Are Name-Brand Joint Supplements Worth the Extra Cost?

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Q. My veterinarian wants me to give my dog glucosamine and omega-3 oils for arthritis, but she insists the generic I buy isn’t as good as the products she recommends. Is a brand name really worth the extra money?

A. You have a good veterinarian — this combination of supplements has been proven to be effective in addressing osteoarthritis in pets. Even better, it is considered a very safe approach to joint pain and may delay the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control pain in aging pets. NSAIDs are powerful, proven tools for managing pain, but as with all medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), they do carry some risks. Get a copy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s brochure on NSAIDs for pets and review with your veterinarian.

I suspect your veterinarian’s diligence in making sure your pet is getting the best care possible is behind her concern over generic supplements. In recent years, the popularity of these products, combined with pressure to push prices downward, has resulted in supplements that did not pass laboratory scrutiny with regard to content. Other products turned out to be contaminated. While these problems are not limited to generic or house brands, they have led some doctors to rely on companies whose products they have come to trust. Many of these companies put a premium on sourcing of ingredients and testing, which understandably pushes the price of these name-brand products higher.

Many respected colleagues of mine prefer to recommend from the product lines of a handful of well-regarded companies when it comes to supplements. After what happened with misrepresented ingredients from Chinese suppliers in the 2007 pet food recall, it’s hard to fault them for it. I frequently prescribe generic medications, but I often recommend brand names for over-the-counter products.

In the end, the decision is yours. I’d discuss the issue further with your veterinarian to find out exactly why she is making these recommendations. If you are already using generic supplements, why not try a 60-day supply of the products your veterinarian recommends and see if there’s any improvement? It may be that for your pet, the extra cost may indeed provide better results.

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