A form of vitamin C that appears to relieve much of the pain associated with canine hip dysplasia is stirring the nation’s veterinary community and raising the hopes of dog owners.
An initial study shows Ester-C increases the compression resistance of cartilage in the damaged hip joints of dogs with CHD, giving the joint more cushion and diminishing the pain from bone scraping bone.
“I don’t think it repairs the joint, but it provides improved mobility,” said Dr. L. Phillips Brown, who studied the effects of Ester-C on dogs with chronic joint problems.
CHD is primarily a genetically inherited degenerative disease that deforms the hip joint.
In healthy dogs, the head of the thigh bone (femur) fits snugly into the hip socket. In dogs with CHD, the head works free of the socket.
The disease causes the socket to develop too shallowly and/or causes the ligaments that connect the femur to the socket to become too loose.
The result is a loose femoral head that bangs the hip joint as the dog moves, causing abnormal wear and tear and pain. Dogs suffering from CHD often walk with a limp or swaying gait, bunny-hop when running and have difficulty getting up.
Either surgery or euthanasia were once the most common remedies for dogs suffering from CHD. Lately, more and more dog owners are opting for some type of pain management. Drug therapy, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, physical therapy and chiropractic are all used.
Brown said he was skeptical when Inter-Cal Corp. - makers of Ester-C - asked him to test whether their product could be added to that list.
“I said, ‘I’ll prove you guys wrong,”’ Brown said.
He studied 50 dogs with chronic hip pain and lameness from the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. They were placed into five groups, assigned a handler and twice daily given one of these supplements:
2,000 mg Ester-C
850 mg Ester-C
2,000 mg Ester-C plus minerals
ascorbic acid (regular vitamin C)
The study was divided into three phases. In each phase, dogs took one of the supplements for four weeks, then went without supplements for three weeks.
The group of dogs receiving 2,000 mg of Ester-C had the most impressive results; 78 percent showed improved mobility within four to five days. Interestingly, of the dogs taken off this dosage for three weeks, 60 percent relapsed into lameness but regained mobility when put back on Ester-C.
In the group of dogs receiving 2,000 mg of Ester-C plus minerals, 62 percent showed increased mobility. On 850 mg of Ester-C, 52 percent of the dogs improved. And on regular vitamin C, only 44 percent were more mobile.
“It sounds snake oilish, but it was real and incredible,” Brown said.
Vitamin C is critical in keeping soft tissue functioning. Soft tissue is critical in keeping joints healthy because it holds water, providing the compression resistance necessary for cushioning and lubrication.
Ester-C does that better than regular vitamin C because it contains threonate. This natural metabolite gets the vitamin out of the blood serum and into cells faster, which means more of it gets to the areas it is needed - like the soft tissue of a damaged joint.
In contrast, regular vitamin C is slower in leaving the blood serum. More of it passes through the kidneys where it is lost in the urine.
“Dogs make their own vitamin C, but in situations where there are genetic problems like CHD, stress, aging and even exposure to environmental pollutants, it appears they don’t make enough to compensate,” Brown said.
Ester-C can be purchased at health food stores and from suppliers of holistic dog food. Please talk with your veterinarian before giving any supplement to your dog.
Last note: Even dogs with normal hips can produce puppies with hip dysplasia. The disease is a recessive trait; it is also not a single-gene defect. Unless the dog has documented generations of ancestors free from the disease, don’t breed the dog.
, DataTimes MEMO: About Dogs appears the first Sunday of each month. Mary Sagal is a member of the Dog Writer’s Association of America. She lives in rural Spokane County with husband and their mixed-breed and Siberian husky dogs.