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Adequan for Dogs: Uses, Side Effects & History (Vet Answer)

Written by: Dr. Ashley Darby BVSc (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

vet administering medicine to pembroke welsh corgi dog

Adequan for Dogs: Uses, Side Effects & History (Vet Answer)


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If your dog has osteoarthritis, your veterinarian may have prescribed a drug called Adequan. Adequan improves the quality of joints, which can increase your dog’s mobility. It circulates throughout the body, benefiting all load-bearing (synovial) joints.

Normally, joints like the hips and knees are capped with cartilage, which acts as a protective cushion against the forces placed on the joint in everyday life. When dogs have osteoarthritis, joint cartilage becomes damaged due to injury or wear and tear, and inflammation and pain develop in the joints.

Older dogs develop osteoarthritis because the cartilage wears with age. Dogs with conditions like hip dysplasia or cranial cruciate ligament injury tend to develop osteoarthritis earlier in life due to abnormal forces on the joint.

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What Is Adequan?

Adequan is the brand name of an injectable drug called polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, or PSGAG. It is classified as a “chondroprotective” or cartilage-protecting drug and is used to manage osteoarthritis in dogs.

The exact way Adequan works is unknown, but it has some proven effects that improve joint health.

  • It provides a source of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which make up part of the cartilage structure. These GAGs absorb water to create the soft cushioning effect seen in cartilage.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects on the joint, which minimizes cartilage destruction in arthritis.
  • Increases the production of joint fluid, which further cushions the joint.
  • Inhibits enzymes and other cell signals that degrade cartilage.
  • Anabolic effect on cartilage components like protein, collagen, hyaluronic acid, and proteoglycans.

Adequan comes in a box with two vials. Each vial has 5 ml of liquid containing 100 mg/ml polysulfated glycosaminoglycan. For those administering Adequan at home, these vials should be ideally stored at 68° to 77°F, and you need to avoid prolonged exposure to more extreme temperatures. Once the vial is punctured, it must be used within 28 days and no more than 10 times.

How Is Adequan Given?

Adequan is an injectable medication. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approves it for intramuscular (into the muscle) injection with a veterinarian’s prescription. However, it is technically off-label for veterinarians to give Adequan by subcutaneous (under the skin) injection.

Some veterinarians administer Adequan themselves, but others may allow nurses to do so under their supervision or even instruct owners on administering the injections themselves. You can find the dose of Adequan based on your pet’s weight here.1 As it needs to be prescribed by a vet, you should know how much to give and have been coached on how to give the injection.

A dose of Adequan is typically given twice a week for four weeks. This course may be repeated throughout your dog’s life, as needed. Read through the drug label before administering this medication at home, and carefully follow the veterinary instructions regarding dosing, technique, and sterility.

What Happens if You Miss a Dose?

If you missed an appointment with the vet to administer the next dose of Adequan, call them to reschedule the appointment. They should let you know when the next dose is due and what the treatment plan entails.

If you’re administering Adequan at home, administer the dose when you remember. A day or two late should not make any difference to the effectiveness of this medication; however, being weeks or months late can mean needing to start the course over again.

Once you have administered the dose, call your veterinarian for advice on how to proceed. Depending on your dog’s unique situation, they may recommend giving the next dose in 3-4 days, another time, or restarting the whole course again. Never give your pet a double dose of Adequan to compensate for the missed dose.

vet administering a medicine to jack russell terrier dog
Image Credit: Reshetnikov_art, Shutterstock

Potential Side Effects of Adequan

Adequan, like any drug, can have side effects. For instance, it is known for reducing blood clotting. In clinical trials using Adequan on 24 healthy dogs at the recommended dose twice weekly for 4 weeks, side effects were noted after 2.1% of injections.

These effects were mild and resolved, and the dogs were able to continue their Adequan treatments. Signs noted in clinical trials include:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal bleeding

With any drug, an allergic or anaphylactic reaction is possible. Thankfully, they are uncommon, and severe cases are rare. If your dog is having an allergic or anaphylactic reaction, you may see signs like:

  • Vomiting
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse

The FDA has also received reports of vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, and diarrhea post-injection. However, they are unable to verify they were caused by Adequan or estimate how often they occur, as not all cases will be reported to the FDA

Call your veterinarian if you are worried about any signs your pet is showing after Adequan injections. You can report adverse effects or complaints to American Regent Animal Health (1-888-354-4857) or the FDA (1-888-332-8387).

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Other Treatments Are Available For Osteoarthritis?

One of the best ways to manage osteoarthritis is to keep your dog at a healthy body condition score by not overfeeding them. One study found that weight loss alone can improve mobility in obese dogs with osteoarthritis.

Joint supplements help with arthritis by providing cartilage building blocks or anti-inflammatories through nutrition. Adequan can be used with pain-relieving medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) or Librela to improve quality of life. Prescription diets can also work to treat arthritis through nutrition.

golden retriever dog lying on the floor at home
Image Credit: Prostock studio, Shutterstock

How Long Does it Take for Adequan to Start Working?

Adequan reaches the joint around 2 hours after the injection. A noticeable improvement in mobility may be seen after 4 weeks. The best effects are usually seen in milder cases of osteoarthritis since Adequan works best when used as a preventative for joint deterioration.

Can Some Dogs Not Have Adequan?

Most dogs can have Adequan, with a few exceptions. Dogs that have previously reacted to Adequan should not be prescribed it. Dogs with joint infections should not have Adequan.

Dogs with blood clotting disorders or on blood-thinning medication should use Adequan cautiously but may be able to do so at the discretion of their vet.

It is unknown if pregnant and nursing mother dogs can safely have Adequan. It should also be used with caution in dogs with liver and kidney disease at the discretion of their veterinarian.

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Adequan is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis in dogs, and it needs to be prescribed by a veterinarian. It can be used alone or in combination with other treatments like pain relief and nutritional support. Adequan is usually administered by a vet via intramuscular injection. Side effects are relatively uncommon, and most dogs tolerate Adequan well enough to complete the course.

Featured Image Credit: fast-stock, Shutterstock

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