Many people add health supplements to their daily regimen to support their health, whether to increase their brain function or improve their joint mobility.  Many pet owners also want to go the extra mile to support their four-legged friends’ health. In 2019, more than 26% of dog owners and 13% of cat owners regularly gave their pets a vitamin or supplement, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Our Palmer Veterinary Clinic team explains the pros and cons of giving your pet veterinary supplements and other over-the-counter supplements and medications.  

What are veterinary nutraceuticals?

The term nutraceutical was coined in the early 1990s and refers to micronutrients, macronutrients, and other nutritional supplements. Generally, nutraceuticals are derived from foods and herbs, or other natural products, such as animal glands or organs. Nutraceuticals are not considered essential nutrients, however, so before you start adding supplements to your pet’s diet, consider scheduling a dietary consultation with our veterinarian to ensure your pet’s nutrition is on the right track. Feeding your pet a diet of  Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) approved food for their life stage and species will ensure they receive all the essential nutrients.  

Pros and cons of veterinary nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals are available to support and improve a variety of medical conditions in your pet, including osteoarthritis, gastrointestinal (GI) gut flora imbalances, and decreased immune function. Benefits of veterinary nutraceuticals include:

  • Decreased chances of side effects from some prescription medications 
  • High margin of safety
  • Broad spectrum of health benefits
  • Unique chemical actions to support health that are not available with prescription medication

Veterinary nutraceuticals are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so pet owners should use caution when purchasing supplements not recommended by their veterinarian. Our veterinarians have carefully researched nutraceutical options for your pet, and we carry the highest quality, well-researched, and quality-controlled products in our hospital and online veterinary pharmacy. We carry the following categories of nutraceuticals: 

  • Joint support
  • Probiotics and GI health support
  • Skin and immune system support
  • Liver support
  • Brain and cognitive function support

Many of the same products may be available from other online resources, but the risk encountering counterfeit products is higher, and such counterfeit products could be harmful to your pet. Always consult your veterinarian before giving any nutraceutical supplement to your pet. 

Pros and cons of over-the-counter medications and your pet

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be beneficial for your pet in specific cases, but they should only be used under the direct supervision of your veterinarian. For example, if your pet has a reaction to a vaccine, your veterinarian may advise you to give them the OTC medication Benadryl. Doses of OTC medications for people are different from those for pets because animals metabolize medications differently. If your frisky feline develops a limp from a clumsy landing off their favorite shelf, it can be tempting to give them an OTC pain reliever. However, many common OTC medications are dangerous for pets. Tylenol, in particular, can be deadly to cats. 

You may be tempted to purchase OTC human and pet nutraceuticals from your local market or health food store. However, many of these products are not highly regulated, or quality controlled, compared to the veterinary-formulated supplements recommended by our Palmer veterinarians. These supplements may also contain additives and ingredients that are not listed on the label, and may be toxic to pets. For example, calcium, which may seem harmless, can lead to bladder stone formation in pets who ingest high amounts. Always consult our veterinarian before giving any OTC medication or supplement to your pet. 

Call our Palmer Veterinary Clinic office if you have any questions about nutraceuticals for your pet, or to schedule an appointment to determine if your pet may benefit from our veterinary-approved supplements.