It’s Q & A time! This is a new feature I’d like to start, so if you have a question, leave it in the comments section below, or on our Facebook page and you may see it in an upcoming blog article!
I know supplements are recommended, but how exactly do you choose? My question is, I find it extremely difficult to stay positive about certain supplements sold by the pet industry, and marketed as great (with such and such….blah blah blah). How do you decide which ones you recommend? How can one look at the ethics of the company, and where do I find suggestions for dosages? Signed, “Overwhelmed Vet”
Hi “Overwhelmed Vet,”
These are good questions to consider whenever choosing or endorsing a product. With all of the hype online, on TV, in magazines, and via infomercials on the radio, most people chose the ones that sound good and those that grab them visually or emotionally. Most veterinarians do not study this issue enough, nor know much about herbs and nutraceuticals (outside of “Nutra Max”), and so their clients tend to seek advice elsewhere. It can be embarrassing when the clients know more than the veterinarian.
Conversely, many pet owners are afraid to mention using supplements out of fear of being ridiculed by their veterinarian, so they stay silent, and trust that the supplement they’re using does all of the things it claims to do without any adverse effects. Of course, we all know things don’t always work out that way.
Before the NASC (National Animal Supplements Council) was established, the animal supplement market was a basic free-for-all. There were no regulations in place, and unscrupulous companies could make any claim they wanted without consequence. Subsequently, many of the initial supplements on the market were junk – ineffective at best, and harmful at worst (due to adverse side effects).
A need for a regulatory body was evident, and thus the NASC was formed.
Supplement companies that earn the NASC seal of approval must adhere to some pretty high standards of manufacturing, and use of labels and advertising. So, I would recommend looking for the NASC label on a product.
Besides having high standards, the NASC has been able to negotiate the issue of using “non-approved drugs” (i.e. herbs) by veterinarians. Prior to this, the DSHEA law that allows humans to pick and choose herbs and health food stores to sell them, did not include animals, and so, much of what vets used was “illegal” in the eyes of the FDA. Because NASC has been working openly with the FDA/CVM, they were able to establish parameters of labeling products carefully, and create an “adverse events” system to keep track of products that have caused problems.
However, there are some reputable supplement companies that aren’t members of NASC (i.e. supplement companies that sell human-grade herbs and products, which are then used by veterinarians and given to animals). And there are also a few smaller companies that perhaps have no interest in being a part of NASC (but still produce high quality products and follow ethical guidelines of manufacturing). The trick is to know how to identify these companies.
Here’s what you should keep in mind when considering a supplement company or product:
- Who formulated the products? A veterinarian? An herbalist? What is their experience with animals?
- Do the product claims seem “too good to be true?”
- Where do the products come from (i.e. country of origin) and do they have a “certificate of purity” for each ingredient?
- Does the company “give back” to holistic veterinary organizations?
- What is the reputation of the company?
- Who created the company and what is their mission statement?
- Do they comply with GMPC standards? Do they have an FDA-approved facility?
- Have they done any clinical trials, or can they provide information on how the product works based upon other scientific human or animal trials?
In my own practice, I stick with companies and products that I have a good rapport and communication with, and the products that give my clients good results. Also, it’s good to consult with your friends and colleagues to see if they have insight or experiences with a particular product.
The bottom line, and what we should remember is that with so many commercial products on the market, we as vets must take the time to educate ourselves on the “business” of pet nutraceuticals and herbals, just as many of us have “inspected and dissected” the commercial pet food companies. We owe it to our clients and our furry patients to be a valuable guide in a sea of advertising and misinformation.
One company I stand by is the Genesis animal supplements company. I believed in the quality of their products so much so that I took on a position with them as their Medical Director, and consult with the company regularly to create all of the formulas. But, this isn’t the only reputable company out there. What are your experiences? Share them in the comments below.