Neutraceuticals — Are They For Your Pet? (2012 Update)

For over 3000 years, mankind have derived medicinal treatments from plants, animals and other natural substances. Over 25% of the prescription drugs commonly used today are still derived from plants. Even drugs that are synthesized have at some point originated from plants. Herbal medications are considered more of a nutritional supplement than a medication and as such the FDA labels them as ‘nutraceuticals”. Neutraceuticals can be simply defined as non-drug oral agents that provide substances required for normal body function. The purpose of giving them is to improve health and well being. These substances have characteristics of both drugs and nutrients. Do not confuse “natural” and “herbal” with “safe” or neutraceutical. Although they are not recognized as drugs, herbal and natural remedies are used for their drug-like effect, and they can potentially cause the same side effects and reactions that prescription drugs can cause. Neutraceuticals do not treat or cure disease, but instead aid and improve certain body functions and help in the long term care of certain chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis. Today, almost 60% of Americans regularly use these supplements, and now they are becoming more and more commonly used in veterinary medicine, with great success. Pets are living longer and veterinarians wantt to help owners improve their pets “quality of life”. This is one way of doing so. An example of a neutraceutical is glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, usually mixed together. Glucosamine is derived from Shellfish and Chondroitan is from animal products. Together they rebuild the cartilage and thicken the joint fluid that cushions and protects joints. Combined with NSAIDS, dogs are now living longer pain-free lives, with improved body functions, and they are also more ambulatory with the advent of neutraceuticals. The down side is that they are not FDA controlled and as such veterinarians have to be very selective as to which manufacturer/distributor they purchase from.