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Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (Adequan)
Revised: November 21, 2021
Published: December 13, 2004

(For veterinary information only)

The size of the tablet/medication is NOT an indication of a proper dose. Never administer any drug without your veterinarian's input. Serious side effects or death can occur if you use drugs on your pet without your veterinarian's advice. 

It is our policy not to give dosing information over the internet.

Available as injectable

Brand Names: Adequan, Chondroprotec


Graphic by MarVistaVet.

A joint consists of articulating bones, a fibrous capsule enclosing the joint, and slippery lubricating joint fluid to facilitate the gliding of the two bones across each other when the joint is flexed.

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. Approximately 95 percent of cartilage consists of material called cartilage matrix, the other 5 percent being the cells that produce the matrix. Cartilage matrix consists of collagen (the tough structural fibers that most people have heard of) and proteoglycans (the water absorbent molecules most people have not heard of). 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.

Proteoglycan depiction: core proteins in green, GAG bristles in red, hyaluronic acid in blue. Graphic by MarVistaVet.

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

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.

The active ingredient in Adequan® is polysulfated GAG, which is mostly chondroitin sulfate, extracted from cow tissue (the trachea, to be exact).

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. One of the theories of this complicated syndrome is that the GAG’s, which line the urinary bladder and help protect the bladder tissue from the irritating urine it holds, become depleted. By giving a GAG injection, they may be restored, thus helping to resolve the urinary discomfort associated with this syndrome. At present, it is not clear if this treatment is effective.

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. 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.

When doses of approximately seven times the recommended dose were used, normal dogs developed enlarged kidneys. Because of this, caution is recommended when using this product in patients with kidney disease.

For more information read the manufacturer's website.

It is our policy not to give dosing information over the Internet.

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