Supplement surge

Supplement surge
Ms Sharon Oh spends $500 a month on supplements such as fish oil, vitamin B and primrose for her five dogs, which includes Cass.

Organic primrose, fish and coconut oils, vitamins B and C, and probiotics: these are the nutritional pills, powders, capsules and oils you would expect to find in a high-end pharmacy, not in Fido's dinner bowl.

But veterinarians say there has been an increased use of such nutritional supplements for pets in the past five years.

Take Ms Sharon Oh, 52, founding member of dog rescue organisation Exclusively Mongrels, for example. Her five rescue mongrel dogs, which range in age from three to five years old, receive daily supplements of immune support powder, joint support powder, pre- and probiotics, vitamin B complex, fish and coconut oils.

She spends $500 a month on the supplements. These are fed to her dogs on a daily or weekly basis, depending on each animal's needs, orally or mixed into the dogs' home cooked meals. Ms Oh says the supplements are necessary to ensure the dogs get a balanced, nutritious diet, and to treat specific ailments, such as incontinence or hormonal imbalance (primrose oil), or skin irritation (witch hazel and neem oil). Ms Oh, who is married with no kids, started using the nutritional supplements instead of, or in combination with, conventional medicine about 15 years ago, when one of her dogs developed arthritis at about three years old.

"I could have put it on medication for the rest of its life, but that can do a lot of liver and kidney damage if used long term. The supplements work just as well and don't have the side effects," she says. The dog died two years ago at the age of 18.

Dr Jean Paul Ly, 64, owner and director of Animal Recovery Centre Group in Serangoon Road, says he has seen the use of supplements increase three- or four-fold since he started his career as a veterinarian and clinical nutritionist 30 years ago.

"It's a big field these days. Five or 10 years ago, about 20 per cent of my patients were using nutritional supplements and neutraceuticals. Now 80 per cent are using them," he says. Neutraceuticals are purified vitamins and natural herbs administered in high doses to treat diseases and ailments, rather than supplements, which are used in lower doses to complement a balanced diet.

The most commonly used supplements are glucosamine for joint health; probiotics for digestive and immune system health; and fish and coconut oils for anti-inflammation and skin, coat, heart and brain health. Pet owners spend about $50 to $150 a month a pet on the supplements, which are purchased in pet stores, such as Pet Lovers Centre, in veterinary clinics, in local pharmacies or health food shops such as GNC, or online from websites such as iherb.com.

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