Adequan: A Near-Miracle for Dogs with Arthritis
By Christie Keith

Is your dog slowing down as he gets older? Does she hesitate before jumping in the car, on the bed, or going up the stairs? Is he dragging himself up from a reclining position with his shoulders instead of springing up with his hindquarters?

If so, your vet might have diagnosed your dog with osteoarthritis, the same condition that afflicts millions of American humans, too. And your vet probably suggested the same remedy that you see pushed on dozens of TV ads nightly: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, from over-the-counter medications like Advil to prescription drugs like Vioxx or Celebrex.

The canine version of these prescription drugs are known as Rimadyl, Etogesic, Metacam, and Deramaxx. Like all NSAIDs, including the human ones, they have a long list of potential side effects, include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, kidney and liver damage, and even death.

Of course, side effects don’t affect every animal who takes the drugs, and many pet owners are so thrilled to see their stiff, painful dog become active and limber again that they’re willing to take the risk. I gave my old dog Lillie Rimadyl towards the end of her life, and I’m not saying that decision is always wrong. But there is an option that many vets and dog owners seem unaware of, and I think it’s a crying shame.

I’m talking about the veterinary drug called Adequan Canine.

Adequan is an injectable substance known as a “polysulfated glycosaminoglycan,” and is very similar to the more familiar oral supplement known as glucosamine. Adequan has been proven to be preferentially taken up by inflamed joints when injected into the dog’s muscles. It soothes and lubricates the joint, naturally reducing inflammation and pain by reducing friction. Even better, instead of just masking pain as NSAIDs do, it actually helps to rebuild cartilage in the damaged joint. It’s not just pain control, it’s therapy.

To make the “miracle” tag even more appropriate, Adequan does this without much in the way of potential side effects. Some humans who have used Adequan on themselves (there is no human version licensed in the United States) report that it stings a little; it upsets some dogs’ stomachs for a while after the injection, and in very rare cases it can cause low platelets – a condition that is reversed upon stopping the drug.

Adequan has one major drawback: The price. My hope is that if more vets started using and recommending it, the cost could come down. My vet lets me order it wholesale through her practice, and then just charges me a few dollars for the injections. Some vets will order it for you and let you give the injections yourself at home, but it’s an intramuscular injection and I’m not comfortable doing those.

It’s crucial that the full loading dose, following the directions in the package insert, be given. Until we followed the directions, my chow mix didn’t get any relief at all from the Adequan, but as soon as we did, the change was dramatic after 2-3 injections. The biggest problem I have found with people who say they tried Adequan and it “didn’t work” is that they didn’t do the loading dose, so I am going to say it again: The loading dose is critical.

The interval needed to maintain the dog will vary from individual to individual. Generally we would experiment with intervals as we tapered them off. Once the full loading period was done, we’d let the dog go until we saw some symptoms appear, and then we gave the injection and set the interval as one week LESS than the interval that resulted in symptoms. As my chow mix got older this interval did get shorter, but with the deerhounds, who we started the instant we saw signs that arthritis was starting, the opposite has occurred: The interval has gotten LONGER (which we found out by missing a few appointments by accident!).

I sincerely wish that more vets would recommend Adequan. It is much safer than the NSAIDS such as Rimadyl and Deramaxx. It is a better first step for dealing with pain from degenerative joint disease than NSAIDS, and the NSAIDs are always there if Adequan isn’t enough.

When coupled with acupuncture and chiropractic, I’ve observed that the benefit of Adequan is greatly increased, so if those therapies are available, they are also well worth seeking out. You can also continue the oral glucosamine supplementation with a high-quality supplement such as Cosequin; I know owners of large dogs who say they have been able to extend the symptom-free period between Adequan injections to as much as six months by starting out aggressively, and tapering off while giving oral glucosamine supplements at the highest recommended dose.

If your dog has arthritis, before you put him or her on Rimadyl, Deramaxx, or other NSAIDs, talk to your veterinarian about giving Adequan a try. There is information for dog owners as well as veterinarians on the manufacturer’s website at The company that originally created Adequan has additional information at

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