What is SAMe?
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is the bioactive form of methionine, an essential amino acid or “building block” of protein. These amino acids are plentiful in foods, but especially concentrated in meat and sunflower seeds. Supplementing a diet with methionine alone, however, does not necessarily raise the level of bioactive methionine, or SAMe, dramatically.
SAMe is one of the most commonly used supplements in human and animal medicine. SAMe contains both sulphur and methyl groups and is part of more than 40 key chemical reactions in the body. Methylation reactions in the body are required to form adequate levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. SAMe helps synthesize all neurotransmitters related to catecholamines, including epinephrine and dopamine. Deficiencies of epinephrine and dopamine can lead to depression and Parkinson's disease. In human clinical trials SAMe has shown significant promise in treating these disorders and other cerebral disorders including autism, peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord degeneration, and Alzheimer's disease.
The sulphur groups of SAMe are also metabolically important. Glutathione, a critical detoxifier and antioxidant, is made from SAMe. SAMe itself also functions as an antioxidant. These antioxidant and detoxifying properties mean that SAMe is able to reduce liver damage such as cirrhosis.
SAMe has several other effects in the body. It plays an important role in:
SAMe is also an analgesic (pain reliever). Because of its pain reducing capabilities, ability to promote collagen and cartilage synthesis, and its anti-inflammatory properties, SAMe is commonly used in osteoarthritis. In clinical trials, the efficacy of SAMe in relieving arthritic pain has approached that of many NSAIDs.
Why is my veterinarian recommending SAMe for my pet?
SAMe is widely prescribed for the same purposes in animals as it is in people. SAMe is used to treat canine cognitive disorders, suspected depression, osteoarthritis, and hepatitis. It can also be used to treat various neurological disorders, including degenerative myelopathy. SAMe is appropriate for all species, since it is naturally present in all mammals. It is probably most commonly used in dogs because of their susceptibility to liver and musculoskeletal disorders.
How safe is SAMe?
SAMe is important in the treatment of osteoarthritis, because it reduces inflammation and pain and also helps regenerate joint tissue.
Because of its extremely low toxicity, SAMe is probably one of the first treatments that should be considered for treating arthritic dogs and cats. The side effects of SAMe are rare, and limited to mild nausea and gastrointestinal irritation. Use SAMe with caution in hyperexcitable animals, because it may increase excitability.
Where do I get SAMe and do I need a prescription?
You do not need a prescription for SAMe. Purchase supplements with caution and know the manufacturer, as supplements are not highly regulated and some supplements may not contain the labeled amount of ingredients. Consult your veterinarian about his or her preferred brands or supplement sources