“Buying Supplements? Buyer Beware!” – from your veterinarian in Rockford, Michigan

By January 14, 2016The Good Word

“The Good Word” by Dr. Carol Good – Rockford Animal Hospital

“Buying Supplements? Buyer Beware!”

     I get asked many times about nutritional supplements. Have I heard of a certain brand? Is it okay to use human products? How much should I give? Do they really help?

First, it’s important to know, the federal government doesn’t have any laws to govern supplements either human or animal. They are not considered drugs. Instead, they are classified as food.   Because of that, supplement manufacturers are not required to prove that their product cures or treats any disease. In fact, unless they can provide such proof, they must specifically say that their product is not proven to treat any disease. However, they can insinuate a lot of things by providing testimonials and information about the product.

Does that mean that all supplements are worthless? Certainly not! Many ingredients in supplements have been proven to help people and animals. It just takes time and money to do the kind of studies that prove this is true. So, the best way to choose is to work with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about them.

Another “problem” with choosing a supplement is that quality and purity of the ingredients is up to the manufacturer. Human pharmacists recognized this issue a number of years ago. They organized an independent study that looked at the amounts of ingredients in supplement products available for people to purchase. What they found is that the actual amount of an ingredient could vary from as little as 5% to more than 100% from the amount listed on the bottle. This study led to the development of an independent organization that now offers manufacturers the option of having their product routinely tested to prove the quantity and purity of their ingredients. If they pass the test, they are allowed to put the seal of approval of this organization on their product bottle.

There is a similar “watch dog” organization for supplements in animals, the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). At the request of a manufacturer, a supplement product for animals can be randomly tested and if they meet the narrow margins for accurate quantity and quality, the product earns the quality seal of the NASC. This is sort of like the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”. So, when choosing a product for your pet, always look for this seal.

The question of whether a human product will work as well as a product offered specifically for pets is a good one. The answer is ….. Maybe.   Although we are similar creatures, not every food or drug (whether natural or man-made) is safely interchangeable or effective at the same doses in people and pets. A good example is a natural sweetener in human foods, xylitol. It is perfectly safe in humans but deadly in dogs and cats.

In some cases, the safe and effective dose could be a lot less or a lot more in pets than in a human. If you want to try a human supplement on your pet, the best thing to do is to bring the bottle or a list of both the active and inactive ingredients and the MG strength to your veterinarian to make sure it is okay to use. At the very least, you can make sure it isn’t dangerous to try.

Some of the benefits of using an animal product are that it is likely flavored to appeal to your pet and make it more likely they will eat it voluntarily. Also, if you use the product your veterinarian recommends and it comes from them, you have their experience and knowledge backing the product as well. Many times this could mean that if you or your pet doesn’t like the product or it doesn’t work for them, you could get a refund. Always ask your veterinarian if this is the case before purchasing.

So, the bottom line is this. Nutritional supplements can be another valuable tool in treating and preventing diseases and pain in pets. Just make sure to be careful in choosing and consult your veterinarian before giving anything to your pet.

See this link for more information on human and pet supplements


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