How to discuss supplements with clients

How to discuss supplements with clients

Nutritionist Dr. Susan Wynn shares her expertise on supplementation communication.
source-image
Sep 01, 2008
By dvm360.com staff



Dr. Susan Wynn, a nutritionist with Georgia Veterinary Specialists in Sandy Springs, Ga., often counsels pet owners about nutritional supplements. In general practice, she's usually the one to bring the subject up first. "Pet owners often don't think to involve their veterinarians in this discussion," Dr. Wynn says. Here's some input from Dr. Wynn, who answered our questions to help clarify the occasionally murky sea of communicating about nutritional supplements.

How often do clients ask about nutritional supplements?

Dr. Wynn: My practice is unique because most of my clients come to me with questions about supplements, but I asked a general practitioner how often people asked her about them, and she said almost never! When I've worked in general practice, I've found that many clients give supplements to their pets, but veterinarians don't know unless they're proactive and ask. Some clients are surprised to find out there are doctors who are knowledgable about supplements and want to help them.

What supplements do you recommend most often?

Dr. Wynn: I see many arthritis patients whose owners want to avoid NSAIDs. For these pets I recommend glycosaminoglycans, fish oil, antioxidants, and herbs. I also see atopic dermatitis almost daily (fatty acid supplements, herbs), cancer (fish oil, glutamine, herbs, or antioxidants, depending on the case), and odd immune-mediated diseases and other conditions not adequately treated by conventional medication. Supplements can correct basic physiologic imbalances and delay use of drugs that have more severe side effects. While we need our pharmacy to manage animal disease, nutrition can sometimes provide a "background" treatment that allows us to use lower doses and fewer drugs.

Do you offer clients any warnings?

Dr. Wynn: Yes, including these in my discharge instructions:

  • Dogs and cats are physiologically different from humans. Some drugs and herbs that are safe for people are potentially fatal when used in cats, and there are other substances for which dogs require much higher doses than people. Never depend on the advice of someone without veterinary training. There are veterinarians who can help you design a treatment regimen.
  • Most nutritional supplements are not regulated for efficacy, quality, and safety in the same way that drugs are, so quality control can make results of treatment unpredictable. If you desire more detail about products that have been tested for quality, talk with your veterinarian.

Do you stock products you recommend, refer clients elsewhere, or both?

Dr. Wynn: It's dangerous to send clients out for supplements unless you can give specific doses and brand names, because they may pick up a "similar" product that really isn't similar or, worse, take the health food store employee's opinion. So I stock what I recommend—fish oil, a probiotic, digestive enzymes, joint supplements, an antioxidant, a "liver" supplement, and, because I'm an herbalist, a large stock of tinctures.

Hot topics on dvm360

Dog of Dallas Ebola patient will not be euthanized, authorities say

Health officials have quarantined and will monitor dog and amid concerns surrounding deadly virus.

Video: How to perform a belt-loop gastropexy

Prevent GDV in your at-risk patients with this simple technique.

Stretch your skills to earn more in veterinary practice

Finding new tasks could be the key to generating more income for your practice—and boosting your pay.

Veterinary community stunned by Sophia Yin's unexpected death

Prominent veterinary behaviorist died of suicide Sept. 28.

Study shows sustained salary slump for veterinary support staff

Since 2009, technicians paid by the hour have experienced a bump in pay, but pay for other team members has stayed stagnant, according to data from the 2014 Firstline Career Path Study. Here’s a look at changes in team pay from 2009 to 2013.