Peter H. Eeg, DVM Poolesville Veterinary Clinic
As much as half of the American population uses dietary supplements on themselves and their pets. Most are purchased over the counter (OTC) without consultation with a human physician or veterinarian. There is growing evidence that many commonly-used supplements may not be the safe miracle product they are touted to be.
Remember, if the claim seems too good to be true, it probably is.
A supplement may contain one ingredient or any combination of ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, or some other lesser known substances. They are sold in tablets, capsules, liquids, or powders.
Researchers recently looked at liver injuries attributed to dietary and herbal supplements. Remember, the liver is the main organ for removing toxins and medications that you have put into you or your pet’s body—also liver damage does not become evident in many cases until significant damage has occurred. The data comes from the “Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network”, a database set up by the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Over 100 published studies were reviewed.
The review found that 20 percent of cases of chemical-induced liver damage was caused by herbal and dietary supplements. This is double the percentage from one decade ago. There were links to over 116 different products, many of which contained multiple ingredients. It is hard to determine if a single agent or drug reaction between two or more ingredients caused the damage.
Of greatest interest is the supplements that were identified. These are ones that well have heard of and considered safe for many years. They include but are not limited to: green tea extract, multiple Chinese herbs, Korean herbs, vitamins, and other dietary supplements. Products manufactured by many of the most-recognized herbal companies were noted.
Overall, liver damage from supplement use is not common but tends to occur when supplements are overused, used in combinations not recommended by a health professional or with prescription medications prescribed, and no conversation about what herbal medications are also being taken occurs between the patient/owner and health professional.
If you are considering a supplement for yourself of your pet, please discuss it with your health professional first, especially if you are on prescription medications. Your healthcare team has access to databases that identify and discuss potential side effects, adverse interactions with other medications, and general guidelines for use.
Poolesville Veterinary Clinic
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