The Science Behind Pet Supplements

Manufacturers point to research that indicates how supplements can help support pet health.




Pet owners look to supplements to solve their pets’ health issues or to make them less susceptible to certain maladies. Consumers want to know how the supplements work, what the ingredients do and how the different brands vary. To answer those questions, manufacturers point to the science behind supplements and work to educate consumers about new and longstanding research.


“Supplements must be simple to understand, easy to use and effective,” says James Brandly, content writer and public relations manager for Wentzville, Mo.-based Cosmos Corporation, manufacturer of TropiClean products. “The challenge is knowing the ‘how’ it works, and relaying the simplicity of ingredients and how those ingredients help improve their pet’s life.”


The brand offers a line of supplements called Life By TropiClean. Brandly, citing 2018 APPA figures, says 58 percent of pet parents become aware of new pet products by browsing in the store, so the packaging for Life by TropiClean Supplements for Dogs is concise and relays specific solutions. Life Hip & Joint contains collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin to help support mobility and joint comfort. The company says the main active ingredient, collagen, is clinically proven to improve joint health by promoting joint cartilage development. Life Skin & Coat contains fresh oils from sustainably caught Norwegian salmon and Alaska pollock from the Bering Sea, with natural antioxidants, coconut oil for digestion and immunity, and a three-seed blend of oils with omegas. Life Calming Aid contains herbs, coconut oil and L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that helps promote calming and supports healthy rest.


“We understand that we only get seconds to grab the consumer’s attention, so we created packaging to entice the pet parent to learn more,” Brandly says. “Once pet parents have our supplement in their hands, our packaging showcases the ingredients and explains how it will help their furry friend.”


The company also educates retailers about the products through a pet professional portal, so that they can help shoppers find a solution that best fits their needs.


Extensive Research

While glucosamine has received much attention over the years as an ingredient that can help support joint health, manufacturers now say other ingredients are emerging in this segment. Parker, Colo.-based ActivPhy, a brand from H&C Animal Health, contains glucosamine, MSM, blue-green algae extract and a proprietary antioxidant blend that supports muscle, bone and cartilage health. Blue-green algae extract supports the body’s normal anti-inflammatory response while providing antioxidants, according to the company.


“The glucosamine, blue-green algae extract, the antioxidants and the MSN all work really well together to reduce those aches and pains that older dogs typically have,” says Chuck Latham, CEO of H&C Animal Health. “We get a lot of testimonials from people saying, ‘My dog can walk on the stairs now that I’m feeding him ActivPhy.’” The supplement is available in soft chews.


Manufacturers have to be precise about the wording of the health claims. The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) has stringent labeling guidelines for companies that want to use the NASC Quality Seal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits supplements from making claims of “treating” diseases. Many manufacturers use words like “supports” or “promotes” instead.


To help educate consumers about the products, H&C Animal Health offers a sampling program that focuses on retailers. “We have feeding programs for the store employees who use it on their dogs and then talk about it when the consumer walks into the store,” Latham says. In 2019, the company plans to launch a new line of products for dogs, based on the science of treating lameness in horses.


“I come from a science background, and I believe that science, in the long run, is always going to be better for the animal,” Latham says. “We’re not going to sell something we haven’t spent a lot of money testing.”


CBD Science

One area that is getting much attention is products that contain CBD. “One of the most important research developments surrounding CBD is regarding the efficacy of a full spectrum hemp extract versus the commonly used extract, CBD isolate,” says Chelsea Gennings, vice president of business development for Littleton, Colo.-based Pet Releaf. “Our bodies were built to receive cannabinoids as a whole.”


In order for a CBD product to be effective, Gennings says it must contain every cannabinoid present in the hemp plant, not just CBD. CBD isolate is extracted by using toxic chemicals such as hexane and pentane. “Products containing CBD isolate are not only less effective, but because of the use of toxic chemicals to extract the CBD molecule, they are also potentially dangerous to our pet companions.”


Pet Releaf launched several new products recently. The company’s Professional Liposomes are a new patent-pending oil technology that allows the brand’s Certified USDA Organic Full Spectrum Hemp Oil to be administered directly on food. They are mixed with sustainably-sourced Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for increased palatability and are available in two potencies. Pet Releaf’s trial-size Edibites contain between 9-10 Edibites and are available in Peanut Butter & Banana and Blueberry & Cranberry.


Gennings says many companies are jumping into the unregulated CBD space, so consumers and retailers should ask about whether a manufacturer uses organic products, where they grow the hemp and whether they are using CBD isolate, among other details. “We firmly believe that it’s a manufacturer’s job to be fully transparent,” Gennings says. PB


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