How to Choose the Best Supplements for Your Pet's Health

Before buying over-the-counter remedies for your pet, take some time to do your due diligence and, most importantly, speak to your vet about your pet’s health.

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Do you take supplements for your health? They may help you balance nutrient absorption from your diet or just make you feel healthier. The market is filled with supplements that claim to improve a variety of ills, so much so that companies are starting to market pet supplements! Before buying over-the-counter remedies for your pet, take some time to do your due diligence and, most importantly, speak to your vet about your pet’s health and medical needs.

Facts and Myths About Supplements for Pets

Fact: Vets support the use of supplements to help pets get and stay healthy.Fact: The amount of pet supplements available on the market today is OVERWHELMING!Myth: All pet supplements will benefit the health of your pet. Myth: All pet supplements are safe for your pet. Myth: All supplements contain exactly what is printed on the label. How do you know if a supplement is going to be helpful or harmful for your pet? This can be quite challenging question to answer, and in some cases it requires trial and error, which can be scary for pet owners. That’s why a vet’s involvement is critical to adding a new supplement to your pet’s routine.

Types of Supplements for Pets

Pets develop medical conditions just like their humans. They also age like humans, but at a faster rate, so it makes sense that pet owners would seek health supplements to address or prevent a medical condition as their pets age. Joint supplements can help prevent the onset and progression of arthritis. In cases where arthritis is already a problem, the joint supplements are used to help alleviate some of the discomfort that accompanies this chronic condition.  Allergic dermatitis is another common condition that motivates people to seek supplements for their pets. Supplements are available that claim they balance the immune system, contribute to the health of the skin, and reduce itching. There are also general supplements, such as multivitamins, that claim to contribute to overall health and longevity. 

Potential Risks of Pet Supplements

The two most concerning risks of pet supplements are adverse reactions or unwanted side effects and interactions with their already prescribed medications. These are the most dangerous risks because they can actually endanger your pet’s life. Adverse reactions and unexpected interactions with medications can range from mild gastrointestinal symptoms to death. This is why it is important to always check in with your veterinarian before starting any supplement for your pet. There is the additional risk of wasting your money on supplements that do not help your pet. Unfortunately, there is very little regulation of pet supplements. There is no governing body that ensures a supplement contains what it says on the label. You could be spending money on something that is completely useless when it comes to your pet’s health, or worse, has dangerous additives.  In a worst-case scenario, if the company does not test for contaminants or toxins such as heavy metals, the supplement may be endangering your pet’s health. So, how do you know if a supplement is safe, does what it says, and doesn’t contain anything harmful for your pet? 

Key Considerations When Researching Supplements for Your Pet

Choosing the right supplement for your pet isn’t just about brand or claims made on the packaging. You want to really dig into what’s in each brand’s formula. Take the time to do your research before heading to the store to pick up a pet supplement.

Be Selective

Consider which supplements could be of the most benefit to your pet. This can help prevent you from overloading your pocketbook and your pet’s food bowl. For example, if your pet is a middle-aged to senior dog or a dog with hip dysplasia, joint supplements make sense. If your cat suffers from renal (kidney) disease, supplements that contribute to kidney health make sense, but the joint supplements may not.If your pet is young with no medical concerns and is on a healthy diet, supplements may not make sense at all. If you’re interested in preventive supplements, talk with your veterinarian about whether they are appropriate for your pet before you make a purchase. 

Visit the Company’s Website

Look for third party testing that includes content analysis and scanning for toxins or heavy metals. If this information is not readily available on their website, you can contact the company to see if they are able to provide it. If you can’t obtain this important safety information, it’s probably best to avoid it and look for a similar supplement that checks this box.  Another step that supplement companies can take to gain your confidence and ensure the safety and quality of their product is to earn the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal. This is a voluntary program and a good indicator that the company cares about earning your trust and contributing to the health of your animal safely. 

Get a First-Hand Testimonial

Ask friends and family members who have similar pets and share your outlook on pet care if they have experience with the supplement and whether it’s been helpful for their pet. Connect with local pet-focused organizations in person or on social media to get a better idea of whether this supplement has a good chance of helping your pet. Specific breed clubs and rescue organizations can also provide you with relevant feedback. 

What to Do Once You’ve Selected a Pet Supplement

If your pet is uncomfortable, you can gauge the success of the supplement by monitoring their symptoms and looking for improvement. Keep in mind that different supplements take different amounts of time before you can expect to see results.  In many cases, supplements are used to prevent unwanted problems for our pets. So, you won’t have symptoms to monitor or a way to gauge response. This is just one more reason to check with your veterinarian first and to do your homework by covering the three key considerations listed in this article.  Responsible pet owners work to provide the happiest, healthiest, longest lives for their pets, so adding health supplements to your pet’s medical care is tempting. When it comes to choosing supplements, this can make us vulnerable. Doing your due diligence helps to ensure the safety of your pets and gives you the best chance at choosing supplements that will help your pet achieve this goal!If you’re interested in protecting the long-term health of your pet and preventing future illnesses as early as possible, your best partner is your vet. They are on your team to keep your cats and dogs as healthy as possible. Regular vet visits, vaccinations, and wellness procedures should be started early to give your pet the longest, healthiest life possible.

Pet insurance is another important member of your team and will work with you to help you afford the best care for unexpected medical needs your pet may have. Trusted pet insurance partners like AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) offer robust and customizable coverage options so you can find the perfect fit for your pet. 

Get a quote today and learn more about the benefits of coverage through AKC Pet Insurance.

Nell Ostermeier DVM, CVA, FAAVA

Nell Ostermeier is an Integrative Veterinarian, Motivator, Lecturer, and Consultant.