Supplementen voor honden en katten

Supplements: If it doesn’t help, it doesn’t hurt?

“Nutritional supplements are not a substitute for a nutritionally balanced diet.” – Deepak Chopra

There are a multitude of supplements on the market for all kinds of conditions. For example, there are supplements for nervous animals, supplements for bladder stones, osteoarthritis, kidney problems, etc. They all claim to be natural and healthy. And that is why supplements are often thought to be safe: if it doesn’t help, it doesn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, this is not true! In this blog, I explain why this is not true and how you can safely use supplements.

Control and regulation of supplements in Europe

In Europe, pet supplements are largely subject to the same regulations as pet food. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) plays a central role in this. They assess the safety and efficacy of ingredients before they are allowed on the market. However, there is a significant difference in the degree of regulation between medications and supplements, with the latter being less strict. This means that not all products are extensively tested for effectiveness and safety before they are available to consumers.

Lack of information

It is often not clear from the packaging of a supplement what exactly is in it or how much of an ingredient it contains. For example, it is nice if the packaging says that it contains omega-3 fatty acids, but we want to know exactly which fatty acids are in it and in what amount so that we can determine the right dosage for an animal.

My experience is that many supplement manufacturers are not open about, among other things, what exactly is in their supplements, in what dosages and where these ingredients come from. However, this information is very important to have before you can assess and use a supplement.

Many supplements have not undergone extensive long-term studies to ensure their safety. Long-term use of these products can cause unforeseen health problems, which may only become apparent after many years.

Start with the basics

Supplements can be very valuable for the health of our pets. But they are a lot less effective if the basic nutrition is not optimal. Someone who goes to McDonalds every day and takes a multivitamin is less healthy than someone who cooks a healthy meal every day.

A good basic diet that meets the needs of your buddy is essential. A supplement is what it says it is: an add-on.

For example, green-lipped mussel can be a good supplement for animals with joint problems. But if the basic diet is pro-inflammatory and overweight-promoting, the green-lipped mussel will not compensate for that.

How can supplements be harmful to our pets?

Supplements can be harmful to pets in a variety of ways. Here are some specific ways that supplements can be potentially dangerous:

  • Interaction with medications

Supplements can interact with medications that your pet may already be taking. For example, herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort may reduce the effects of certain sedatives and anticonvulsants. This can lead to a reduced effectiveness of the prescribed medications and can put your buddy’s health at risk.

  • Overdose and toxicity

Because the regulations for supplements are less strict than those for medications, the exact concentration of active ingredients can vary between different batches and brands. In addition, it is not always clear what dosage of a nutrient/herb is present in the supplement. On top of that, we don’t always know exactly how much of something (e.g. a vitamin or mineral) is present in an animal’s basic diet. All of this can lead to accidental overdoses. I can give many examples of this, but for the sake of brevity I would like to mention three common ones:

One example is vitamin A overdose, which can lead to serious health problems such as dehydration, joint pain, and severe damage to blood vessels.

Another well-known example is vitamin D. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means that it builds up in the body. If there is more than enough vitamin D in the basic diet and an owner is going to give a well-intentioned supplement that also contains vitamin D, this can lead to vitamin D poisoning with symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy and kidney failure. A study published in the “Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics” has documented cases of vitamin D toxicity in pets due to over-supplementation.

The third example I want to mention is kelp. Kelp has many good properties and is therefore also called a superfood. But kelp has a varying amount of iodine in it. If you give a food that is already generous in the amount of iodine for your dog or cat and you are going to add kelp with a high iodine content, you may give too much iodine, which can lead to problems.

  • Misdiagnosis and treatment

Sometimes, pet owners begin to use supplements as a “fix” to symptoms without an accurate diagnosis by a veterinarian. This can cause a treatable condition to worsen or the wrong condition to be treated. For example, a pet suffering from underlying pain may suffer unnecessarily if the focus is on supplements that are ineffective against the pain source.

Recommendations for safe supplement use

  • Always consult a veterinarian

Before you start giving a supplement, it is essential to discuss it with a veterinarian who has knowledge of nutrition and supplements and the health and nutrition of your animal.

  • Choose Reputable Brands

Select supplements from companies that are known for their strict quality control and transparency. Choose supplements where the manufacturer is honest and open about the ingredients, the contents of the ingredients, where these ingredients come from, how it is produced, how long it lasts after production, etc.

  • Stay informed

Keep yourself up to date with the latest scientific research and safety reviews on supplements you’re considering for your pet.


Supplements can be a valuable addition to the health and well-being of pets. But it’s important for pet owners to be aware of the potential risks and dangers of supplements. “If it doesn’t help, it doesn’t hurt” is a misconception that can lead to serious health problems in dogs and cats.

To learn more about safe and effective supplements and nutrition for your pet, follow my blog and stay up-to-date with the latest information on animal health and welfare. Together, we can ensure a happier, healthier life for our beloved four-legged friends.

Do you have a comment or a question? Feel free to send me a message, I’m happy to help you!

Holistische dierenarts. Acupunctuur, voedingsadvies en voedingstherapie voor honden en katten.

Hi, I am Anneke

On this blog I share information about acupuncture and nutrition for dogs and cats. New research, tips and recipes will also come along regularly. Have fun reading!
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