My most recent blog focused on potential pitfalls associated with treating our pets with medicinal herbs. As so commonly happens, I received wonderful feedback, and one comment in particular, I would like to share with you. Dr. Susan Wynn, a much-admired veterinary colleague offered this sage advice, “I think your conclusion is appropriate – if you’re interested in herbs, talk to your vet. I think you need to go one further, though, since most veterinarians know little about herbs – find a veterinarian who has a special interest in herbal medicine. Not only are they more aware of interactions and toxicity, recent research and clinical experience, they also take great care to source their products from American companies, some of them organic, that employ knowledgeable formulators. About the PDR recommendation – that will not be as helpful as it is for people only. Please see Veterinary Herbal Medicine (Elsevier, 2007). Disclaimer – I’m the first author on it – but it was written to collect the most comprehensive available information on herbs and their use in domestic animals. There are thousands of references, detailed information on over 100 herbs including known toxicity and interactions, species specific cautions, traditional ethnoveterinary uses and scientific support.”
Just as many people are giving their herbs to their pets without veterinary supervision, so too are they providing them with supplemental vitamins. I wish I could tell you that vitamins are perfectly safe to give. Alas such is not the case and here is why. Vitamins come in two basic varieties; they are either water soluble or fat soluble. Vitamins B and C are water soluble meaning that any excess in the body is readily eliminated from the body within the urine. I certainly take an abundance of vitamin C when I feel a cold coming on (thanks to Linus Pauling) with no worries of an overdose. Not true for vitamins A, D, E, and K. These are fat soluble vitamins, meaning amounts above and beyond what the body needs cannot be readily eliminated. Rather, the excess is retained within the body’s fat stores which can result in hypervitaminosis (symptoms caused by a vitamin overdose). For example, too much vitamin A can cause horrendous bony abnormalities and too much vitamin D can wreak havoc on normal calcium metabolism resulting in muscle tremors, gastrointestinal issues, and even kidney failure.
What’s the bottom line? As tempting as it is to believe that over the counter herbs and vitamins are safe for any and all living beings, take the time to discuss these products with a trusted veterinarian before you provide them to your beloved pets.
Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health,
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.
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