By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is choline?

Choline (brand name Cholodin®) is a vitamin that is used in detoxification pathways in the liver and as a precursor to nervous system chemicals such as acetylcholine and dopamine. Because of these effects, supplemental choline is used in dogs and cats with seizures and/or cognitive dysfunction.

Dietary supplements are substances that can be used to supplement the diet, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics. While many supplements are sold over the counter, they still contain ingredients that have biological effects that should be managed by your veterinarian. Follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

There are differences in how countries regulate supplements. In the United States, these substances are not as vigorously regulated by the FDA as other medications, which means they can be sold without the manufacturer proving their effectiveness, safety, and without a guarantee of consistent or accurately reported ingredients. In Canada, products that have been evaluated for quality, safety, and effectiveness by Health Canada and authorized for sale will have a license number on the label.

How effective is choline?

Limited studies in animals have been performed, but there is anecdotal evidence that choline works to treat neurological conditions by supporting the cell structure and the production of chemical neurotransmitters.

How is choline given?

Choline is given by mouth in the form of a chewable tablet, capsule, or powder. Choline can be given with or without food; however, if stomach upset occurs when dosed on an empty stomach, give future doses with food. The powder is typically mixed with food.

What if I miss giving my pet the supplement?

If you miss giving your pet a dose, give the next dose as soon as you remember, but if it is close to the next scheduled dose, either:

  1. skip the dose you missed, give it at the next scheduled time, and continue with the regular dosing schedule, OR
  2. give the missed dose and then wait the recommended interval before giving the next dose (continue giving it regularly at that new time).

Are there any potential side effects?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding side effects is also limited. Side effects are uncommon. Rarely, agitation and hyperactivity may occur, particularly at higher doses. Serious side effects include vomiting, excessive sleepiness, and low blood pressure.

Are there any risk factors for this supplement?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding risk factors is also limited. Choline should not be used in  pets that are allergic to it. It should be used cautiously in pets with liver disease or kidney disease. Due to the limited information, choline should be used cautiously in pregnant or nursing pets; in humans, it is considered safe as it is used widely in prenatal vitamins.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with choline: blood pressure medications.

Vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications. It is important to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including all vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this supplement?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

How do I store choline?

In general, store choline in a cool, dry place, at room temperature and protected from light. There are many different manufacturers of this supplement, so always follow the storage instructions on the bottle label.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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