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Another piece of a pet’s diet

Supplements, though unregulated, are gaining popularity as a solution for missing nutrients

Posted: January 28, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 28, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

Supplements have been a popular way for people to stay healthy for decades. Recently, pets have been getting into the act, too.

According to a report by Packaged Facts, sales of pet supplements and nutraceutical treats grew at an annual of about 4 percent over five years, to reach $1.2 billion in 2010.

Valencia veterinarian Evelyn Vega, owner of Happy Pets Veterinary Clinic, is a strong believer in prescribing supplements for certain conditions.

“For example, when we do blood work, if there are kidney or liver problems, I can recommend supplements to help with that,” Vega said. “We prescribe glucosamine for a lot of older dogs or immune support for pets when they’re sick. About 80 percent of the time, pet owners are willing to do it.”

Immunity support includes vitamin C, zinc and echinacea.

“It’s what a lot of people take when they’re getting cold or to prevent getting sick, or at least I do. It’s the same for pets,” she said.

Other popular remedies include herb formulas for cats with renal issues, and fish oils for dogs with dandruff, dry skin and inflammation.

“Putting fish oil in food definitely helps, but owners have to wait at least four weeks to see the effect. The oil has to get in hair follicles and do its job. It’s not going to be an overnight thing,” Vega said.

The supplements Vega uses at her practice are specifically formulated for animals with weight guidelines for proper dosing and carry the National Animal Supplement Council seal of approval.

If clients buy their vitamins outside her practice, she will look up the proper dosages at their request.

Vega will also dispense some advice.

“Supplements are not regulated by the FDA or any other organization. A product could say its 100 percent super-grade glucosamine, but it could be dirt for all you know,” she said. “Do your research. I always tell people, ‘Make sure a supplement has the NASC label on it. You get what you pay for.’”

That philosophy is shared by Brad Kriser, founder and chief executive officer of Kriser’s for Your Pet, a small national chain of health-focused retail stores with a location in Valencia.

“If something is of high quality in the pet world, then usually it is more expensive,” he said.

Kriser personally tests every product that is carried at his namesake stores.

“We look at where supplements are sourced and processed. As much as possible, the supplements we carry are naturally sourced and come from the United States. Many are produced in a human-grade laboratory,” he said. “We really drill our suppliers.”

Currently, the bestselling supplement at Kriser’s is a glucosamine chondroiton formula made from shark cartilage.

Enzymes and probiotics are increasing in popularity.

“It’s like Activia for humans. A lot of the healthy bacteria present in raw foods is removed by the pasteurization process. Even raw pet food needs these enzymes to help pets break down and synthesize nutrients,” Kriser said. “Animals intestines are so much smaller than ours, and food goes through their system much quicker. Their body composition requires that they need to get the most out of their food.”

According to Kriser, anxiety supplements are in great demand in the Midwest, such as the Chicago area where Kriser’s was launched.

It’s where thunderstorms can make skittish pets absolutely neurotic, so the holistic essential Rescue Remedy treatment comes in handy for those occasions or just for a trip to the vet for those dogs and cats who don‘t usually like to travel.

As for emerging trends, Kriser feels that Dogtor X, a natural growth hormone derived from fertilized chicken eggs, could be the next big thing.

“The idea of it is to help regulate adrenal glands in pets, so that the production of cortisole and other stress-related hormones are kept at good levels. It helps with anti-aging,” he said. “People are really interested in these kinds of things for their pets.”

Like Vega, Kriser recommended that pet owners have a buyer beware attitude towards supplements.

“I always say that the best thing to do is to get on Internet and research and call companies or go to a store that you trust with staff that can talk to you about these products,” he said. “One of the main focuses at Kriser’s semiannual meetings is to educate our employees on the new supplements we carry, what it does and why it’s good. It’s important that we’ve seen the positive benefits from it, to let our customers know.”

From Vega’s perspective, asking your vet about supplements is a great first step.

“You want to narrow it down to the good quality ones that pets really need, not bombard them with everything that’s out there,” she said.

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