Alternative remedies which could be dangerous to pets are being targeted by the Government in a major drive to improve animal health and welfare.
Some herbal and homeopathic products are claiming medicinal benefits without scientific proof, meaning they may not properly treat or prevent serious diseases, leaving pets at risk.
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate’s (VMD) Director of Operations, John FitzGerald, said:
“Some of these products are claiming to be effective and safe when no scientific evidence has been presented to us to show they are.
“Animal owners have a right to know if a product does what it claims. The products claim to treat diseases which can cause serious welfare problems and in some circumstances kill animals if not properly treated. So in some cases owners are giving remedies to their pets which don’t treat the problem.”
A number of unauthorised products are being targeted, including:
- Homeopathic ‘nosodes’ - which are derived from diseased animal tissues, in the belief they act as a vaccination to prevent infection.
- Animal food supplements - known as neutraceuticals, which claim to treat diseases or bring extra health benefits such as improved mental ability in pet animals.
- Herbal liquids, powders and pellets - sold as herbal wormers - claiming to irritate and repel parasitic worms from the guts of horses, livestock, and pets.
From now on, the VMD will be contacting manufacturers to ensure that they demonstrate the products are safe and provide the benefits which they claim to. If this is not the case the manufacturers will be required to re-brand the products to make it clear they are not medicinal.
Supporting the action, British Veterinary Association President Harvey Locke said:
“As veterinary surgeons we rely on the use of safe, effective and quality medicines for the health and welfare of animals under our care - and there must always be sound scientific evidence to back up medicinal claims made by the manufacturer of any product.
“Some of these unauthorised products may at the least be ineffective and at worst could cause harm because serious life-threatening diseases may go undiagnosed. We would urge animal owners always to check with their veterinary surgeon before giving any remedy or supplement to their pet.”
- The VMD is the body responsible for the authorisation of veterinary medicinal products in the United Kingdom.
- The EU definition of a veterinary medicinal product is: “any substance or combination of substances presented as having properties for treating or preventing disease in animals; or any substance or combination of substances which may be used in, or administered to, animals with a view either to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action, or to making a medical diagnosis”.
- Products meeting this definition require a Marketing Authorisation before they can be sold in the UK and it is the role of the VMD to assess manufacturers’ product information for quality, safety and efficacy prior to granting a MA.
- Herbal medicines for humans are monitored and regulated separately, whereas herbals for animals are regulated under the same criteria as normal veterinary medicines. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency announced that by April 2011 all manufactured herbal medicines for humans will be required to have either a traditional herbal registration or a product licence.
- Anyone with concerns about the sale of unauthorised products should contact the VMD at www.vmd.gov.uk or 01932 336911.