NuVet Supplement=Same Old Snake Oil

A client recently asked me about a product, NuVet supplement, which after a little investigation seems to be the yet another fine example of snake oil marketing. It is quite similar to a product I reviewed not that long ago, Protandim, though all quack remedies share a lot of characteristics (as my reviews of DogtorRx, Supraglan, and others illustrate). Many of these characteristics are classic warning signs of snake oil, and in the case of NuVet, these include:

A “kitchen-sink” mixture of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other ingredients, some of which are essential nutrients or have individually shown some interesting properties in test tubes and mice, but none of which shown to be safe and effective in treating or preventing any disease in dogs or cats.

This hodgepodge is advertised as treating many unrelated diseases (cataracts, Cushing’s diseases, diabetes, allergies, etc) with good results and no risks. These include:

Vague claims are made about treating “oxidative stress” and “inflammation”, with the implication that “anti-oxidant” and “anti-inflammatory” agents must automatically be safe and beneficial.

Glowing testimonials are offered to support the wild claims made, but not a single clinical study has been done to demonstrate the truth of any of them.

A money-back guarantee is offered, though how this compensates for the suffering or even death of your pet caused by relying on an untested and probably useless remedy isn’t really clear.

Too good to be true? You bet!

What Is It?
The two products NuVet promotes are NuVet Plus and the NuJoint Plus. The joint supplement contains glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. I have written about these ingredients before (1, 2) and the bottom line is that human and animal research evidence strongly suggests there is no benefit to taking these products for people or animals with arthritis. Barring contamination with something toxic, which happens surprisingly often due to the lack of effective regulation of supplements, NuJoint is probably harmless and useless.

The ingredient list for NuVet is much longer:

Alfalfa (Canine formula only) Alpha Amylase Amino Acids Beta Carotene Blue Green Algae Brewer’s Yeast Cat’s Claw Chicken Liver Copper Evening Primrose Oil Iron L Methionine Magnesium Manganese Oyster Shell Papain Phosphorus Pine Bark Potassium Selenium (Yeast) Shark Cartilage Taurine (Feline formula only) Vitamin A Vitamin B Complex Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Vitamin B12 Vitamin C (Ester C™) Vitamin E Whey Protein (Feline formula only) Zinc

Talk about everything but the kitchen sink! The rationales given for the inclusion of each range from vague descriptions of what the normal role of some of the nutrients is in the body to totally unsupported assertions about supposed magical clinical benefits. I will address these claims in a moment.

The story behind the “discovery” of this elixir is either a perfect example of the naïve and unscientific thinking that should warn consumers they are being offered snake oil, or it is a carefully crafted marketing gimmick.

It all began years ago when I was noticing certain changes in my beloved furry companion, Elvis…Even though I had always cared for him and tried to give him the best food available, it became apparent that Elvis needed something more. After several trips to our veterinarian and at a cost that I don’t even want to think about, I was left to try and find a solution on my own. All the medications and changes to his diet wasn’t making any kind of significant difference and I feared my best buddy was quickly slipping away from me. I tried all kinds of vitamin and herbal supplements because I knew there was something his body needed that he wasn’t getting but I just couldn’t find the right stuff.

It occurred to me that, like my Elvis, many other dogs and cats were not taking a sufficient regimen of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants equivalent to advanced human supplements used to fight against the damaging effects of free radicals, which are a major cause of disease. I thought that the right combination, in the exact formulation, using only the highest quality of ingredients, would be required to rid pets of these damaging elements and would create a scenario for greater health and a much longer life span.

Blake G. Kirschbaum President

Mr. Kirschbaum goes on to claim his product is needed because of “obvious” deficiencies in conventional pet diets.

Because most pets lack proper nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in their diet, even when they are getting the top of the line food, NuVet® scientists understood the necessity of filling this dangerous gap. Commercial pet foods can contain harmful “by-products” and useless fillers that can be toxic to pets, causing allergies and serious diseases. This kind of atypical diet creates a scenario whereby their food may actually be creating unstable oxygen molecules known as Free Radicals.

The next step after this brilliant insight was to set up a crack team to develop and promote the magic supplement all dogs and cats apparently need.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and established NuVet Labs®. I put together a team of highly respected scientific, medical and pet industry professionals that had the same goal as I did; to create a nutritional product that would go beyond current supplements that only gave symptomatic relief. Our objective was to make a truly effective nutritional supplement that would attack the root cause of sickness and disease, eliminating the free radicals and other sources of the problem, once and for all. This became my mission and although it took our team 8 years to perfect the formula, we finally got it right. An independent laboratory tested several dogs and cats, varying in age, size, and health conditions, under the direct supervision of a team of veterinarians. 

Our Advisory Team is composed of a veterinarian, a doctor of pharmacy, a pet supplement and pet food formulator, a doctor of optometry, a licensed financial advisor, a litigation insurance administrator and a senior hospital purchasing manager.

Eight years of effort dedicated to solving the root causes of all disease finally vindicated by an unpublished test in “several dogs and cats.” Wow!

I have added the emphasis above to highlight the pre-existing faith Mr. Kirshbaum evinces in the nature of his dog’s health problems (nutrient deficiency and free radical damage) and the solution (the “right” supplement), as well as the astounding arrogance and naïveté  this narrative demonstrates. The very foundational principles behind this product are unproven and scientifically empty beliefs, not well-established principles of health and disease. And the claim being made is that the One True Cause of disease, and its solution, which has eluded all scientists everywhere in the world has now been cooked up by one visionary and his small team of mavericks Not a good start.

Does It Work?
The underlying theory that all these disparate chronic diseases for which scientific medicine does not have a definitive cause or cure are caused by oxidative damage due to poor diets is nonsense. While free radicals exist and do cause cellular damage and even disease, this little core of real science has been rebuilt into a bogeyman that bears no resemblance to the truth. Like all overly broad and simplistic ideas, the oxidative damage hypothesis has proven far less robust than initial enthusiasm for it would have suggested, and many purported anti-oxidants have turned out to provide little benefit in preventing or treating disease, and even in some cases have been shown to be actively harmful (e.g. 3, 4, 5).

While many of the individual ingredients in the product are essential nutrients, there is absolutely no reason to believe that they provide any health benefits except in cases in which a pet is deficient in a specific nutrient. Providing excessive vitamins and minerals to prevent or treat diseases is seldom beneficial and, again, sometimes actively harmful (e.g. 6, 7, 8).  And there is extensive evidence to show that while commercial diets are by no means perfect, they are not the deleterious pile of toxins and garbage described by those who are trying to sell supplements (e.g. 9, 10).

As for the other ingredients:

Alpha Amylase: There is no truth to the claim that digestive enzymes are beneficial for normal animals (11)

Bluegreen Algae- There is no reliable evidence to support the health claims NuVet makes for this ingredient (12). And some species of bluegreen can be highly toxic, especially to dogs (13).

Brewer’sYeatst- A source of B vitamins, but not an effective flea control product (14).

Cat’s Claw- There is weak clinical evidence in humans of anti-inflammatory properties to some of the chemicals in this herb, and there are also reports of serious side-effects (15). There is no controlled research evidence to show safety or any benefits in dogs and cats.

Evening Primrose Oil- There is limited evidence for benefits treating eczema in humans, and otherwise no solid evidence of benefit for any other disease (16). It may be a good source of essential fatty acids, which could theoretically have some benefits for allergic skin disease or arthritis. Obviously, the claims concerning cholesterol and atherosclerosis are irrelevant since dogs and cats do not suffer from this disease.

Papain- There is limited evidence for benefits of papain in humans for shingles and sore throat, and no reliable evidence for any other benefits (17). There is no reason to believe it has value as a “digestive enzyme,” and the limited research on it as a hairball remedy in cats and rabbits has not shown any real benefit.

Pine Bark Extract- There is some laboratory and animal model evidence that chemicals in this extract have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity, but actual clinical benefits have not been demonstrated in human or animal clinical trials (18). As always for any chemical with real physiologic activities, there is the potential for side-effects (19). I am not aware of any clinical trials investigating the use of this ingredient in dogs or cats.

Shark Cartilage- Shark cartilage has been proven ineffective for advanced cancers of various kinds, and there is inadequate evidence to show benefit for any other condition (20, 21). The harvesting of sharks for this supplement as well as for food contributes to the decline of threatened and endangered shark species (22).

And finally, as well as most important, there appears to be  absolutely no published research evidence of any kind evaluating the safety or purported benefits of this product. That is not a good sign.

Is It Safe?
As indicated for the specific ingredients above, harm can result from indiscriminate use of even essential nutrients. The amounts of each ingredient in the final product are not made available to the public, so it is impossible to evaluate the safety of the doses even for those ingredients for which safe and unsafe levels have been established.

Due to the inadequate regulation of dietary supplements and herbal products, it is impossible to ensure the accuracy of ingredient lists or the absence of dangerous contaminants, both of which have been real problems for such products (23, 24). There is also no formal system for collecting and evaluating reports of harm from such products, so the only assurance of the safety of the product is the word of the manufacturer.

Bottom Line
This product is a hodgepodge of nutrients, herbal ingredients, and nutraceuticals thrown together with no clear logic or rationale. The claims that many pet diseases are due to toxins or other deficiencies in commercial diets and to oxidative damage are unsupported by any real evidence. Only a few of the specific claims for the ingredients in the mixture are backed by research evidence, and the quality of this is generally poor and only available for humans. The advertising of the product contains many of the hallmarks of snake oil marketing, but it does not contain any research evidence at all concerning the safety or effectiveness of the product, because none appears to exist.

While I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the manufacturer of this product, I believe it is unethical to sell a product with no research establishing the safety or efficacy of the product for any disease and with little to no research even into the safety and efficacy of its constituents. Promoting the product with unproven or outright false claims about pet nutrition and disease designed to instill fear in pet owners and with wild and ridiculous claims about the effectiveness of the product for numerous unrelated diseases is wrong regardless of how sincerely the manufacturer believes in their own pseudoscientific theories. Any responsible manufacturer of a medical therapy should be expected to demonstrate their claims through rigorous science before profiting from the desperate need of people with sick pets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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164 Responses to NuVet Supplement=Same Old Snake Oil

  1. skeptvet says:

    You’re mistaken. All experiences and anecdotes are unreliable, which is why they don’t count for much as evidence. However, positive anecdotes are a lot more likely to be promoted by people trying to sell something, so I will often point out that negative anecdotes exist as well. That doesn’t make anecdotes of either kind trustworthy, it just brings some balance to the discussion.

  2. diana says:

    Thankyou,I have loved and shared our home with siamese cats for 35 years,and am purchasing a siamese kitten from a woman who is insisting we use nu-vet and stick to the cheap commercial foods she uses,that my vet and I consider to be junk food.I only use cold processed coconut oil in small quantities as a supplement,and regardless of benefits other oils claim,I have proof that it protects tooth dentine(for me too).

  3. Nancy K Austin says:

    I have a 6 month old shitzu/bichon mix and am confused what to feed him? I just left an initial dog obedience class I am taking and the the instructor recommended this vitamin which is how I ended up here and he totally bashed commercial dog food. I am not going to be going out buying meat/animal parts to make my own food. I realized you probably can’t promote a certain dog food but maybe a list of recommended top five?

  4. German Lover says:

    I am a German Shepherd breeder who feeds my dogs the best food that I can possibly afford. A few years ago I had a bitch that we continued to have thyroid issues with. My vet checked her over and did many lab tests. we also had problems with her getting pregnant. After starting her on NuVet Plus all of her thyroid symptoms went away and we had no problems getting her pregnant. After a while I thought maybe that was just a fluke so I quit giving them to her. All of her thyroid symptoms returned and on her next breeding she did not get pregnant. My other moms after being put on the supplement went from having 3 to 6 puppies in a litter now consistently have 6 to 12 puppies in the litter.
    I do recommend these vitamins to my puppy buyers but I do not require them in my contract. Why would a vet or any other person run down a breeder who recommends products they feel will help and benefit their puppies? Believe me the few cents the breeders get back from this company in no way is responsible for our recommendations. My dogs are my life in my adult children think I love my dogs more than them. I do everything in my power to take the best care of my dogs and encourage others In ways to keep their dogs in optimum health as well.
    I have known of many dogs who had severe allergies that have used the supplements with great results. I have also seen dogs who had allergies use the vet recommended foods and take all of the Vet steroids and medications only to be put down. I am not anti-vet I love my Vet and her care. However our whole medical and veterinary industry uses a lot of chemicals and medications that have side effects whereas more natural options do not.
    What about the mercury that is used in vaccines as a preservative but mercury in fillings as well as other areas of life are known to be toxic and cause problems! Why don’t all of the vaccine companies just use other preservatives instead of the Mercury like the more health-conscious diligent ones do.

  5. skeptvet says:

    Most of the complaints about commercial pet foods are simply made up out of nothing. If you want sound, scientific advice, I would consult a veterinary nutritionist (e.g. http://www.petdiets.com or your local veterinary college). I would also suggest reading Dog Food Logic which approaches the issues and arguments surrounding pet foods in a rational. science-based way.

  6. skeptvet says:

    Sorry, but anecdotes simply don’t prove anything. For every example of someone who uses a product and thinks they see good results, there is someone else who doesn’t. Most of human history we tried to use stories and personal experiences to figure out what worked in medicine, and we failed consistently. Then we came up with the scientific method and improved our length and quality of life beyond any previous time in history. These stories just don’t mean what you think they do.

    As for mercury a a preservative, no one has ever done anything to show this is harmful, and the fear of it is based on basic misconceptions about chemistry, different kinds of mercury, the doses involved, and so on.
    Here is

    Why Anecdotes Can’t Be Trusted

  7. Rick Beckham says:

    I have a cabinet full of supplements my German Shepherd can’t tolerate. I feed her as close as I can get to the Leerburg Diet. I use cooked, organic brown rice with pre-cooked chicken to get the cooked oil out and chicken/beef liver. Karma also loves raw chicken gizzards with hearts, raw steak, raw chicken gizzards and raw beef livers. I also give her cooked eggs and raw eggs mixed with the cooked food. I also give her small amounts of organic barely miso mixed with the cooked food for cleaning her blood and digestion. Karma does not tolerate any kind of dog food. I also use wakeme seaweed in cooking as it also aids digestion. What do you think?

  8. msg323 says:

    I have not used these supplements — a breeder recommended them — so I have no opinion about them BUT your comments about commercial dog food is way off base. Vets are taught VERY LITTLE about nutrition in vet school and what they do learn is sponsored by pet food manufacturers — kind of conflict of interest if you ask me. Any vet who is willing to learn on their own and run a more holistic practice will tell you commercial dog food is not all its cracked up to be — and if for whatever reason you choose to feed commercial, at the very least you need to add vitamin supplements to make up for everything that is lacking in the food. Commercial food is heated at such a high temperature the majority of the nutrition is killed.

  9. skeptvet says:

    Funny how you think vets know little about nutrition, but you believe those vets who “learn more on their own,” which just means making up their own theories and evidence, not doing actual scientific research, are somehow more knowledgeable than those who are board-certified veterinary nutrition specialists. It sounds like you choose to trust the sources that agree with what you believe and distrust those that don’t.

    Here’s an article to consider on the subject of What Do Vets Know About Nutrition?

  10. v.t. says:

    msg323,

    Commercial diets have the necessary vitamins and minerals added, they are properly formulated – adding additional vitamins/minerals to an already complete/balanced product is asking for trouble (over-supplementation which can be detrimental to a pet’s health). Unless people feed raw or home-made, then yes, proper supplementation is required, only thing is, the majority of pet owners have no idea how to do this properly, and there is no evidence these diets are equal to or better than commercial diets. Thus the recommendation of a board-certified veterinary nutritionist is appropriate when choosing those type diets.

  11. msg323 says:

    How can you possibly say that commercial food is better for a dog that whole fresh food? It is PROCESSED — just like we should not eat processed food! Commercial foods are fully of carbs that are not necessary for dogs — and cause too much sugar in their body with can cause cancer. Sorry . . . I will stick to homemade and it’s not that difficult to figure out what would be a balanced homemade food for my dog. I blindly listened to all the commercial dog food nonsense and fed my dog the best on the market — until she started getting skin allergies and the vet wanted to put her on steroids — did my research and started feeding her homemade food. Skin problems cleared up in 3 weeks and she now has the best coat she has ever had!

  12. skeptvet says:

    Unfortunately, you’re just repeating myths and misconceptions about nutrition. “Did my research” means you read some opinions and chose to believe them, not that you’ve somehow discovered some truth the veterinary profession is either ignorant of or denies due to greed and industry brainwashing.

    “Processed,” for example, is a meaningless term. Unless your dogs are digging up plants and catching live prey, everything your fed them is “processed.” What you are implying is that because commercial food comes in bags or cans and has been cooked, supplemented with micronutrients, and preserved it is somehow the equivalent to Twinkies or other unhealthy convenience foods humans eat. But commercial pet diets are formulated and tested for nutritional goals, whereas human snack foods are produced solely for visual and taste appeal. “Processed” doesn’t mean “junk,” and it’s simplistic to treat them as the same thing.

    Sure, fresh foods may have advantages, and it wouldn’t surprise my if a balanced, cooked homemade diet were better for dogs than a commercial kibble. However, most homemade diets are actually nutritionally unbalanced because a haphazard collection of things that sound good for dogs, which is what most recipes are, isn’t a truly healthy diet. And any health benefits have to be proven by research, not just assumed based on ideology. My grandmother would have told you that everyone knows men should eat a lot of meat to stay strong and healthy, yet all the men in her generation diet of CVD. What seems “obvious” or “common snse” is often wrong.

    No, carbs don’t cause cancer. Reality is much more complicated than that, and dietary risk factors, including carbohydrates, are part of a complex, multifactorial causality.

  13. Paul says:

    I always liked when certain people used scare terms like “processed” and “rendered” when dealing with dog food.

    Oh and from my reading it seems that homemade diets tend to be deficient in calcium and the b vitamins mostly because home feeders tend to feed less bioavailable sources of those two micronutrients. Where in commercial food, the more easily digested and absorbed is used.

    As for the Vets don’t know nutrition thing. I have the text book that I’m sure most vet programs use, at least for clinical nutrition, and its a monster. But some random person on the internet knows more about animal nutrition than say someone that went to Kansas State or Cornell Vet schools and got their DVM.

    That is not to say that all Vets know their stuff. There are quacks out there too.

  14. CA VetTech says:

    NuVet illegal.
    Letter from FDA to NUVET LABS 7/29/2016
    …The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed your product labeling and your websites at various internet addresses where you promote and sell these products.

    …Because your productsare intended to prevent, mitigate or treat diseases in animals, they are drugs within the meaning of section 201(g)(1)(B) of the FD&C Act, [21 U.S.C. § 321 (g)(1)(B)]. Moreover, these products are new animal drugs, as defined by section 201(v) of the FD&C Act, [21 U.S.C. § 321(v)], because they are not generally recognized among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of animal drugs, as safe and effective for use under the conditions prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling. They are not the subject of an approved new animal drug application, conditionally approved new animal drug application, or index listing under sections 512, 571, and 572 of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. §§ 360b, 360ccc, and 360ccc-1]. Therefore, the products are unsafe within the meaning of section 512(a) of the FD&C Act, [21 U.S.C. § 360b(a)], and adulterated under section 501(a)(5) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 351(a)(5)].

    https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2016/ucm525952.htm

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