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Glutamine

By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

Medications

What is glutamine?

Glutamine (L-glutamine, glutamate, glutamic acid, Endari, NutreStore™) is an amino acid supplement that is used to prevent and treat stomach and intestinal damage, or inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). it may be helpful for conditions such as parvovirus, bowel disease, and during chemotherapy.

What are supplements?

Dietary supplements are substances that can be used to supplement the diet, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics. While many supplements are sold over the counter, they still contain ingredients that have biological effects that should be managed by your veterinarian. Follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

"Follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label."

There are differences in how countries regulate supplements. In the United States, these substances are not as vigorously regulated by the FDA as other medications, which means they can be sold without the manufacturer proving their effectiveness, safety, and without a guarantee of consistent or accurately reported ingredients. In Canada, products that have been evaluated for quality, safety, and effectiveness by Health Canada and authorized for sale will have a license number on the label.

How effective is glutamine?

Limited studies in animals have been performed, but there is anecdotal evidence that glutamine works to treat gastrointestinal damage or pancreatitis. It is probably more effective in pets that are currently very sick and may be undernourished due to illness. One study that evaluated cats with intestinal damage due to methotrexate, found that glutamine was no more effective than not using the supplement.

How is glutamine given?

Glutamine is given by mouth in the form of a powder, capsule, or tablet. It can be given with or without food; however, if stomach upset occurs when dosed on an empty stomach, give future doses with food or a treat. The powder can be mixed into food if your pet is eating or mixed into drinking water.

This medication should take effect within 1 to 2 days but can take up to a few weeks before full effects are noted. Effects may not be noted outwardly and therefore laboratory tests may need to be done to evaluate this medication’s effectiveness.

What if I miss giving my pet the supplement?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding side effects is also limited. Glutamine appears to be well tolerated. In humans, the most common side effect was tissue swelling.

This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this supplement?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding risk factors is also limited. Glutamine should be used cautiously in pets with severe liver disease, severe behavior disorders, or seizures. It should be used with caution in pregnant or nursing animals as studies are limited and safety has not been established.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with glutamine: anticonvulsant medications or lactulose.

This supplement may also interact with blood tests by causing an increase in ammonia levels.

"Vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications."

Vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications. It is important to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including all vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this supplement?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

How do I store glutamine?

Store the tablets and powder at room temperature in a tight container, protected from light.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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