Supplements in veterinary medicine (Proceedings)


Supplements in veterinary medicine (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2009

According to a statement provided in a recent Veterinary Practice News article (May 2009) entitled "Supplements Gaining Sales and Respect" Bob Brookout, founder and president of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), claims: "Supplements are used by 90 to 95 percent of general practitioners and 100 percent of holistic veterinarians." This despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) says that some producers don't provide enough evidence that their products work.

While some questions of efficacy remain, the industry is experiencing a much greater acceptance of supplements in all areas of pet care. And, while there are certainly some scrofflaws in the field of supplements who continue to make hyperbolic and unfounded claims (as there are in any area of medicine), reputable manufactures strive to make their labels reflect the products inside. And more and more scientific research is being done to back up claims for efficacy.

Supplements, how big are they?

Again, according to the Veterinary Practice News article (cited above), consumers spent $1.3 billion on veterinary supplements in 2007. The industry is experiencing 15-18% growth each year, with annual revenue of $1.8 billion projected by 2012.

Other sources have similar figures: According to the Nutritional Business Journal US pet supplement sales reached $923 million in 2007, an increase of 8% over 2006 sales, and Packaged Facts estimates retail sales of pet supplements and nutraceutical treats at $1.2 billion in 2007 with 74% of this figure representing supplement sales. According to the Packaged Facts report, the majority of pet supplements (51%) are purchased for horses, while dog supplements represent 38% of the market and cat supplements represent 6%. (From an article in HerbalGram, the Journal of the American Botanical Council, # 82, May-July, 2009)

According to industry insiders, the supplement industry's growth is due to a new respect among veterinarians, to the increased amount of research available, and to client demand. Client demand is fueled by several factors, including: efficacy (perceived or actual); ease of administration (many products are dosed in the food); ease of purchase (products are available over the counter, at veterinary clinics, and via internet sources); readily available information (provided in user-friendly format on the internet); and the relatively inexpensive dosing.

Regulating supplements

The dietary supplement act Health and Education act of 1994 (DSHEA) established regulations for human dietary supplements at a time when there were few similar products for pets on the market. DSHEA did not specifically address the topic of supplements for pets, but a posting in the Federal Register later specified that the US Food and Drug Administration does not consider such supplements to be covered under DSHEA. Supplements for dogs, cats, and horses have therefore been left with two possible legal categories under US law – they may be defined as animal foods/feeds or animal drugs. Most supplement products for pets are classified by the manufacturers as nutritional or feed supplements.

Supplements were nearly removed from the marketplace beginning in 2002, after the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) organized a committee to develop an enforcement strategy for unrecognized, undefined animal feed ingredients as well as accepted ingredients that were being marketed for unapproved uses.

NASC was established in 2002 to address consumer and regulator concerns. NASC has created quality control guidelines and has instituted risk monitoring procedures for the industry, and it is estimated that 90% of companies that produce supplements are members.