There is a legal definition of pet supplements (they are called ‘nutraceuticals’ in legislation), but essentially they are a food additive that’s marketed as having some kind of beneficial effect on health. They can be combined into pet food (lots of prescription diets make use of these to boost their effectiveness), or used separately as a tablet or liquid, and are commonly used orally (by mouth). Typically, they’re made or derived from natural ingredients.
They are very useful things for a few different reasons, but the main reason we use them is that they can often be used alongside prescription medications. This means that we can add in extra treatment without interfering with any treatment the pet may already be on, which is very useful for conditions which require multiple medications to manage, or older pets who may already be receiving treatment for something else. They’re also very helpful for more mild conditions which may not be severe enough to need a prescription medication (for example, very early arthritis or mild anxiety), and some of them can even be useful to help lessen the long-term side effects of some prescription medications.
So does your pet need a supplement? The honest answer is probably not, but there will be pets who could benefit whose owners maybe don’t know about the options available. We’ll be covering the range of conditions that we have some pretty good evidence for in later blogs this month, but we know that certain supplements can be helpful with joint conditions, skin conditions, mild behaviour issues, urinary issues and UTIs in cats, and liver conditions.
When talking about supplements, it’s always important to note that not all supplements are created equal! Unfortunately, there isn’t much regulation around supplements because they’re not classed as ‘medications’, so it’s very easy for people or companies to sell fake ‘supplements’ which may contain absolutely no active ingredient, or even harmful ingredients. Naturally, the internet is a big part of this – after all, anyone can list just about anything on Amazon! We’re also seeing more and more people selling ‘supplements’ on sites like Gumtree and Facebook, which is incredibly dangerous. Again, we’ll post something more in-depth on all of this later this month, but the general advice is always to seek supplements from your vet, or seek a well-known brand from a reputable shop!