Weeding through the Supplements

I received a great blog idea today from a friend.  She asked me how does a consumer tell what products are safe out there to be giving their dogs.

Well that’s a great question.  Since I’m “in the business” it’s easy for me to forget how confusing and overwhelming all of the choices can be.  There are mountains of nutraceuticals, herbs, and supplements available to us and our pets.  Unless your vet is holistically inclined you are probably pretty much on your own about what to give. 

The term nutraceutical means:   "a product isolated or purified from foods that is generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with food” 

The term medicinal herb means:  “the art or practice of using herbs and herbal preparations to maintain health and to prevent, alleviate, or cure disease”

The term Chinese herb means:  “an herbal medicine that uses plant elements most commonly, but not solely, along with other substances such as animal, human, and mineral products”

The term nutritional supplement means:  “additions such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, natural food supplements and other related products used to boost the nutritional content of the diet”

This is the guideline that the FDA uses when labeling a supplement:

  • If the label on the supplement suggests that the product can “treat” or “prevent” a disease, the manufacturer is making a drug claim and the supplement should be regulated by FDA as an animal drug. If the product is an animal drug but has not been reviewed under FDA’s approval process, it is an unapproved animal drug. Unapproved animal drugs may not meet FDA’s strict standards for safety and effectiveness. With no review by FDA, there is no way for pet owners and veterinarians to know if the supplement is safe or if the claims on the label are true.


There are two great resources for people to utilize when trying to find a reputable and safe supplement product.  One is the NASC (National Animal Supplement Counsil) and the other is Consumer Labs. 

NASC's overriding goal is to promote the health and well-being of non-human food chain animals that are given animal health supplements by their owners, and to protect and enhance the integrity of the animal health product industry.  All NASC members are required to undergo a rigorous independent audit of their facilities.  Upon completion of this audit, members are then able to display the NASC Seal of Quality to show consumers they are committed to the “highest current standards of quality in the industry today.” 


There are many great and wonderful products out there that do not have the NASC label but to insure efficacy, the NASC emblem can certainly help guide those struggling to make the right supplement choice for their pup. 

Consumer Lab is an independent company that strives to identify the best quality health and nutritional products through independent testing.  For example, in both 2007 and 2009 Pet-Tabs Complete Daily for Dogs was found to be contaminated with 6.45 mcg of lead per tablet. 




Another handy resource is Dr.Becker of Mercola.  She often has the most common questions answered on her informative website.


I use and trust whole food supplements for me and my pets.  They use beneficial foods and herbs rather than synthetic vitamins.  When deciding on supplements, whole food types and synthetic types are not comparing “apples to apples”.  Synthetic supplements generally offer much higher amounts of vitamins while whole food supplements will be much lower. For example, a synthetic Vitamin C may be 1,000 mg per tablet while a whole food type may be only 
17 mg per tablet.   So if you want to provide high dosages of vitamin C, you will have to use synthetic supplements to do so. Synthetic supplements that include high doses of minerals may be too much and can be overdosed.

I like to feed as nature intended, only utilizing whole food supplements unless under direct supervision from a knowledgeable provider. 

Some excellent whole food supplement suppliers that I know, use and trust are:

  • Animal Essentials                            
  • Amber Technology
  • Ark Naturals
  • Earth Animal                                    
  • The Honest Kitchen
  • The Missing Link
  • Standard Process
  • Wysong
  • Vetri Science

In the end, just as with food, I think it's better to rotate between supplements rather than always giving the same ones. Use two or three that your dog does well with, and switch off between them, maybe each time you finish a bottle.  Doing so you will keep variety which will benefit your pups overall health by balancing over time not overdosing for weeks, months or years on end. 

If in doubt whether a supplement is actually of benefit or expense, there is no harm in stopping the supplement to see what the body tells you.  I do not believe in giving supplements “just because”.  Just like everything in my life and my dog’s lives, it has to prove itself to be worth it!