As the pet supplementation market continues to grow, consumers are discovering the benefits of natural remedies.
It’s no secret that pet owners will do almost anything to keep their favorite, furry friends happy and healthy. In fact, most consider them to be part of the family and tend to them with the same loving care and compassion as any other family member.
And the statistics appear to back this up. According to the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) 2014 estimated sales projections within the U.S. market, pet owners were expected to spend $58.51 billion on man’s best friends during the calendar year, up from the $55.72 billion spent in 2013. In fact, APPA numbers have shown that spending has increased every year since 1994, when consumers spent only $17 billion.1
A closer look at the 2014 breakdown projects that while the majority ($22.62 billion) would be spent on food, another $15.25 billion was expected to be spent on veterinary care. Supplies and over-the-counter (OTC) medicine accounted for $13.72 billion, while pet services (grooming and boarding) came in a $4.73 billion, and live animal purchases totaled $2.19 billion.
The 2013-14 APPA National Pet Owners Survey reveals that a whopping 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 million homes nationwide. That is up considerably from 1988, the first year the survey was conducted, when 56 percent of U.S. households were determined as owning a pet. Dogs and cats, of course, continue to dominate the pet arena. According to the survey, 56.7 million U.S. households own dogs, while 45.3 million households were cat owners. Freshwater fish were a distant third at 14.3 million owners.
The survey also revealed that pet owners spared no income in caring for their dogs and cats, with both routine and surgical veterinary visits topping the list along with food and boarding. One growth area was in vitamins, where consumers spent $77 million on cats and $64 million on K9s.
“It is definitely important to give both dogs and cats a daily vitamin supplement because most pet diets are very limited in variety and low in quality,” said Marty Grosjean, founder and CEO, Only Natural Pets, which works with a holistic veterinarian in formulating many of its products. “Supplements are as effective for cats as they are for dogs, and are as effective for both as they are for humans.”
“The pet health market is growing but in reality the supplement category is just holding its own,” said Florida-based ArkNaturals’ president Susan Weiss. “It’s all about problem solving—natural flea and tick, dental products, herbal calming products, omega-3 and omega-5 skin issues and of course glucosamine, which I would categorize as a remedy product, not a supplement.”
With the pet industry projected to grow 4 percent annually through 2018, and the number of households owning pets expected to continue to increase along with discretionary income, according to the IBIS World Industry Report, Pet Stores in the U.S.2, many pet-specialty and natural retailers are presented with an opportunity to cash in on this emerging marketplace. According to the report, the demand for premium products, foods and pet services is projected to climb, as is the demand for natural products to keep pets healthy, including supplements.
“The pet supplementation market has exploded in recent years,” said healthy pet coach Jodi Ziskin, a consultant to California-based Nordic Naturals, which offers a line of omega-3 pet products. As people have discovered the health benefits of certain supplements for themselves, they have become more interested in providing the same benefits for their dog or cat.
“We live in a very fast-paced society. The more convenient it is to find the best supplements for pets, the better. I personally think that health food stores are a great place to purchase supplements for pets. Most people who own or work for these stores are passionate about health and nutrition and quite knowledgeable about the products the store carries.”
In an effort to further educate retailers, Nordic Naturals offers an online training program called 3point5 (www.nordicnaturals.com-/onlinetraining) to help retail staff become experts in omega-3 pet nutrition. The 24/7 learning tool is designed to help retailers provide customers with expert advice while earning free products.
Omega-3 fatty acids are purposely avoided in the production of commercial pet and animal foods as they may go rancid, limiting the shelf life of these products, according to Andres Koch, marketing director for Washington-based Barlean’s, which offers Flax Oil For Animals. The company has taken the extra steps needed to preserve the integrity of flaxseed oil, stated Koch, providing pets with the valuable omega-3 fatty acids they require for optimal health.
Retailers can be on the front lines in educating customers about the importance of pet nutrition and supplementation, including omega-3s, with as many as a third of U.S. dogs and cats already taking vitamins or supplements, and that number is expected to continue trending upward, according to a recent WebMD article.3 Of course, being able to educate customers demands a staff that is also well educated in pet nutritional needs and product choices.
“Retailer education is probably even more important in the pet market than in the human market because supplements are a newer concept for pets,” said Grosjean. “Sadly, most pet retailers are very poorly trained—or in most cases not trained at all—on supplements. Even natural grocery stores with very strong human supplement departments usually know very little about pet supplements.”
Which is obviously something that needs to change if natural product retailers are going to move forward in their quest to become the go-to source for their customers regarding pet health and products. Some retailers have addressed this issue and made staff education a priority.
“The biggest challenge is educating customers why they should be giving their pets supplements,” said Tabitha Cromer, marketing manager at specialty pet retailer Tomlyn in Fort Worth, TX. “Also, how to educate them about superior products. We look for natural ingredients that are effective with products that address specific needs such as joint health, behavior, high calorie nutritional supplements and multivitamins.”
“Pet owners are bombarded with conflicting and confusing information about medications and supplements,” added Sara Phillips, strategic brand manager, Verti-Science and Retail Divisions, Pet Naturals of Vermont, maker of Scoot Bars for dogs, which supports fecal volume and healthy anal gland function. “A well-read, industry-involved retailer can easily step into the role of trusted educator. Pet owners are looking to move their pets from disease management to wellness management.
“A well-educated retailer can help guide pet owners on a path to optimal health. Because of the rapid growth in the pet supplement industry, many products are not professional grade or therapeutically correct. Therefore, it is important for the pet retailer to be well-educated about both biology and the best formulas.”
Diet and Supplements
But is there really a need for supplementation, be it vitamins, omega-3s, probiotics or other remedies, with our pets? Not unlike their human owners, following a balanced diet and getting plenty of regular exercise are paramount to staying healthy. But also like humans, these regimens are not always followed. This is where pets can benefit from supplements that are specifically formulated to need their needs.
“The most important rule of thumb is to remember that just as each individual has different dietary and supplement needs, so does each pet,” said Susan Blake Davis, CCN and pet nutritionist, founder of Ariel Rescue, a public charity dedicated to saving the lives of shelter dogs in impoverished communities, and advocate of using whole, natural foods to nourish and strengthen a pet’s overall health. “Where we tend to see a lot of problems is when pet owners take the ‘one food for all’ approach with their pets as many times, pet owners have different ages, breeds and health concerns for their pets.
“Taking this one step further, some pets are eating prescription diets, which are specially formulated diets to address a specific health concern. For convenience, the pet owner will feed all of their pets the same food. I have seen cases where a pet owners may have a senior dog and a young dog where both are eating the senior dog’s prescription food, and because of this the young dog is developing health issues as a result of nutritional deficiencies.”
Davis added that the optimal diet for most pets is a combination of high quality fatty acids, vegetables and lean protein and warned that there are many pet “junk foods” just as there are people junk foods.
“There is no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet and regular activity for pets,” said Ajay Srivastava, DVM, PhD, director of technical services and clinical research at Vets Plus, Inc., which offers the PetsPrefer line of soft chews and tablets for dogs and cats. “An active lifestyle and nutritious diet are essential for overall well-being; yet sometimes a pet still needs extra support in the form of supplements or pharmaceuticals. Many conditions including, but not limited to, metabolic and joint, can be successfully managed through an active lifestyle.
“There are changes in the animal’s nutritional needs throughout its life, due to aging or illnesses, so targeted supplements may be beneficial at different times. A balanced diet and active lifestyle are the best foundation for the health of pets.”
Some of the top supplements available for pets include multivitamins, probiotics, omega-3s, SAM-e, digestive enzymes, coenzyme Q10 and glucosamine. These supplements can help support a wide range of health issues, including joint support, bladder and urinary tract issues, immune support, digestive health, allergies, anxiety and itchy skin, according to Only Natural Pets’ Grosjean.
“The benefits of supplements for pets are exactly the same as they are for people—they are a way to maintain a healthy body and to treat health issues from a nutritional perspective,” Grosjean said. “All the same vitamins, minerals and herbs that work for people generally work very similarly for pets, with some exceptions.”
Ziskin stressed the importance of omega-3s for pets, which she said offers “head-to-toe benefits for the furry members of our families,” and supports the health of skin and coat, joints, cell formation, heart and kidney health, healthy aging and cognition and immune function. In addition, she strongly recommended probiotics and digestive enzymes for digestive health support, as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidant support.
While supplements can support a wide range of health-related issues, it is recommended that pet owners speak with a health care professional before starting their pet on any supplement.
“The range of condition-specific or whole-body support supplements is vast; multivitamins, antioxidants or immune support, probiotics, stress and calming supplements and joint support are some of our most popular categories for animal health,” said Pet Naturals’ Phillips. “Each offers important benefits, but it’s valuable to speak to a veterinarian about how to establish the right regimen for each individual pet. Some pets might do well with just a joint support chews and multivitamin while others who experience stress and anxiety might need to add in digestive support and calming.”
Healthy joint support can come in the form of glucosamine and chondroitin, found in supplements such as NeoCell’s ArthroPet, designed for pets battling arthritis, hip dysplasia or simply feeling the effects of aging.
Davis recommended starting large breed dogs on joint support early, before arthritis sets in. Using a joint-support supplement containing glucosamine, MSM and other herbal nutrients can provide necessary support to minimize the need for pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs, she stressed.
Customers may be somewhat skeptical at first about giving their pets supplements, wondering if they really do support the many health conditions that mirror those in humans. The answer may depend largely on the age and overall health of the pet and whether they may need targeted supplement support or the type of general health support a multivitamin can provide.
“As long as your pets are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, they may not need supplements,” said Srivastava. “However, it is important to recognize that the nutritional requirements will change throughout your pet’s life. Young, senior and ill pets have unique nutritional needs and for those groups, supplements can be particularly beneficial.”
While Ziskin contends that just about every cat and dog can benefit from daily supplementation, she also warns that results are not always the same from animal to animal.
“As with supplements for humans, the effectiveness of supplements for pets can vary,” added Ziskin. “I’m a big fan of food-based supplements, as the body can better recognize, digest and assimilate them. I also believe that it’s important to offer supplements from human-grade ingredients and formulated specifically for pets. This is important since many supplements for people contain flavorings and preservatives that are not well-researched for pets.”
“Pets need fresh nutrients, fiber and enzymes from vegetables, quality protein source and omega-3 fatty acids,” added Davis. “Commercially prepared raw frozen diets are rich in these nutrients but most pet foods sold are often deficient. Including a quality omega-3 and probiotic in a pet’s food is a good source of nutrition. Depending on other health conditions a pet may face, additional supplements would be beneficial. Supplements are only as effective as the quality of the ingredients.” She also warns that is a pet has a history of pancreatitis, pet owners should consult with the veterinarian before using omega-3s.
As is the case for nearly all supplements, those for pets come in a variety of forms, including capsules, tablets and soft gels (great for traveling) to powders and liquids. Food-based supplements are also a big seller as well as those offered in the form of treats.
“For nutritional supplements, the best are whole-food based,” said Dr. Patricia Jordan, veterinarian, quality assurance, research and development at North Carolina-based King Bio, maker of the Natural Pet line of homeopathic medicines for pets. “Chemicals, synthetics and excipients are not as bioavailable as whole foods. For overcoming health challenges, homeopathy offers a desirable system, just as optimal nutrition is much more desirable than nutritionally deficient diets. “
“The pet industry is moving away from capsules and tablets, and moving more toward soft chews,” said ArkNaturals’ Weiss. It’s not that it’s a better product, it is an easier delivery method for humans.”
“Having a choice in delivery methods is important,” said Phillips. “Compliance is a big factor in health. If the product is easy to administer, the pet parent will do so more often, and the animal is more likely to receive the supplement on a regular schedule.”
Keeping our best friends healthy and happy means helping consumers make sense of the pet-supplement playing field. Whether it’s a multivitamin for general health or a condition-specific supplement that targets a certain health-related issue, retailers need to keep up-to-date on the latest product-related information in order to help their customers make smart choices.
“Pets give us so much; we need to give them the best too,” said Dr. Frank King, president of King Bio. “Natural always serves them best, natural foods and natural medicine.” VR
2 http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx ?indid=1103
Diet and Supplements
2 http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx ?indid=1103