A Message from the Vet - November 2012
Nutritional Supplements

Many individuals are moving toward a more natural approach in their own lives as well as with their pet family. In conjunction with regular veterinary care, it may be beneficial to add nutritional supplements to your pet's daily routine.

There are many products available at your veterinary clinic, over-the-counter, or online. Many claim to be the best product available that works every time. Sorting through these claims can be very difficult, and it is important to involve your veterinarian in this process. Nutritional supplements are NOT regulated by the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), which is an organization which holds companies accountable for safety testing, quality control standards for manufacturing, advertising claims, and proper labeling. Without these regulations it can be difficult to know which companies to trust. In the best of circumstances, you may get a product with a placebo effect (medically ineffective); in the worst, a product with a harmful substance. More recently, the National Animal Supplements Council began providing standards for the manufacturing, labeling, and advertising of nutritional supplements for pets. Although not all reputable companies are members of this organization, looking for this seal of approval when using an over-the-counter product is a good place to start.

Your veterinarian is likely to have supplements available at the clinic - some by prescription and others over-the-counter. Veterinarians work hard to develop relationships with trustworthy companies in order to provide the safest and most reliable products for their patients. Each product is considered carefully before placing it on the shelf. Your veterinarian is your most reliable source for accurate and up-to-date advice on nutritional supplements. In this article, I will briefly review just a few of the nutritional supplements available.

One of the most common supplements known in both the human and veterinary market is Chrondroitin/Glucosamine combinations for joint health. Cartilage cells use glucosamine to produce hyaluronate, an important component of joint fluid, as well as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). GAGs help protect the joint from harmful enzymes that break down protein, thereby protecting the cartilage in the joint. They have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and increase levels of hyaluronate. This helps to cushion the joint, make the joint less painful, and potentially slow the progression of arthritis. Use caution with using human formulated products as these can have too high concentrations of these supplements and cause harm to your pet. We recommend veterinary formulated products such as Cosequin and Dasuquin, which have been proven to be safe in dogs and cats.

Omega-3 fatty acids are another popular supplement. Primarily found in fish oil formulations, Omega-3s have been found to be beneficial in many disorders, including allergic skin disease, renal failure, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. They may have anti-inflammatory effects, help with pruritis (itchiness) and support overall skin and coat health. Some commercial veterinary diets such as Hill's Prescription Diet D/D, J/D, and Z/D contain high levels of Omega-3 and do not require additional supplementation. With other foods, Omega-3 supplements can be added to the food in a liquid or capsule form.

Lysine is another helpful product. It is an amino acid used in cats to suppress a common respiratory viral infection from Feline Herpes Virus. Lysine competes with other amino acids to be incorporated into the virus particles as they replicate, making them less effective and reducing the severity of the infection. Lysine is available from your veterinarian in many different palatable formulas specifically made for cats, including powder, gel, and treats.

SAMe (S Adenosyl L Methionine) is an antioxidant that is responsible for assisting many chemical reactions in the body which can help improve liver function in chronic liver disease and counteract the damaging effects of toxins. It also may have anti-inflammatory effects. We recommend a product that has been tested for use in cats and dogs, such as Denosyl by Nutramax Labs.

Milk thistle is an antioxidant and free radical scavenger. Free radicals damage biological structures and are thought to be related to many illnesses including development of cancer. Milk thistle has been shown to have a protective effect against these free radicals, particularly in the liver. Milk thistle also increases levels of glutathione, which is a naturally-occurring powerful antioxidant that aids in tissue building and repair.

These are just a few of the many supplements available that can help your pet live a healthy and more comfortable life. Be aware of the dangers of using unregulated over-the-counter products or those purchased through questionable internet sources. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian about use of supplements, particularly if your pet is being treated for any other health issues. If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to contact us here at Kailua Animal Clinic.

Candice Denham, DVM

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Last updated 2014 May 10.