We all want our pets to be as healthy as possible. But does your dog need to take supplements?
The pet supplement industry is a big business, just like it is for humans, and it can be tricky to sort out marketing claims from science.
Which supplements are proven to actually improve your dog’s health? Where should you get them?
The Scoop on Pet Supplements
A supplement is something that is added to a pet’s diet for either nutritional or therapeutic reasons. The category includes vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbal supplements, botanicals, and enzymes. That covers a lot of ground, and it’s enough to make your head spin. The VCA Animal Hospitals website simplifies it to the following:
Dietary supplements get added to a pet’s food to balance it nutritionally.
Nutraceuticals are foods or food nutrients that a pet takes by mouth to prevent or treat a disease.
The site cautions against internet-based information sources, especially the ones that come from the people who make the supplements. They point out several databases where people can find reliable information. For example, www.consumerlab.com reviewed joint health supplements for pets.
It’s Big Money
According to MarketResearch.com, pet parents spent over $1 billion on pet supplements in 2022. The site notes that the most common supplements are for joint health, and that more people are buying calming/anxiety supplements and supplements formulated by veterinarians.
But it’s worth noting that nutrition experts at the American College of Veterinary Nutrition say that most animals do not require supplements if they are eating a “complete and balanced commercially available pet food.” The exception, of course, is if your veterinarian prescribes a supplement for a particular health problem.
Who Regulates Pet Supplements?
Pet parents should know that it’s still a bit of a Wild West situation when it comes to regulating animal supplements.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers of human supplements to make statements about how the substance is supposed to affect your health, as long as they are labeled with the following statement: “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
Even though there is crossover between human and dog supplements, those policies don’t apply to animal supplements. So companies marketing to pet owners can claim anything they want. It’s up to us to consult with our trusted veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to decide what our animals need to stay healthy and fit.
These veterinary specialists work in a number of arenas to ensure that pets are getting the right foods and supplements. Some veterinary nutritionists consult with other vets, teach at vet schools, or work directly with pet parents to craft nutritious diets. Some veterinary nutritionists work with pet food manufacturers to help determine what the optimal diet is.
Of course, your veterinarian is the best place to start when it comes to deciphering pet food labels and deciding whether to purchase supplements.
Where Do You Get Supplements?
Some supplements are available directly from your veterinary clinic.
Beware of buying products on the internet. Because of the lack of regulation online, it’s probably best to get a recommendation from your vet from a trusted source for supplements. An ethical locally owned pet store should be able to explain why they carry certain supplements and not others.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
One thing is for sure: Being “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean something is safe for your pet. Before buying any supplement, talk to your veterinarian about their experience with a product. Some pet parents go the extra mile and consult the company that makes a supplement. They should be able to provide you with information on how they came to believe their supplement works.
If your veterinarian diagnoses your pet with a serious health issue, you can be sure they will do all they can to get your pet back to health, including prescribing or recommending supplements that have been proven to work.