Sometimes client’s ask about the use of supplements for the health of their pets. There are a few things about supplements that you should know.
First of all, unlike prescription or over the counter (OTC) drugs, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), supplements, or nutraceuticals, are not regulated in the same way. Therefore, you need to take extra care when purchasing these products. Because they are not regulated by the FDA, they are considered food supplements and are not required to contain the amount of product that is listed on the container. Unless they are made by a reputable drug company, they may not actually contain the amount of the product(s) listed on the package label.
Secondly, because they have not undergone the FDA drug approval process, nutraceuticals are not approved to treat, cure or otherwise be used for a specific disease process. FDA sends out citation letters to individuals or companies for false advertising when such claims are made because they cannot yet be substantiated. This is something to be aware of as many nutraceuticals are touted to treat conditions or promote good health. One way to check if the product is a nutraceutical is to look on the packaging. If the product is not an FDA approved drug, it should have a notice stating that it is not approved by the FDA. The notice often reads something like this:
These statements have not been evaluated the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Please be aware that if it is not FDA approved, you do not necessarily know what you are buying. Because there are so many types of nutraceuticals s available, the time after starting to take one and to notice an effect can vary greatly. Therefore, I recommend talking to whoever suggested its use before starting it. You should ask your veterinarian why s/he recommends the supplement and what positive effects you should expect to see within a certain time frame. You can also talk to a pharmacist about some products before giving it to your pet as they are aware of many OTC products and their benefits mainly for use in humans. If there are instructions on the package, I suggest following those unless otherwise instructed by your veterinarian.
Finally, just because nutraceuticals are not considered medications and they are not regulated the same way as approved therapeutic drugs does not mean that their use cannot have potential side effects. If you notice unusual behavior or any physical symptoms during the first couple of weeks of using a supplement, please call your veterinarian immediately.
S Mason, DVM