Is there a place for calming nutraceuticals in your veterinary practice?

December 3, 2018
Julie Reck, DVM

Julie Reck, DVM, owns Veterinary Medical Center of Fort Mill in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

I was skeptical at first, but these over-the-counter remedies can be complementary to the traditional pharmaceutical options.

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Admittedly, prior to becoming Fear-Free-certified, I had absolutely zero experience with “calming” nutraceuticals. Even after certification, I found myself unsure that they had a place in my daily recommendations to clients. I found myself reaching for what I “knew” would work, such as trazodone and gabapentin. As I gained more experience with Fear Free practices, I began to find myself in a variety of situations where pharmaceuticals didn't fit all the needs of my patients.

New patients frequently present a challenge toward proactively prescribed pharmaceuticals. Many clients with fearful pets seek out our practice because of our Fear Free reputation, but without an existing client-patient-relationship we are unable to prescribe traditional pharmaceuticals. Suggesting an over-the-counter calming supplement for an initial consultation is often helpful to begin the process of reducing fear, anxiety and stress (FAS) associated with the veterinary visit. One of my favorite nutraceuticals for felines is alpha-casozepine (Zylkene-Vetoquinol), because it often has a gabapentin-like effect on patients with low to moderate levels of FAS. If the consultation reveals high levels of FAS despite nutraceuticals, then we now have the ability to prescribe pharmaceuticals.

Another reason I began to recommend nutraceuticals more frequently was to prevent or reduce FAS in a stepwise manner. Many pet parents still have limited understanding of the emotional wellbeing of their pet and the options available to protect and repair it if needed. Some pet parents are more comfortable using the gentlest, most natural option as a first-line treatment approach. In these instances, I will start with a nutraceutical and then have the pet stop by for a quick technician evaluation to determine FAS level. If the pet is still demonstrating signs of fear and anxiety, then I find many pet parents are comfortable moving toward pharmaceutical options.

Now that my practice is two years into our Fear Free journey, we find that nutraceuticals have a permanent position on our inventory shelves. They help us provide options to new patients as well as begin the process of addressing FAS in a gradual, progressive fashion. Nutraceuticals are an effective tool to build trust with pet parents and forge a long-lasting relationship that focuses on the pet's emotional health and well-being.

Julie Reck, DVM, owns Veterinary Medical Center of Oak Mill in Oak Mill, South Carolina.