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By Sarah Wooten, DVM
For dogs as well as people, a healthy liver is needed to support life. In veterinary medicine, if a dog has liver disease or has been exposed to a substance that is toxic to the liver, then a veterinarian will usually prescribe a liver support supplement that contains SAM-e to be given on a short-term basis to help the liver heal. Dogs that have chronic health conditions or compromised liver function may also be prescribed SAM-e supplementation long-term.
What Is SAM-e, and How Does It Help the Liver?
SAM-e is short for S-Adenosylmethionine. SAM-e is created by the body from an essential amino acid called methionine. SAM-e for dogs is a dietary supplement that mimics the SAM-e that is naturally made by the body.
Through chemical processes in the body, SAM-e is converted into glutathione, which is known to have detoxifying and antioxidant effects on the liver. Glutathione supports the liver by aiding in detoxification, a critical task due to the fact that the liver is a dog’s body’s main organ of detoxification.
As such, the liver is at greater risk of becoming overloaded with toxic chemicals. Glutathione plays a protective role to liver cells that are exposed to toxins on a daily basis.
Normally, a healthy liver will produce adequate levels of SAM-e on its own. But if the liver is damaged or debilitated due to age or infirmity, lower than optimal levels of SAM-e occur. When this happens, it makes SAM-e supplementation beneficial to dogs with liver disease by supporting the repair, regeneration and overall health of liver cells.
SAM-e dog supplements also help promote healthy flow of bile and production of phospholipids, which are necessary for healthy cell membranes.
SAM-e Benefits Dogs With Dementia and Joint Pain
In human medicine, SAM-e is prescribed for a wide range of conditions, and we now know that SAM-e can also be administered as adjunct therapy for many of the same purposes in dogs. In humans, SAM-e has been used to augment the effect of antidepressant medications in people who suffer from depression.
It is theorized to work in humans by increasing the turnover of serotonin and increasing levels of dopamine. SAM-e is now used as a complementary therapy to help treat canine cognitive disorder (otherwise known as doggy dementia or doggy Alzheimer’s), osteoarthritis and joint pain.
In humans, multiple studies have been done on the efficacy of SAM-e in treatment of osteoarthritis, with mixed results. One of the most compelling studies was published in 2004. It showed that SAM-e controlled pain and improved mobility in patients with knee arthritis just as well as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory with less negative side effects, but the onset of pain control took longer.
How SAM-e reduces pain associated with osteoarthritis is not known, but laboratory studies on human cartilage cells showed that SAM-e increased proteoglycan synthesis, an important component of lubrication of the joint. SAM-e may also reduce inflammation from osteoarthritis.
SAM-e is well documented to benefit humans with nervous system disorders, such as fibromyalgia, and the research is forthcoming on SAM-e’s benefits for dogs with nervous system disorders, like as degenerative myelopathy.
How Safe Is SAM-e for Dogs?
SAM-e is regarded among veterinary professionals to be exceedingly safe, with only rare instances of stomach upset reported. If your dog is on any medications, check with your veterinary care provider for any drug interactions before giving SAM-e to your dog.
SAM-e is best absorbed on an empty stomach; however, you can hide it in a small treat if you cannot get your dog to swallow it. Make sure that your dog drinks some water after giving SAM-e to ensure that the supplement is completely swallowed.
Where Can I Get It?
SAM-e has historically been available with pet prescriptions, however now it is available over the counter and can be purchased at an online pet pharmacy. SAM-e is found in the following recommended products:
It is important to note that SAM-e should be administered to your dog under the supervision of a veterinarian, and giving SAM-e to your dog should never be a substitute for appropriate veterinary care. If you are interested in giving your dog SAM-e for liver support, joint support or brain support, seek your veterinarian’s advice before administration.