Approximately 7 years ago I started using natural therapies in my practice as I became a more integrated doctor. Practicing in Texas I was seeing many allergic pets who really didn't get better using conventional drug therapy. By incorporating natural therapies into my treatment regimen I immediately started seeing unbelievable results!
In addition to the great results I regularly see with natural therapies in my patients, one of the nice things that attracted me to this type of pet care is the relative lack of side effects. It's rare to see any side effects using supplements in the care of my patients. Yet it's been reported in human medicine that side effects of drugs is one of the leading causes of illness and death in people (I'm sure the unreported statistics are similar in veterinary medicine!)
While many pet owners think "natural" equals "safe," this is not always true. There are some supplements (such as ephedra) that can be extremely toxic and even fatal if not used properly. This article will explore some of the more commonly used supplements, as well as any side effects that may occur. As always, the best way to incorporate natural therapies into your pet's treatment regimen is to do so under proper veterinary supervision, as this will also decrease the chance of any side effects.
"Natural" does not automatically mean "safe"
Most supplements are safer than prescription drugs for long term control of medical problems
Examples: NSAIDS vs. joint supplements, choline vs. Anipryl or anticonvulsants, Fatty acids and antioxidants vs. corticosteroids, olive leaf extract vs. antibiotics.
Sometimes conventional medications are safer than supplements
Example:coventional deworming medicines vs. wormwood/ black walnut/ pennyroyal oil.
Ex.decongestants/bronchodilators vs. ephedra.
Sometimes species differences make natural therapies potentially toxic:tea tree oil/volatile oils/white willow bark with cats and small dogs.
Natural therapies may show interactions with conventional medications that could be toxic.
Examples:White willow bark with NSAIDS, ephedra with cardiac drugs, decongestants, and asthma medications drugs, ginkgo biloba with high dose fish oil.
In following articles, I'll review some of the most commonly used supplements.
Shawn Messonnier, DVM
Author, 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog, The Allergy Solution for Dogs, and the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats. Dr. Shawn is the medical consultant for Pet Togethers, a pet supplement company.