Are Herbal Supplements Good For Dogs?

Health nuts and skeptics can debate you all day on the benefits of herbal supplements. The lack of regulation in many cases has people constantly clamoring about the next natural miracle drug that will ease joint pain, improve your vision or reduce the risk of cancer. Think of the subjects of such debate in the past few decades – shark cartilage (because sharks don’t get cancer, right?) all the way up to the more recent acai berry madness. While nearly all of these have their champions as well as detractors, I’ve rarely seen the debate lean into the world of pet supplements, and it really is a big industry.

Maybe it’s because Fido can’t whip up an op-ed piece or start a blog but it seems worthy of discussion whether or not herbal dog supplements are in fact worthwhile for pets considering Americans spent $690 million on joint supplements for their pets alone (according to the Nutrition Business Journal). So if all of this money is flying out of our pockets, what do we need to know when moving into the herbal realm of supplementation for our dogs?

There is some form of regulation

The National Animal Supplement Council is probably the major player in terms of deciding what can be labeled what and which claims can be made by certain products. For example, herbal products can’t actually call themselves “supplements” without fear of penalty. So, if you’re trying to avoid herbal supplements, pay attention to the wording. Most herbal products can only be called “alternatives” and don’t make claims to “cure” or “treat” as they are not sanctioned to have medicinal value.

Don’t expect a lot of hard data

The truth of the matter is that no matter how hard you look for information on pet supplements, whether they’re herbal or more standard products like glucosamine, you’re not going to find a ton of research. Truth be told, there’s not a lot of research on the efficacy of supplements for humans so it’s logical that research on pet supplements lags as well. That said, serious health concerns should always be dealt with by your vet first. Doing some research on message boards and websites where other pet owners provide anecdotal evidence for the use of supplements, herbal or otherwise, can be a good first step to having a constructive conversation with your vet about which supplements may benefit your pet.

So if your dog has lingering health issues talk to your vet first. For all the marketing available, you’ll still want to have a professional opinion before you make a big decision on your pet’s health.