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Dietary Supplements for Pets and Structure Function Claims

In 2002, FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) made it abundantly clear it does not believe the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) pertained to pets or other animals (Federal Register 61:17706-17708). This position is, however, a myopic response to the downstream issues of potential consumer fraud and pet safety.

CVM’s contention that DSHEA does not pertain to animals is based on its literal reading of DSHEA wherein there was no mention of animals, only humans. That is, in the definition of a dietary supplement §201(ff), specifically §(1)(E), “a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake;” despite the fact that in the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, §201(f) “The term ‘food’ means (1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals,” Regardless of the technical merits of CVM’s argument, the interpretation does not serve its constituents well – the facts are as follows.

There are currently 60 million dogs and 70 million cats in the US and pet food sales in this country are in the neighborhood of a phenomenal $18.8 billion dollars. The number of pets is expected to increase significantly as baby boomers age and become empty nesters. Already, the pets are beginning to reflect the demographics of their masters with the age of the average dog at 6.6 years and 8 years for the average cat (if the pet is the only one of that species in the house). Life expectancy of pets has increased because of the better food and care pets receive. Because of the increased age of the pets, the physiological state of the pet also reflects that of their owners with 52% of dogs and 55% of cats over seven years as being obese, accompanied by mobility problems including arthritis (especially in breeds with hip dysplasia), periodontal disease and diabetes. Half the pet food purchased in the U.S. is by families with an income of $70,000 and these people tend to be well-educated; interestingly, this is the same demographic that is the greatest users of dietary supplements.

One of the primary reasons for the success of the dietar