Dr. Nancy Kay is a busy veterinary specialist, an internist who practices in Northern California. She writes books, lectures, sends out a regular email newsletter and keeps me updated on great topics I sometimes miss. That’s why I’m taking today’s post to play off her most recent thoughts on sourcing safe and effective supplements for your pets. 

This has been a big topic for us veterinary types lately. Many of us have started practicing in ways that seek to limit drug use and other invasive interventions wherever we can. Consequently, we look to diet, exercise, behavior modification and other basics when we make recommendations for our sick and still-well patients alike.

Perhaps the most highly-trafficked of these emerging areas is the one defined by our use of nutritional supplements. Adding these “natural” ingredients seems like a no-brainer. After all, treating your pet with something as innocuous as a plant extract beats drug use or surgery, right?

Yes, that’s true for most of the veterinary-recommended supplements. But it bears noting that not all that’s natural bodes well for our pets. I mean, cocaine is natural, too, right? So is chocolate. And xylitol, the sugar substitute sourced from the birch tree. This one will sometimes kill your dog quicker than it takes you to get to the animal ER. 

That’s why we need to stay on top of whatever it is we put into our pets. Here’s Dr. Kay’s way of doing that safely and effectively for supplements (from her newsletter, which you can sign up for here):

“We veterinarians are taught to use the ACCLAIM system (described below) to assess nutritional supplements.  You too can use this system to make educated choices about these products for yourself and your four-legged loved ones.

A = A name you recognize. Choose an established company that provides educational materials for veterinarians and other consumers. Is it a company that is well established?

C = Clinical experience. Companies that support clinical research and have their products used in clinical trials that are published in peer-reviewed journals to which veterinarians have access are more likely to have a quality product. 

C = Contents. All ingredients should be clearly indicated on the product label.

L = Label claims. Label claims that sound too good to be true likely are.  Choose products with realistic label claims.

A = Administration recommendations. Dosing instructions should be accurate and easy to follow. It should be easy to calculate the amount of active ingredient administered per dose per day.

I = Identification of lot. A lot identification number indicates that a surveillance system exists to ensure product quality.

M = Manufacturer information. Basic company information should be clearly stated on the label including a website (that is up and running) or some other means of contacting customer support.”

Good stuff right? Consider it another stepping stone on my quest to bring you as many great new minds dishing out responsible pet care as possible. Wish there were more Dr. Kays out there. 

So how about you? How do YOU select supplements?