Monday, October 1, 2012

Supplements for Joint Support and Health in Dogs and Cats By Karen Choptain DVM For WCVM 4th Year Small Animal Nutrition Elective

The Use of Nutraceuticals and Dietary Supplements for
Joint Support and Health in Cats and Dogs

Presented to: Dr. Meg Smart, Small Animal Nutrition Elective
By: Karen Choptain

The use of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements, either in manufactured pet foods or as adjuncts to diet, are not necessarily new to the domestic animal world. There have, however, been more recent use of advertisements and promotions of diets and supplements being sold that tout the benefit of such products to aid in the area of joint health and stabilization.  These products have become quite popular with the public, as they allow for adjunctive therapy or alternative therapy in cats and dogs that suffer from osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease (DJD) (1).
What is a nutraceutical?  A nutraceutical, as defined by the North American Veterinary Nutraceutical Council, is “a nondrug substance that is produced in a purified or extracted form, administered orally, to provide compounds required for normal body structure and function with the intent of improving health and well-being” (1,2). More specifically, a nutraceutical used in the aspect of joint support can be referred to as a chondroprotectant.  This term has been applied to substances such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, combination products of the two, New Zealand green-lipped mussels (GLM), omega-3 fatty acids, anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E and other dietary compounds such as P54FP, Avocado/soybean oils, Boron, Boswellia Resin, Cat’s Claw, Creatine, and Special milk protein concentrate (3).  Chondroprotectant agents base their purpose on providing the following three primary effects: 1) to support or enhance metabolism of chondrocytes and synoviocytes, 2) inhibit degradative enzymes within synovial fluid and cartilage matrix, and 3) inhibit formation of thrombi in small blood vessels supplying the joint (1).
In humans, the use of dietary supplements is regulated under the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (1). This is in order to allow consumers the opportunity to purchase a variety of products that are marketed for joint health and support.  The products themselves must be safe; however, they do not have to achieve pre market approval, in contrast to pharmaceuticals or “drugs”.  The aforementioned act does not apply to dietary supplements in the veterinary market. While the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association withholds the right to remove products from the market, providing the product is safe and does not pose a threat to human safety it may be sold (1). The product also may not advertise claims such as being used to treat, cure, prevent or mitigate a disease (1).
In addition, label claims and quality control of these products has been documented (1, 4, 5). Due to the lack of quality assurance, the consumer cannot be guaranteed that the product itself is of the concentration listed on the label or of its purity (1).  A large variety of products are available to consumers.  Despite the number of products, there is a drastic lack of scientific evidence that promotes any of these products over the other.  This paper serves to provide some clarity to the commercial foods and supplements that are available to consumers and critically evaluate their efficacy for the use of joint support and health in cats and dogs.