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The Lowdown on Nutritional Supplements

By Nancy Kay, DVM

The nutritional supplement industry has become big business as people are looking for more natural ways to care for the health of their pets. For example, a person might be inclined to try glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate for their dog’s arthritis pain rather than a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (the equivalent of doggie Advil).

The number of nutritional supplement manufacturers has grown exponentially. Unfortunately, the quality of products hitting the market is somewhat hit or miss. There is no FDA approval process for nutritional supplements, and incidents of contamination with heavy metals, pesticides, or other unsavory ingredients have been reported. Additionally manufacturers are not required to comply with specific formulations for their products- the strength or concentration of the active ingredient may be inadequate,
too much of a good thing, or just right.

Knowing this, how in the world can the average consumer purchase a product that is safe and effective? Certainly query your vet for his or her recommendations. We veterinarians are taught to use the ACCLAIM system (described below) to assess nutritional supplements. You too can use this system to make educated choices about these products for yourself and your four-legged loved ones.

A = A name you recognize. Choose an established company that provides educational materials for veterinarians and other consumers. Is it a company that is well established?

C = Clinical experience. Companies that support clinical research and have their products used in clinical trials that are published in peer-reviewed journals to which veterinarians have access are more likely to have a quality product.

C = Contents. All ingredients should be clearly indicated on the product label.

L = Label claims. Label claims that sound too good to be true likely are. Choose products with realistic label claims.

A = Administration recommendations. Dosing instructions should be accurate and easy to follow. It should be easy to calculate the amount of active ingredient administered per dose per day.

I = Identification of lot. A lot identification number indicates that a surveillance system exists to ensure product quality.

M = Manufacturer information. Basic company information should be clearly stated on the label including a website (that is up and running) or some other means of contacting customer support.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health, Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

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