“I’ve been giving Fluffy such-and-such for the last few months and she’s been doing great on it!”
I usually feel apprehension when I hear that sort of comment because of the answer to my response, “What’s in it?”
“Well, I don’t know,” is usually the answer from the now-sheepish pet owner.
Our pets are family, and our family members deserve us taking the time to investigate what we administer to them: food, water, medicine and neutraceuticals.
Neutraceuticals are nutrients that have pharmaceutical properties. Glucosamine and chondroitin, two ingredients in Cosequin and Dasuquin are examples.
Usually the products pet lovers mention are somewhere in the “supplement” category. Sometimes they are over-the-counter remedies for an ailment. Sometimes they are suggested for improving the hair or skin. One person brought something in recently that was supposed to make her dog stop scratching. It didn’t.
If I get the “I don’t know” answer I always insist that the material be discontinued until the container is brought in for me to look at and determine whether it is safe.
Or, as in the case of the “itch-controlling stuff,” whether it even has anything in it that might be called an active ingredient. That particular product didn’t have any effective ingredients, which explains why it wasn’t helping with itchiness. I couldn’t even bring myself to call it a supplement.
These are the steps I recommend you take prior to beginning something new for your pet:
- Look at the ingredients. If there is anything there that doesn’t make sense, doesn’t sound like it would be healthy, or causes you concern, put it back and forget it or skip to step 3.
- Look at the name of the company. Do you recognize it? Is it a reputable company? Is it known to be a disreputable company? Not every bad company goes out of business. Take McDonald’s for example. They are a good company but they disbursed a product, drinking glasses, with poisonous cadmium in the paint. Were it not for the government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control we might never have known.
- Take the list of ingredients to your veterinarian. If you ask him to “look it up online” keep in mind that can be very time-consuming and a single letter inadvertently changed might have the two of you talking about something totally different. Even if it takes a couple of days for him or a staff member return your call, there is nothing in the supplement category that is worth rushing in to, much less risking your pet’s health for.
One big difference between the McDonald’s/cadmium example and the over-the-counter (OTC) products you are exposed to in pet stores and the Internet is that McDonald’s is regulated by the federal government, whereas non-pharmaceutical companies aren’t. Errors and omissions, intentional or accidental, malicious or unintended, will probably never be caught in a company with no federal oversight.
Just as in the glucosamine analysis cited previously, unregulated companies might put anything or nothing into a supplement. Government agencies don’t become involved until or unless the product causes illness or injury.
Or a pet owner complains about lack of efficacy.
Buyer beware, but get your pet’s doctor involved.