Oral Joint Supplements: Do They Work?

Low bioavailability of oral glucosamine, poor product quality, low recommended doses, and a lack of scientific evidence showing efficacy of popular oral joint supplements are major concerns.
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In 2005, nutraceutical sales reached more than $1 billion for companion animals. That number is expected to double in the next three years. To veterinarians, this is a disturbing trend for an industry that, for the most part, is unregulated by the FDA and has little scientific basis.

Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS, DSc, DrMedVet (hc), Dipl. ACVS, Barbara Cox Anthony Chair and Director of Orthopedic Research at Colorado State University (CSU), expressed his concerns about the limited information on oral joint supplements, particularly chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, at the 2006 AAEP Convention. He said it is unclear how and when to use supplements because many have low bioavailability, poor quality, low recommended doses, and a lack of scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness. He presented this material on the behalf of Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc, and Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, who could not attend the meeting.

Treatment Goals

When faced with joint problems, veterinarians’ treatment goals include controlling clinical signs, minimizing pain, and improving joint mobility. McIlwraith said he would add "prevention of advanced degradation of the articular cartilage" to those goals

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Written by:

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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