The Un-Medicines


Do you ever wonder why we prescribe one medication over another?  What is the difference between Carprofen and Cosequin anyhow?  They both help arthritis but one is a drug and another is a nutraceutical.  Would an over the counter product be as good?  How do you know what is best for your pet?

The word drug is defined as a chemical compound used in diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease and is recognized and defined as such by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA).  That means drugs are controlled and monitored by the government.  That’s a good thing for consumers.  A nutraceutical, on the other hand, is defined as a product isolated or purified from food, generally sold in medicinal forms not associated with foods and demonstrated to have physiological benefit or provide protection against disease.  Nutraceuticals are not governed by the FDA. Products that contain enzymes, good bacteria and vitamins can be beneficial to health as well but generally fall outside the jurisdiction of the FDA. That puts a whole lot more responsibility on us, the consumer, to choose wisely.

There are thousands of “un-medicines” to choose from. However, what may be the most important thing for us to keep in mind is that they are not all equally beneficial. Purity levels, molecular weights and other heady details can and do vary from product to product and remember, most are not regulated by any outside agency.  So, the onus is on us, the consumer, to educate and protect ourselves. As a way to make things a little easier for you, Animal Family has compiled a short list of some of our favorite un-medicines.

L-Lysine:      L-Lysine is an essential amino acid.  That means animals need it but cannot manufacture it on their own.  It is sold as a vitamin or supplement. Good natural sources are foods that are rich in protein.  We use lysine in animals for its antiviral properties, especially for the treatment of feline herpes infections in cats. It works by blocking replication of the virus. One more added benefit of lysine is its ability to aid the body in absorption of calcium.

Denamarin:  Denamarin contains two main ingredients, S-Adenosylmethioine (SAME), a very big word which describes a molecule that is synthesized by cells throughout the body. It’s important because it is an essential part of 3 major biochemical pathways needed for the health of liver cells.  Silybin, the other component in Denamarin comes from Milk Thistle which is also known to have beneficial effects on liver function. We use Denamarin in animals with liver disease because of these properties.

Cosequin/Dasuquin:  We use these products a lot and research backs up how helpful they are to pets with arthritis and joint damage.  The key ingredients are: 1) chondroitin sulfate, a nutrient needed to keep cartilage cells healthy 2) glucosamine hydrochloride, which blocks enzymes that break down cartilage 3) manganese ascorbate which helps optimize production of cartilage components and in some products 4) ASU a substance derived from avocados and soybeans that has been shown to inhibit agents involved in the breakdown of cartilage.

Beware! There are hundreds of different brands and variations of joint products on the market but they are not all equally effective. Go with the products that have been researched and shown to work.

Melatonin:    Melatonin is a hormone which helps regulate sleep.  It also acts on other hormones in the body.  Melatonin has several different uses in animals. In dogs, it is used to treat alopecia or baldness and as an adjunct to other therapies in Cushing’s disease (Hyperadrenocorticism).  Because it has a sedative effect it is also used as a behavioral aid in anxious dogs. In ferrets, melatonin is used to treat symptoms of adrenal tumors. Affected ferrets lose weight and hair coat.  Melatonin helps to reverse some of these effects and improve quality of life.

Probiotics:   Probiotics come from foods such as yogurt that are made with fermented bacteria. These bacteria are considered “good guys” and have long been used to treat diarrhea in both humans and animals. Probiotics optimize healthy bacteria in the gut, act as a source of digestive enzymes and stimulate the immune system.

Omega Fatty Acids:  Like lysine, omega fatty acids are necessary for optimal health but cannot be manufactured by the body.  Natural sources are fish, algae and some plant and nut oils.  They are important because they have been found to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Fatty acids may also aid in preserving cognitive function and are beneficial to animals with dry, itchy skin.

Sunshine: Sunshine helps mammals, reptiles and birds synthesize vitamin D which is essential to health. Many reptile owners assume that basking is used mainly to regulate body temperature but it is, in fact, extremely important to maintaining a proper level of vitamin D.  Most important, insufficient Vitamin D can slow growth, decrease reproductive success and even cause death. Birds need sunshine for the same reasons as reptiles but in birds sunshine has the added benefit of promoting a healthy plumage as well.