Consumers see the benefits of going natural not only for themselves, but for the family pet as well.
According to the American Pet Products Association 2013-2014 Pet Owner Survey, approximately 56. 7 million U. S. households have dogs, while 45.3 million own cats. In addition, 12 percent of U. S. homes have fresh water fish as pets and another 5.7 percent own birds. The survey also revealed that multiple pet ownership is at an all-time high with 44 percent of pet-owning households in the U.S. having more than one pet.
And anyone who has a pet understands the lifelong bond an animal can have with its owner. In fact, according to a May 2013 study published in PLOS One, scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna investigated the bond between dogs and their owners and found that these relationships have many similarities to the parent- child relationships in humans.
Because of this bond, there is no question owners want nothing but the best for their “furry children.” So keeping them fit, well fed, happy and healthy is the ultimate goal. “Customers do inquire frequently about issues with their pets,” said Jane A. Thomas, owner of JB’s Health Mart in West Plains, MO. “Pets are of utmost importance to their owners.”
Michael Bush, senior vice president of Ohio-based Ganeden Biotech, noted that the U.S. pet industry is expected to reach $53 billion in 2013, with the animal nutrition industry (which includes natural and organic pet food, pet supplements, and natural and organic pet supplies) accounting for approximately $4 billion of that number.
“As consumers continue to ‘humanize’ their pets, the animal nutrition industry will continue to grow,” Bush said. “Pet owners are placing greater scrutiny on the ingredients that are going into companion animal products and purchases continue to reflect their own healthier choices. Companion animals tend to have a lot of the same conditions as humans, such as the need for weight management or digestive and immune support; as pet owners continue to apply their own health lessons to their pets, trends in the industry will continue to mirror those of humans.”
According to Kirsten Campbell of King Bio in North Carolina, people have become significantly more aware of the benefits found in an all-natural lifestyle and the negative effects caused by many mainstream medications and foods. And Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh, PA, noted that most new customers come into the store wanting to take better care of their pets. “They are definitely seeking answers and safer products,” she said. “I think most recently due to all the chicken jerky from China being recalled.”
“Americans understand the risks related to poor quality ingredients, especially in pet products,” Bush agreed. “For years, there was a string of recalls where animals wound up poisoned and some killed. In the pet industry, ‘natural’ means no artificial colors or flavors, chemical preservatives or flavor enhancers. It is important to pet owners to provide their furry family members with food and treats that are healthy and will be beneficial to their quality of life.”
While consumers understand that choosing natural is as important for their pets as it is for themselves, not all are confident about what they are looking for. “The customers that ask tend to be an even mix of those who have been told by their vet what to get and/or know based on their own research, and those who are looking for some help with their choices,” said Ramona Billingslea, marketing manager for Betsy’s Healthy Foods in Houston, TX. “Many are seeing what nutritional supplementation might be possible to complement what the vet has suggested.”
And according to Susan Weiss, president of Florida-based Ark Naturals Products for Pets, some of the bestselling pet health products are those where the consumer can see a physical change in their pet, such as glucosamine products for joint health, dental health products and herbal calming products, among others.
Pet Problems Like humans, animals can suffer from a number of similar health issues such as joint problems, digestive issues and dental troubles. Healthy Pet Products’ Shelaske noted that customers frequently visit her store looking for the following products:
• Fish Oil: “Many customers coming in are seeking help with their pets’ excessive scratching and shedding. They do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from a kibble based diet,” she said.
• Joint Support: “Many pets suffer with arthritis due to their highly inflammatory diet. Even feeding a high quality kibble it is essentially 50 percent carbohydrate, which turns into sugar in the body creating inflammation,” noted Shelaske.
• Digestive Aids: “Many pets suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) type symptoms mainly due to a food allergy, intolerance to kibble and eating a species inappropriate diet. In all cases we address diet first and foremost with supplements coming second. Many pets really just need to be on a raw food diet,” she added.
King Bio’s line of Natural Pet Pharmaceuticals addresses a broad spectrum of symptoms, according to the company. For dogs, it offers homeopathic formulas for allergies, anxiety and stress, appetite and weight, digestive upsets, muscle, joint and arthritis, skin and itch, as well as teeth and gums. In the cat category, the company offers formulas for anxiety and stress, skin and itch, teeth and gums and urinary tract Irritations. “Our homeopathic formulas for pets are so effective because they address the underlying sources of sickness, rather than just the symptoms seen on the surface,” Campbell explained.
The company noted that its best-seller is its Anxiety & Stress formula because many pets can get separation anxiety from being lonely at home and also get stressed when there are loud noises or a lot of commotion. In addition, King Bio recently launched a new and improved product line that included new product names and some reformulations.
The Use of Probiotics
For animals has increased considerably over the past several years. Ganeden Biotech’s functional probiotic ingredient GanedenBC30 supports digestive and immune health and its effectiveness is backed by 17 published studies, according to the company. GanedenBC30, which can be found in PetNaturals of Vermont’s Daily Digest, Fido Enterprises’ Naturals Belly Bone, Vetri Science Laboratories’ Vetri-Probiotic Everyday, among others, “differentiates itself from other probiotic strains by its ability to survive harsh manufacturing processes, shelf life and stomach acids in order to make it to the gut where they are most effective,” Bush noted.
Addressing dental health, Ark Naturals offers its Brushless Toothpaste. In addition, the company introduced Gray Muzzle, a line of products specifically designed for senior pets. “Virtually every pet by the age of 3 begins to have issues with dental health,” she said. “And stinky dog/cat breath is easy for the consumer to understand. You don’t need an advanced degree to understand that stinky breath interferes with the human animal bond.”
With the development of natural product lines for pets, delivery is always an issue, as it is not as simple as handing the family cat or dog a pill and a glass of water. Pets are often finicky about what is in their food, so any formula that tastes good, can dissolve or be hidden in food or treats is ideal. “It seems [that] it is not a lot different than humans; people want to give their pet something that is tasty,” said JB’s Health Mart’s Thomas.
“We carry liquids, soft gels, powders and chewables,” added Betsy’s Billingslea. “Speaking as a pet owner, the forms that are the easiest to mix with food or serve as a treat that the animal will readily eat are usually most preferred.”
And because pets are very difficult to administer medicine to, King Bio developed taste-free, purewater based products that are simply poured into a pet’s water bowl. Pets drink it and have no idea it’s there, but they still get their medicine, according to the company. “There’s no need to hide pills in cheese or other vehicles of disguise— it’s the easy, simple solution,” said Campbell.
While pet owners want the best for their pets, Thomas noted that customers are sometimes startled by the cost of highquality products. “Often product price points are higher than conventional pet stores or grocery stores and folks compare,” she explained. “Your staff has to be well-trained to meet the objections.”
And since education is a vital part of a retailer’s job, it may be even more important when it comes to natural pet care, as customers may need assistance deciphering their pets’ actions and behavior. “Many of the food brands and supplements we carry offer webinars, online training certification and compa- Circle Reader Service #26 ny representatives or the owners themselves come to train the staff on site,” noted Shelaske.
In addition, Ark Naturals’ Weiss noted that retailers can promote the pet health category throughout the year. “February is pet dental month,” she said. “Summer is traveling and flea-andtick season. Holidays are all about traveling and celebrating—times that stress our four-legged guys … retailers should be working on an annual calendar and promote.”
“Animal nutrition products appeal to pet owners who view their pet as a member of the family,” concluded Ganeden Biotech’s Bush. “This consumer group continues to grow, and they want their pets to eat just as healthily as they do. Pet owners understand the risks associated with poor quality ingredients and have proven that they will purchase the products that will be most beneficial to the health of their pets.”
The U.S. pet industry is expected to reach $53 billion in 2013, with the animal nutrition industry (which includes natural and organic pet food, pet supplements, and natural and organic pet supplies) accounting for approximately $4 billion of that number.
Steps to Protect Pooches From MMVD
By Dr. C. Leigh Broadhurst, PhD
Five years ago we gave our children a standard dachshund puppy for Christmas. Today our beloved Willie is a healthy, barrel chested 32-pound dynamo, but he has a heart murmur. This may be an early sign of myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMVD), a genetic disorder, that accounts for 70 percent of canine heart disease. MMVD starts with lesions on the heart valve, which eventually thicken and shorten the valve leaflets so they can’t close completely. The closest human analogy is mitral valve prolapse; both diseases can progress to congestive heart failure and premature death. Almost all breeds that have a high incidence of MMVD weigh less than 20 pounds. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel has the highest incidence of all breeds: in some Cavalier lines 90 percent of dogs develop the disease by age 10. Dachshunds are also susceptible, particularly miniatures, as are miniature poodles, pinschers and schnauzers.
Although MMVD is not directly caused by inflammation of the arteries like human atherosclerosis is, progression to congestive heart failure is associated with increases in biochemicals linked to chronic inflammation. Part of the damage the lesions cause to heart valves is inflammatory, similar to the way arthritis damages joints. The first step to reverse chronic inflammation in dogs is a fish oil/borage oil blend. Fish oil also protects all mammals studied so far from other types of heart disease such as abnormal rhythms (atrial fibrillation).
As dogs age they can be further protected from heart disease progression with exercise, quality food and supplements. When the heart muscle weakens or the valves leak, the heart has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood. This can restrict exercise, which further weakens the heart, leading to a downward spiral. Important components of heart support supplements are as follows:
• Taurine is critical for the function and maintenance of heart muscle. It’s present in seafood and meat, and can be synthesized by dogs but not necessarily at optimum levels.
• L-carnitine protects heart muscle from oxidative stress and low oxygen levels due to poor circulation or partial arterial blockage.
• Abnormally low levels of CoQ10 in heart tissue are observed in patients with heart failure.
Supplementation reduces fatigue, improves exercise capacity, lowers blood pressure and increases the ability of the heart to pump blood.
• Hawthorn amplifies CoQ10’s efficacy.
• Botanical antioxidants including bilberry, wheat grass, grape seed, carotenoids, microalgae, bee propolis/ pollen, etc., prevent oxidative damage to the heart tissue and lower blood pressure.
• Gentle diuretics such as dandelion reduce blood volume, concentrating the oxygen-rich red cells and preventing fluid retention.
So far Willie’s murmur hasn’t progressed, and his sister and constant companion Schottzie has no heart trouble at all.