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Supplements: How to Spot Bargains Versus Rip-Offs


It goes without saying that Tripawd pawrents place a high priority on keeping their fur kids healthy, and many of us purchase herbs and supplements to do so. We all want great products at low prices, yet how do we know when something is a real bargain, versus a dangerous rip-off?

Once of our favorite veterinarians, Dr. Nancy Kay (author of “Speaking for Spot”) recently wrote a two part blog series about the pitfalls of using medicinal herbs and supplements without veterinary supervision. Dr. Kay mentioned a recent study about human supplements, published in the Journal of Forensic Science. Among other findings, the study found:

  • Less expensive herbs are sometimes intentionally used to replace those that are more costly.
  • Accidental substitution can occur if plants are incorrectly identified or if the name is misinterpreted.
  • Some herb manufacturers purposefully adulterate their products with drugs presumably to increase their efficacy.

This is scary stuff! So what’s a pawrent to do?

Dr. Kay’s suggestions include: finding a veterinarian who has a special interest in herbal medicine, picking up a copy of Veterinary Herbal Medicine and using the ACCLAIM system when learning about products. This is a method that vets are taught to use when evaluating products, and you can too:

Use the ACCLAIM System

to Educate Yourself About Herbs and Supplements

A = A name you recognize. Choose an established company that provides educational materials for veterinarians and other consumers. Is it a company that is well established?

C = Clinical experience. Companies that support clinical research and have their products used in clinical trials that are published in peer-reviewed journals to which veterinarians have access are more likely to have a quality product.

C = Contents. All ingredients should be clearly indicated on the product label.

L = Label claims. Label claims that sound too good to be true likely are. Choose products with realistic label claims.

A = Administration recommendations. Dosing instructions should be accurate and easy to follow. It should be easy to calculate the amount of active ingredient administered per dose per day.

I = Identification of lot. A lot identification number indicates that a surveillance system exists to ensure product quality.

M = Manufacturer information. Basic company information should be clearly stated on the label including a website (that is up and running) or some other means of contacting customer support.


We really appreciate Dr. Kay’s great advice, and hope that it gives you a good starting point when comparison shopping for supplements for your Tripawd, or yourself.

*The study cited: A Review of the Potential Forensic Significance of Traditional Herbal Medicines” from the Journal of Forensic Science (January, 2010). Author: Roger Byard, M.D.

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