, they can find something that actually helps our furry friends.

  28. bilchil says:

    My dog just had TPLO surgery today…and the doctor is recommending glucosamine (Glycoflex specifically). I was initially suspicious, as this has been suggested to me many times for my own joints by my non-scientific friends (who have vaults of vitamin and supplement pill bottles), and I’ve never found a shred of supporting evidence for its efficacy. And now I’ve come across this particular discussion. I was just about to close the book on this (i.e., NOT buy the gluco), but I thought I should have a quick look for articles on glucosamine in the google scholar search engine. I’m very surprised to find the vast majority of articles supporting the use of this stuff…some are focused on analyzing the chemical and/or physiological basis, but several are double-blind clinical trials. I’m not saying all researchers are in agreement…indeed, that’s the problem…the science clearly seems to be inconclusive. I’d love to hear a convincing rebuttal…I’m VERY prone to not buying this stuff!

  29. skeptvet says:

    The key to evaluating any therapy is to 1) look at the preponderance of the literature and 2) give greatest weight to the highest level/quality of evidence. There are hundreds of studies of glucosamine from the pre-clinical to in vitro to clinical trial levels, and as is alwyas the case with virtually every therapy, some will show positive results, or at least be itnerpreted that way in the discussion and abstract, even if the data does not really support the authors’ conclusions.

    We must also beware of the Decline Effect in which early trials appear to show a large treatment effect, and subsequent trials show less and less of an effect until the real effect is reached, even if that is no effect at all. This is a normal part of the scientific process, in which replication by investigators with different biases and better controls for error lead to a more reliable result. However, this means it is always possible to find positive studies for any intervention, whether it works or not.

    The best evidence in humans consists of systematic reviews and large-scale well-controlled clinical trials. For glucosamine, the systematic review evidence doesn’t support much if any benefit (see the latest Cochrane Review, for example). The best clinical trial evidence is the GAIT trial, an enormous trial lasting years, which found no benefit in the intended measure, though the authors did manage to find a marginal effect when doing post-hoc subgroup analysis, which is a little bit of statistical sleight of hand.

    In dogs, there are only two trials, which I have reviewed. One found no benefit, the other found a marginal benefit far less than that seen for the positive control (an NSAID).

    So while the evidence is voluminous and not uniform in one direction, the best interpretation of it so far is that there is either no benefit or a marginal benefit of little clinical significance. Since glucosamine is pretty cheap and safe, there is no hughe risk in using it, but it is very likely a waste of time and money.

    Good luck!

  30. PanchoT says:

    I started my dog on a glucosamine mixture with various other ingredients on the vet’s recommendation. Joint stiffness and indications of pain (sudden yelps when changing position in her bed) decreased gradually over a period of a month or so. The yelps have now gone entirely and stiffness is still there, but markedly reduced.

    The proof of the pudding came for me when she had a severe intestinal upset and I took her off food entirely for a few days and started feeding her again on a diet of mainly rice, progressively mixed with her normal feed. All this time I gave her no supplements of any kind just to be on the safe side. During that period I saw a gradual deterioration in her joint stiffness that was reversed when I started adding the supplement again.

    Now, I know this is anecdotal. However, it is an element in a data-set relating to 1 dog in 1 case and you can’t extrapolate from a single datum point, as we’ve all learned in school. But good science also involves looking at contradictory evidence, when there is sufficient of it and the data as such are sufficiently reliable, even when such data contradict the generally accepted theory.

    I’m a physicist and the most interesting events in my career have been when I looked at something and thought: “This can’t be true.” That is how the boundaries of science get pushed further.

    Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be taking my dog off her supplement just yet.

  31. skeptvet says:

    The issue, of course, is always what does one do with such anecdotes when they contradict the controlled research. One should, of course, be open to new data. But if you have a large, well-controlled clinical trial that says one thing and a number of anecdotes that say another, which do you trust more? History suggests you’re better off trusting the evidence that is less subject to bias and error, which would be the scientific research. As I’ve said before, of course, there’s little risk to using glucosamine, so continuing it isn’t likely to create any problems so long as it doesn’t create the false impression of improvement where there isn’t any, which often happens with placebo therapies. Still, our brains are wired to prefer anecdotes even though we know they exist in support of absolutely everything and aren’t really reliable, so this creates a challenging conflict.

  32. PanchoT says:

    “History suggests you’re better off trusting the evidence that is less subject to bias and error, which would be the scientific research.”

    Yes, of course. But indications of contradictory evidence should always be grounds for doubt. Remember that in science theory is only valid until the next experiment.

  33. skeptvet says:

    Of course. Science is based quite specifically on contradiction, on invalidation of hypotheses. Negative evidence is generally more reliable and probative for a variety of reasons. In the case of glucosamine, the hypothesis is that it is helpful for arthritis, and the “contradictory evidence” is the research suggesting it is not. Once that is established through high-level evidence (clinical trials, systematic reviews), anecdotes don’t provide a very compelling reason to re-examine the issue.

  34. Peter Colley says:

    “In dogs, there are only two trials, which I have reviewed. One found no benefit, the other found a marginal benefit far less than that seen for the positive control (an NSAID).

    Please give us the references for the 2 studies.

    Why is there such a lack of studies in dogs? The vet schools seem likely sources of good studies but I don’t see them doing that.

  35. skeptvet says:

    Moreau M1, Dupuis J, Bonneau NH, Desnoyers M.Clinical evaluation of a nutraceutical, carprofen and meloxicam for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. Vet Rec. 2003 Mar 15;152(11):323-9.

    McCarthy G1, O’Donovan J, Jones B, McAllister H, Seed M, Mooney C. Randomised double-blind, positive-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis.Vet J. 2007 Jul;174(1):54-61. Epub 2006 May 2.

    I have discussed the evidence in detail in several articles.

    The lack of evidence concerning many common therapies is primarily due to economic factors. There is far less money for companion animal research than for human health research, and very, very little support for research outside of industry. The universities focus on “cutting edge” research to find new therapies or the causes of poorly understood diseases, not on replication of existing studies or answering many basic, practical clinical questions. There are efforts through non-profit organizations to improve this situation, but it will always be a challenge for our profession

  36. Dick Schneiders says:

    You’re wrong! My old cat could barely jump up onto a sofa and was very sensitive to being touched on her hindquarters, until after several days of glucosamine supplements. Since then she is jumping and playing as she did years ago, and does not nip at us when we pet her on the rear. Although the cat does understand some English, she has not learned yet to read, so I doubt she has been influenced by any of the printed hype touting the benefits of these supplements.

  37. skeptvet says:

    I doubt your cat has been influenced, but I don’t doubt you have. The caregiver placebo effect is well demonstrated. Of course, no amount of actual scientific evidence can ever counter the impact of one personal anecdote, so sadly people continue to believe placebos are more than they are.

  38. Pingback: Old Dog, New Tricks? How to Care for an Aging Pet by Pet Care 360 | Pet Care 360

  39. Brent says:

    I understand the placebo effect un humans, but what exactly is the “caregiver placebo effect”?

  40. skeptvet says:

    Several studies have shown that when owners or veterinarians believe an animal is receiving a treatment, then evaluate them differently in a way that makes it seem the treatment is working even if it’s only a placebo. Since our pets cannot speak for themselves, it is we who determine if they are better or not following a treatment. And about half the time, we say they are when they are not actually getting anything but a placebo. It is a reminder that just because someone says, “I used Therapy X and my dogs was noticeably better right away” doesn’t mean that therapy actually works.

  41. Lan says:

    My nearly 8 year-old dog has been limping and favoring one of his hind legs. Several years ago, he had surgery on the other hind leg for a torn ACL. It was not a pleasant experience and he was in a lot of discomfort (even having his skin rubbed raw and oozy from his bandage). In addition, he’s highly sensitive to medications and developed reactions to the pain meds. I vowed I would not put him through it again, even as our vet was explaining the high probability of his other leg sustaining an ACL tear within a year.

    I found a website strongly encouraging surgery be a last resort and suggesting a period of 8 weeks minimum of restricted activity to give the ligament a chance to heal on its own. This site claims that most small dogs (mine is 16 pounds) can heal without surgery and that it will always be there as an option. And this same site advocates giving glucosamine and chondroitin daily for the life of the dog.

    I’m glad to have found your site because for my dogs, less is better as far as any meds and supplements. If there is a natural way, ie food, to help their joints, that is my preferred method.

    I’ve read about the BARF diet, the arguments against any commercial dog foods, especially those containing grains, and I do understand where the proponents are coming from. It does seem dogs are not living as long as they could/should and the incidences of canine cancers, obesity and other disorders seem to be on the rise. I say seem as I don’t know specific numbers. And the person above who said his mastiff lived to a “ripe old age” of 10…well, that doesn’t sound like a long life, even for a large dog. I know, the BARF diet advocates claim that all dogs used to live longer, before the prevalence of commercial dog food. I don’t know if this is true. But I do agree with Dan Scott that reaching a certain age does not necessarily mean the quality of life is good. That’s what happened with my previous dogs…they each lived to 15 but the quality of the last two to three years of their lives was very poor.

    My own regimen is what I feel comfortable with and is based on my own research and common sense. My dogs’ diet consists of a kibble base-the best quality I can find-and I supplement with raw (like Stella and Chewy’s ), canned (used as a topping), and occasionally “people-food” in the form of hamburger, eggs, wild salmon, yogurt (from grass-fed cows) and anything else they like and that I think is good for them. They were plagued by digestive issues early in life, when all they got was kibble (it turned out to be a food allergy..but our vet kept prescribing metronidiazole. Fortunately, we saw his colleague during one visit and she suggested changing food. Duh!). They don’t suffer from them anymore, they’re thriving and seem to love the variety. And I’m doing the best I can to give them the best chance of living the healthiest, happiest and longest life possible.

    I’m only a layman but I do think and wish conventional veterinary medicine would incorporate more of a natural approach and that vets wouldn’t reach for the prescription pad as often. I know you’re all about science but I think common sense counts for something too. Like when a vet tells you there’s no harm in giving a 5 pound chihuahua the same dose of vaccine that is given to a 100 pound dog. And yes, he tells you, there is something called vaccine-induced sarcoma that is more prevalent in small dogs, but not to worry…he’s the “expert.”

  42. Patrick says:

    I find comparing domestic dogs(DD) to wolves interesting. DDs have been with humans for over 15,000 years. Do you think in that time their diets would have evolved closer to ours. I think feeding a DD a wolf diet makes as much sense as us eating a cave man diet. What is also interesting is looking at the increases in human and pet obesity rates and low fat high carbohydrate diets( since the 70’s). Then look at the amount of corn and crap that does into many cheaper pet foods and all the sugar and crap that goes into our foods. It seems that our pets are a reflection of us.

  43. skeptvet says:

    The only question here is whether pet obesity has truly increased. Unlike humans, no one is collecting data on trends in pet weight over time. Obesity is a huge health problem for our pets, but it’s not clear that it is a recent problem the way it is for humans. And, of course, feeding practices before commercial canned and dry diets tended to be table scraps and trash for dogs, and even if dogs were skinnier then, they weren’t necessarily healthier. My own experience suggests that our pets live much longer than they did even a few decades ago, but there isn’t reliable data on that.

    Also, “corn and crap” is simply not an accurate characterization of commercial pet foods. Unlike what are typically called “processed foods” for humans, which are nutritionally empty clumps of sugar, salt, and fat, commercial dog kibbles are nutritionally balanced with great care and based on real scientific data, so equating the two is a mistake.

    So I agree that basing diet recommendations on the idea that dogs should eat like wild carnivores and humans should eat like cavemen is ridiculous, since wild carnivores and cavemen generally aren’t as healthy or long-lived as dogs and humans today. However, we still have to apply science to evaluating our alternative recommendations.

  44. simba says:

    LAN- dogs are getting steadily more inbred, which is what happens in a closed gene pool. My parents, and grandparents, have pictures of their dogs- most of them are not just mixed, they’re no breed at all, clearly mutts for several generations. Even the mixed breed dogs now are mixes of one limited gene pool with another.

    When you look at some of these pedigrees on ordinary dogs they look like the Hapsburgs. Any wonder we’re seeing an increase in diseases like cancer and a decrease in overall vitality?

  45. Heather says:

    Thanks – you have just saved me over £100! I have a large mastiff who has been on glucosamine for two or three years now and I was checking out sites for the best price on the next batch of 300 tablets and I found this one. I am struggling financially and would rather spend a bit of money buying my dog better quality food than wasting it on useless tablets (recommended by the vet, of course).
    The stuff about the placebo effect of carers was really intersting and I had not heard of this before. Usually such effects are completely discounted in relation to animals.

  46. Bill S says:

    I don’t believe the studies. For humans or pets. My knees are a lot better when I take it.

  47. skeptvet says:

    Not an unusual attitude, and the reason so many useless, or even harmful therapies have persisted sometimes for centuries in history. Here’s It’s the same reason so many parents refuse vaccines for fear of autism despite the overwhelming evidence this is not a real risk. It’s understandable that our personal experiences are so compelling, but it’s clear that ignoring science in favor of how things seem to be causes real harm.

    I bled my eldest daughter when she was but six weeks old…and I bled one of my sons twice, before he was two months old, for an acute fever…In both cases, life appeared to be saved by this remedy. I could mention many more instances in which it has snatched from the grave children under three and four months old by being used from three to five times in the ordinary course of their acute disease.
    Benjamin Rush
    A Defense of Bloodletting, 1815

    My child fell into autism directly after his 12 month MMR…He was developing perfectly until his 12 month MMR…I’m very worried that parents who are in the same place I was back in 1998 won’t be able to accept the entire unbelievable truth, and I would hate to know a parent chose to vaccinate a child…When our beliefs about the perceived benefits and risks of the nature of our medicine and science fail us, as so often they do, from the Earth not being the center of the universe to ignoring global warming, we can’t run around shooting the messengers.

  48. stan francis says:

    My dog is now 11 years, rough collie male and weighs 39kilos, so first off he’s on a DIET..why is because he’s wobbling on his back legs!
    I want to do something else to assist him but don’t want stuff from the vets that will attack his internal organs..I have never returned from vets without paying for some potion or other meaning a vet has to earn their living, but 100% trust -NEVER!
    2 DAYS AGO I put Toby on 4 tablets of VetVits Flexi joints per day.
    I have always fed my dogs freshly cooked meat and fish and vegetables with treats that also contain various vitamins, well looked after!
    He’s now down to 3 walks a day each walk is 500 yards(I paced it out), any more and he drops to the floor, so the distance is important to him walking back or me carrying him or waiting for him to be ready to walk again.
    VetVits say wait 4-6weeks to see ‘any’ effect, this I shall do and with a definite distance in his walk and can start to extend it slightly and see if he drops to the floor.
    I will return to this web site in 2 months time to update anyone that’s cares about their dog as much as I do…Yes a vet can give me something to get him walking better but will it in long term create his SHORT TERM LIFE?

  49. Bill says:

    My dog Lily seemed to get better after taking a glucosamine supplement. I say “seemed” after reading this article. It could have been she got better with time instead of the supplement. I really do think more research is needed on this topic.

  50. Pingback: What Is The Best Glucosamine For My Dog | glucosamine for dogs

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