Adequan (Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan) For Cats

At a glance

  • Drug Name: Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan
  • Common names: Adequan, Chondroprotec
  • Drug Type: Disease-Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOAD)
  • Used For: Osteoarthritis, interstitial cystitis
  • Species: Horses, dogs and cats (extra-label)
  • Administered: Injection

What is Adequan?

Adequan (Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan or PSGAG) is an injectable drug derived from cow tracheas which is used in the treatment of arthritis and less commonly interstitial cystitis (also called idiopathic cystitis).

While only approved for use in horses and dogs, veterinarians can prescribe it as an extra-label medication to treat traumatic or non-infectious degenerative arthritis in cats.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a painful disease which develops the shock-absorbing cartilage which cushions the joints wears down and is eventually lost, which leads to bone rubbing on bone. Symptoms include:

  • Reluctance to jump
  • Decreased grooming which leads to an unkempt appearance
  • Dislike of being touched
  • Hiding
  • Soiling outside the litter box

Arthritis is an under-diagnosed condition, and by the time symptoms present, the cat is in a great deal of discomfort.

Studies have revealed that;

  • 20% of cats over 1 have some signs of arthritis
  • 60% of cats over 6 have arthritis
  • 90% of cats over 12 have arthritis

Mechanism of action

Adequan is a cartilage protective agent and belongs to a class of drugs called Disease-Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOAD) and works in several ways.

The specific mode of action is not known, but it is thought to is said to have chondroprotection and chondrostimulation properties.

  • Inhibits proteolytic enzymes which can degrade proteoglycans (water absorbent molecules which create a cushion to absorb pressure), thereby preventing or reducing connective tissue flexibility and resistance to compression.
  • Increases the synthesis of proteoglycans, protein, collagen and hyaluronic acid by chondrocytes (cells in cartilage connective tissues which produce and maintain the cartilage matrix) and synoviocytes (specialised cell type located inside joints in the synovium) which increases synovial viscosity.
  • Glycosaminoglycan (GAGs) line the bladder wall, protecting it from urine, and it is believed idiopathic cystitis (cystitis in which the cause is not known) may be due to a depletion in protective GAGs. Administration of Adequan can help to restore these GAGs.

Adequan dose

Many protocols exist for administering Adequan to cats, which include:

  • 2mg per kilo intramuscular every 3-5 days for four treatments
  • 5mg per kilo subcutaneous twice a week for 4 weeks and then once a week for 4 weeks, and then once a month [1]


There is a wide margin of safety with Adequan, with doses 5 times those recommended given to horses twice a week with no side effects. However, excessive have the potential to cause kidney and liver damage.

How long does it take for Adequan to work?

Intramuscular injections reach therapeutic levels in the joint in 2 hours and remain at detectible levels for up to 96 hours.


  • Cats who have a hypersensitivity to hypersensitive to polysulfated glycosaminoglycan
  • Cats with infectious arthritis
  • Cats with known bleeding disorders

Can pregnant or lactating cats take Adequan?

There have been no reproductive studies, and the manufacturer does not recommend use in breeding animals.

Drug interactions

No drug interactions have been described. The use of Adequan with steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may mask clinical signs associated with septic joints.

As Adequan is related to the blood thinner Heparin, use with caution with other NSAIDs or other anticoagulants. [2]


Use with caution in cats with kidney or liver disease.

Human labelled products



[1] Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook (9th edition) – Page 1334

[2] Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook (9th edition) – Page 1334


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

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