Brand Names: Adequan, Chondroprotec

What is Adequan?

The articulating bones are capped by cushions of cartilage to facilitate this frictionless gliding. The integrity of the smooth, somewhat soft cartilage is crucial to normal range of motion and comfort.

dog joint pain

A joint consists of articulating bones, a capsule enclosing the joint, and  lubricating joint fluid to allow low friction movement of the two bones across each other when the joint is flexed.

The majority of the cartilage is made up of a cartilage matrix, which consists of collagen (tough structural fibers) and proteoglycans (the water absorbent molecules).

A proteoglycan’s function is to soak up water, thus creating a plump soft cushion, sort of like a water bed, to absorb the pressure exerted on the joint as it works. 

A proteoglycan molecule looks something like a bottlebrush: it has a long handle (the “proteo” part) and long bristles called glycosaminoglycans (or GAGs) that soak up the water.

Over years, either through injury or poor conformation, cartilage wears down or is damaged and arthritis results. The body must then make more matrix and will require the raw materials to do so.

healthy joint

Polysulfated GAGs may be injected into the body where they will be distributed to any joints currently effecting cartilage repair.

The active ingredient in Adequan® is polysulfated GAG, which is mostly chondroitin sulfate, extracted from cow tissue.

It turns out, however, that polysulfated GAGs represent more than just building materials. They have anti-inflammatory properties of their own that help slow down the actual damage to the cartilage.

They also promote enzyme systems that facilitate other aspects of joint repair beyond simply making more matrix. They help the joint create more lubricating fluid as well.

How this Medication is Used

In treating arthritis in dogs, Adequan injections are given twice a week for 4 weeks for a maximum of eight injections. Injections are given intramuscularly. Dogs, cats, and horses are the usual patients.

There is another more controversial use for this medication and that is in the treatment of feline idiopathic cystitis. But that is another discussion for another time. And it is unclear if this treatment helps. There are other ways to successfully treat feline cystitis. 

Side Effects

In a study of 24 dogs receiving injections, one developed a painful injection site, one developed diarrhea, and one developed a tendency toward increased bleeding (the medication has some similarities with heparin, the blood thinner). All side effects were classified as mild and none required treatment.

Interactions with other Drugs

None known, in fact, it seems to make an excellent combination with other arthritis treatments for pets.

Concerns and Cautions

This medication has not been studied in pregnant or lactating animals.

Because polysulfated GAGs are similar in structure to the anticoagulant heparin, they should not be used in patients with known bleeding disorders. In studies where 25 times the recommended dose was used, bleeding tendencies of serious consequence did occur.

If your dog or cat suppers from arthritis, talk to your veterinarian about Adequan and other medications that may help. 

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