Nutraceuticals is a term used to describe supplements that have a health benefit in the prevention or treatment of often chronic disease. Many of them are plant derivatives and they are renowned for their safety and lack of side effects. We use them commonly in veterinary medicine and they can be beneficial in managing a lot of chronic problems.

Joint supplements are used widely and contain a mix of chondroitin, glucosamine, fish oils and hyaluronic acid. The glucosamine and chondroitin improve cartilage health. The hyaluronic acid and fish oils are anti-inflammatory. These supplements are given daily and help with reducing symptoms seen with minor arthritis. They can be used in conjunction with stronger anti inflammatories to treat more advanced arthritis. They are safe to give and side effects are rarely seen so again useful to be given long term or in dogs that are sensitive to non-steroidal anti inflammatories.

Supporting brain function in older dogs is also something we can help with nutraceuticals. Symptoms of cognitive decline include pacing, aimless wandering, restlessness, poor sleep patterns, loss of toilet training or reduced play. These supplements contain essential fatty acids, amino acids and vitamins which help scavenge free radicals and improve neurotransmission in the brain.

Dogs that suffer from repeated bouts of cystitis or bladder stones can be given a nutraceutical to help reduce bladder wall inflammation. The active ingredient is glucosamine which helps maintain a protective layer inside the bladder, so the cells are not irritated by urine. They can also contain cranberry and pomegranate to help maintain a sterile urinary tract.

Chronic colitis or irritable bowel disease can be improved with nutraceuticals. Preparations include glucosamine to protect the gut cells, oligosaccharides to promote healthy gut bacteria, ginger to reduce gut inflammation and essential amino acids to improve gut cell health. The gut has a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria and maintaining this is essential for gut health. Many contain cobalamin and folate2b vitamins which are often depleted with gut or pancreatic disease.

Another area where nutraceuticals are frequently used is chronic skin disease. These contain omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids as well as vitamins E, A and D. They help improve the skins natural barrier so are often used with dogs that suffer from allergies.

Nutraceuticals are used to help mild separation anxiety and promote a more relaxed behaviour with regard to travel or fireworks. A combination of amino acids, plant extracts and b vitamins are used.

We also use them to help liver function. These are commonly used in patients on long term medication that requires the liver to detoxify the drugs prior to excretion, such as epileptics. These nutraceuticals contain antioxidants such as silybin or SAMe to help balance out the damage caused by an increase in free radicals.

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