Nutraceuticals are considered to not be nutrients, nor are they considered to be pharmaceuticals. They actually are considered to be an entirely new, previously undescribed category of health supplement. The best working definition I’ve heard for nutraceuticals is that they are compounds that are neither nutrients nor pharmaceuticals that play a non-nutrient role in normalizing health and overcoming disease. They can be concentrated, extracted, synthesized and/or standardized.
Common examples of nutraceuticals include:
- Botanicals (herbs)
- Amino acids
- Fatty acids
- Dietary supplements
- Functional foods
As you can see there are quite a few different compounds that all would qualify to be called “Nutraceuticals”. If you are interested in your own health or in the health of your pet, one way that has been found to be helpful is with the use of nutraceuticals. These compounds can help your body, or the body of your pet, better overcome disease problems. Nutraceuticals are what we call “Biological Modifiers”, which means that they have an effect on health and longevity.
One of the advantages of nutraceuticals is that their dosage is standardized from one capsule or liquid volume to another. For a veterinarian like myself I can feel pretty confident that I can give the right amount of a nutraceutical to have a positive effect, since I know what the concentration is of the nutraceutical formula and I’ve read studies that report the most effective dosage to use. That’s how I determine how much of something is needed to be effective. We usually dose based on the weight of the animal or of yourself. Larger pets or people will need larger amounts of the nutraceutical for it to work effectively.
Sometimes nutraceuticals can have drug-like effects, because they can be as strong and concentrated as drug. And sometimes nutraceuticals will have adverse drug-like reactions, because they can be so strong. This is why its important to be sure you are dosing the nutraceutical based on the weight of your pet. Its also important to check with a reliable source, such as this website to be sure you are using the right dosage, and not too much, and not too little.
Let’s look at some common nutraceuticals so we can better understand how to use them. One very common, and very important nutraceutical is the two fatty acids found commonly in fish oil. These long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are called eicosapentenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A lot of research studies have found that these two fatty acids have many very valuable applications for people, and for dogs and cats. But its important that you give enough of these fatty acids to your pet in order for them to work properly.
We know that EPA and DHA will, over time naturally reduce inflammation in the body. We know that inflammation is one of the triggers for many problems, including cancer and osteoarthritis. This is why using high doses of fish oil can help an arthritic dog feel better, and with cancer we can see increased life span and better response to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. But you have to dose it correctly.
For instance, when we are dosing fish oil for cancer patients, we dose it based on its DHA content, and we dose it at 30 mg/kg/day of DHA. This has been found to work the best for dogs with cancer. But, if the dog has inflammatory skin disease, or skin allergies, then you need to dose it differently. Giving 100 mg/kg/day of the combined content of DHA + EPA will help to reduce inflammation and over time will help improve its inflammatory skin condition.
Studies have found that it takes about twelve weeks for the oral dosing of the fish oil to start to have a substantial clinical anti-inflammatory response. By the way, if you are dosing to treat osteoarthritis, be prepared to give a lot of fish oil. The dose to effectively address osteoarthritis is about 300 mg/kg/day of EPA+DHA.
This is why it is so important for you to buy fish oil that very clearly states on the label its fatty acid content of EPA and DHA. I’ve found that using a pour bottle instead of capsules makes it easier to administer the really high dose of fish oil that needs to be given daily in order to see clinical improvement. Also, most dogs can tolerate a high dose of oils daily, but you need to gradually increase the dose over time to allow them to adapt to the high oil. If your dog has a history of pancreatitis, is could be risky to give them high amounts of oil, because of their tendency to develop this very painful disease.
Store your fish oil in the refrigerator, or at least in a cool dark place to help keep it from going rancid. Shake it well before use to mix up the oil, and mix it well into your pet’s food to ensure your pet eats it all.