The Science Behind Supplements | Current Issue

Jess Wealleans Supplements for pets have become as common as humans taking their daily multivitamins. Dogs and cats alike can greatly benefit from a supplement that can do anything from easing their stress, improving skin and coat health, treating existing conditions and helping to prevent future health issues.  As the […]

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Supplements for pets have become as common as humans taking their daily multivitamins. Dogs and cats alike can greatly benefit from a supplement that can do anything from easing their stress, improving skin and coat health, treating existing conditions and helping to prevent future health issues. 

As the trend for pet-supplement use continues to grow, pet parents are devoting large amounts of time and energy to research these products. With this commitment, more pet parents want to know the science used to create the supplements that they hope will safeguard their animals.  


Supplement Science

For a category as dynamic as pet supplements, manufacturers are constantly innovating, investing in research and conducting trials. By thoroughly examining ingredients and processes, the leaders of these brands are forging new paths into supplements. According to Amanda Howland, co-founder and chief commercial officer of ElleVet Sciences, the company is always exploring the potential for its products. 

“We believe that science is a crucial element to a good supplement and we are trying to change the supplement industry for the better by backing every product, all dosing and species-specific scientific proof,” Howland explains. “We are constantly innovating and asking ‘How can we make this product better?’ ‘What have we learned in our clinical trials that can be applied to current products to improve them?’ and ‘How can we use this information to innovate new products to help all pets?’”

When creating supplements, brands and manufacturers are responsible for ordering the appropriate studies on their products. When deciding what supplements to stock, retailers should ask brands and manufacturers for the scientific documentation to prove their claims.

“Many companies will say they have a study but it might not be a scientific study, so you need to ask to see the paper,” Howland says. “To the customers, it is essential for trust.  If a retailer can say, ‘This product works, I trust this company because they did clinical trials and have proof that over 80 percent of dogs had a positive response,’ then that is showing the customer that they also can trust the product.”

Once pet parents can see that a product’s trustworthy, they will seek out the appropriate supplement for their pets’ specific needs. Not all supplements are created equal, nor should they be, as different formulations should be effective to treat particular issues and reach specific health goals for animals. For example, pets at different life stages have different nutritional requirements, and the right supplements can help support a pet’s growth at each stage. 

“We see a lot of innovation around pet supplements for specific stages of life (like specific products for young or senior pets) as well as formulations and scientific concepts, which are similar concepts of human nutrition and human supplements,” says Bill Lowe, president of North America for Hofseth BioCare

Despite the importance of providing supplemental nutrition to pets that need additional support to remain healthy, Lowe emphasizes that supplements can’t provide pets with all the nutrition they need. 

“I think it’s important to remember that supplements are just that—supplements—to an existing balanced diet,” Lowe explains. “Therefore, safety is of the utmost importance. Providing pets with human-grade nutrition with zero negative side effects when dosed correctly, while simultaneously providing scientific back health benefits is the most important factor for pet owners.”


Building the Best Supplements

Of course, while having the right, high-quality ingredients is key in supplements, it’s also imperative to understand how much nutrition a pet retains when it travels through their digestive system. For Geoff Hamby, director of marketing at Vetericyn Animal Wellness, ensuring that a product is utilized within the body as it is intended is crucial to a quality product.

He notes that absorption by passive diffusion is a process that could leave behind the valuable formulations through which a product is made. A partnership with medical microbiologist and immunologist A.S. Narain Naidu, PhD, FACN, FLS, has brought the company’s focus onto bioactive molecules

“This is a slow process where ingredients sit in the gut until the molecules are able to move inside the body,” Hamby says. “The problem is not all molecules can be absorbed this way, which means they pass through as waste instead. There’s no mechanism to help the dog’s body process all those great ingredients so it just ends up on the lawn…as very expensive poop.

“[We are using] endocytosis, more commonly referred to as active transport, to move the nutrients through the dog’s body and deliver them to the cells so they can be absorbed.”

Naturally, even after effective products are achieved, companies want to continue improving upon existing science. Debra Decker, director of marketing for Pet King Brands, Inc., reveals that there have been advancements toward improving important alternatives to traditional treatments. 

“Some of the latest innovations behind the science of pet supplements include the use of antimicrobial enzymes in replace of antibiotics,” Decker says. “The history of this technology is not new but has been gaining great momentum because of the need to reduce the use of antibiotics in both human and animal medicine. Enzymes are present in all living things and are naturally occurring proteins that increase the rate of chemical reactions.” 

This science is paving the way for more, and greater, options for pet parents seeking new ways to heal their pets. As health challenges shift and new hurdles in pet healthcare arise, innovative approaches are needed to create different solutions, explains Decker.

“There are many different types of enzymes, and each have specific roles…Unlike antibiotics, they are selective and only target single-celled organisms and do not disturb the normal flora or affect healthy tissue,” Decker reveals. “Bacterial resistance to an antimicrobial enzyme is also very rare.”

As brands identify formulations that treat specific issues, they will become trusted sources for pet parents. The retailers who invest in learning about the science behind these brands will position themselves ahead of the curve. 

Through identifying the needs of pets, retailers can work with supplement manufacturers to identify the latest innovations in supplement science. Pet parents who have been seeking fresh solutions for their animals’ health issues will be relieved to discover that their retailers have been working alongside brands to offer the latest formulations. 

“Education plays a critical role because the more the retailer is the trusted expert for their customers, they need to be well trained on the technology and its benefits so they can share that knowledge with their customer,” Hamby explains. 

“Blogging, social media, and in-store classes are all great ways retailers can educate themselves and customers on the supplement and its impact on dog health.”  PB  


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