As dog owners gain a better understanding of how supplements and essential oils help their pets, demand for these products grows.
Consumers are becoming more aware of the potential value of pet supplementation and, as a result, the category has seen tremendous growth over the past decade, said Jennifer Cook, co-founder of Waterdog Supplements in Ozona, Fla.
“Consumers are becoming much more conscious of the benefits derived from selecting natural, high-quality products made with effective ingredients for their animals,” Cook said. “We all want to help our pets get the most out of their years, and to be as active and pain free as possible as they age.”
Research shows that the most sought-after supplements on the market today are formulations that assist in hip and joint pain management and those formulated with omegas and probiotics, she added.
For these reasons, supplements must consistently deliver superior quality and palatability while offering a positive experience for the pet, said John Davies, president and co-founder of Lintbells, a supplement manufacturer based in Weston, England.
“Not only do they want to know where a product is made, but also where the ingredients originate and how they have been grown,” he said.
Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., said she only stocks USA-made and -sourced supplements. Additionally, products must be free of alcohol and binders such as cellulose, rice powder, lecithin, honey and sorbitol.
“Synthetic-free, organic, whole-food supplements are popular [and] provide vitamins, minerals, probiotics and enzymes easily absorbed by the body,” she said.
When it comes to essential oils for pets, Strong noted that knowledge and understanding are paramount to proper use, yet these insights are sometimes absent.
“I feel that well-meaning pet owners, in an effort to treat with natural remedies, are not fully educating themselves on the proper use of these products,” she said.
Strong added that because animals have an enhanced sense of smell and absorb the oils differently than humans, many essential oils are toxic to pets.
“There’s a long list to steer clear of for both dogs and cats,” she said, adding that Pawz On Main does not stock essential oils.
However, when essential oil products are used responsibly, they offer a simple, natural solution to help pets live healthier, happier lives, said Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist, and owner of Earth Heart in Dundee, Ill.
Further, proper use can offer safe and effective help in creating a calm environment, soothing itchy or irritated skin, quieting digestive upsets, repelling insects or healing infections, Thorne added.
“These products can support the human-animal bond, facilitate behavior modification and improve health,” she said. “Unfortunately, essential oils are currently overused, and there is an abundance of misleading information about their use.”
With no regulatory agency grading essential oils, the designations “therapeutic grade,” “medical grade” or “pharmaceutical grade” are merely a marketing ploy, according to Thorne.
“Safety starts with diluting,” she added. “Earth Heart practices responsible aromatherapy—a ‘less is more’ approach to using essential oils.”
Expertise Is Essential
Educated employees are key to offering an assortment of supplements and essential oils for pets, according to industry insiders.
“Employee knowledge is very important to our brand,” said Jennifer Cook, co-founder of Waterdog Supplements in Ozona, Fla.
For this reason, the company offers retail employees products for use with their own pets.
“In our most successful retail locations, employees understand the advantages of our ingredients,” Cook said. “Because they are using our products on their own pets, they can speak knowledgeably and make recommendations from their own experience.”
Easy-to-use, visually appealing training materials are also supplied and can be utilized as a quick reference guide, she added.
Lintbells is another manufacturer that offers training to pet stores.
“People are the core of the Lintbells proposition,” said John Davies, president and co-founder of the Weston, England-based company. “That means we invest heavily in employee training and awareness to help the customer in finding the best solution.”
In the essential oil market, employees need to be knowledgeable enough to help customers select the right product for their needs, according to Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist, and owner of Earth Heart in Dundee, Ill.
“There is a tendency toward overuse of essential oil products, either by diffusing for long periods or topical formulations with very high concentrations of essential oils,” Thorne said. “These practices can overwhelm a dog’s sense of smell, cause sensitization and irritate the skin or lungs.”
A dog’s age, temperament, health, rescue status, symptoms and even scent preferences all contribute to deciding which essential oils are appropriate, Thorne said.
“The use of too many ingredients can make it difficult to pinpoint what’s working or causing a negative reaction,” she said. “The best remedy can be as simple as 1 percent lavender in coconut oil as a relaxant or skin soother. It’s important to note that more than six essential oils can actually weaken the effectiveness of the blend.”
Building an Effective Product Mix
Pet specialty retailers reported that a strong-selling mix of supplements for dogs is determined by consumer demand at the individual store level.
At Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., co-owner Denise Strong recently added raw cow’s milk kefir and raw goat’s milk to the mix.
“These products provide awesome probiotics with a long list of health benefits,” Strong said.
Likewise, at Bark Out Loud Doggie Boutique and Café in Mansfield, Texas, raw goat’s milk, supplied by a local farmer, is an extremely popular offering, said owner Connie Romano.
“The goat’s milk is good for digestive support and awesome for allergies, with probiotics and antioxidants,” she added. “I promote goat’s milk like crazy.”
Strong noted that hemp oils are often-requested supplements.
“Pet Releaf’s CBD hemp oils still rank No. 1 for overall immune health with the benefits of treating arthritis, cancer symptoms, anxiety, GI issues and pain in an all-natural way with no side effects,” Strong said.
The supplement mix at Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va., complements a nutritional consultation program that aims to enhance prepared foods or balance raw food diets, said owner Pattie Boden.
“Anything we can do to help our customers’ dogs become healthier is part of the program,” she said. “Products benefiting senior dogs are another plus.
“We encourage those feeding a prepared kibble to use a good digestive enzyme/probiotic supplement to bring some of the ‘life’ into kibble. Most people don’t realize that the enzymes are compromised in the heat process of kibble preparation.”
Essential oils are key to Boden’s role as an animal communicator.
“Because I use essential oils heavily as an animal communicator, I am able to highly recommend them to my store clients,” Boden said. “I am very picky, choosing only certified organic products, and I provide recipes to address specific needs. We use them in our grooming too, for calming.”
When Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist, and owner of Earth Heart in Dundee, Ill., began formulating essential oil remedies for pets in 1992, “there was a good deal of skepticism about the use of ‘scent as medicine,’” she said. “That has changed, and many products on the market now contain essential oils.”
Earth Heart recently introduced four essential-oil blends as 10-milliliter roll-ons formulated in a liquid coconut oil base. Canine Calm is meant to relax dogs during thunderstorms, fireworks, boarding or other unsettling times. Buzz Guard comforts during outdoor adventures. Travel Calm is for soothing tummies, restlessness and other travel upsets. Guard Well is formulated to tackle minor first aid needs and to support wellness after exposure to environmental irritants or illness. The blends can be applied to the fingertips and gently massaged into the ear flaps, chest or paws.
“Customers appreciate the smaller size for travel,” Thorne said. “The coconut-oil base absorbs quickly, doesn’t stain or leave sticky residues and has a long shelf life.”
As with all Earth Heart products, the roll-ons are made in the USA using 100 percent pure essential oils, are puppy-friendly from 10 weeks, and are designed to be used safely and easily in the home, in the shelter, in business and during travel, Thorne said.
Waterdog Supplements recently unveiled its Hemp Oil Silver 250-milligrams and Hemp Oil Gold 800-milligrams products.
“We are so excited to launch these remarkable products made with organic hemp oil and cannabinoids; [they] have no added flavors or other oils,” said Jennifer Cook, co-founder of the Ozona, Fla.-based company.
All of the products’ raw materials are sourced and tested in the USA.
“Hemp oil is providing much-needed additional relief to pets around the world, and we are proud to be offering such a high-quality form,” Cook said. “We strongly encourage that our hemp oil be paired with our Active or Senior daily supplements.”
Lintbells has added a soft chew to its YuMOVE joint and mobility care and YuCALM stress reduction lines.
“The chews are unrivaled in palatability and offer a one-a-day format,” said John Davies, president and co-founder of Lintbells in Weston, England.