Navigating Dog Owners From Year One Through the Senior Years
Pet owners are seeking products that will make life comfortable and healthy—from puppyhood through the golden years.
Too soon, that adorable, energetic puppy will morph into a quiet, graying senior partner. As dog lovers strive to protect the health and well-being of their canine companions at every age, manufacturers are stepping up with products that will enhance the journey.
As their beloved pets advance in years, owners are often unaware of the products available to assist with each life stage, said Jennifer Pratt, marketing and project manager for Walkin’ Pets by Handicapped Pets in Amherst, N.H.
“For instance, as joints become arthritic, hip and joint supplements can help ease pain, and for a breed with a tendency towards arthritis or hip dysplasia, supplements can be taken as a preventative measure,” Pratt said.
At Lisa’s Doghouse, in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, owner Lisa Rousseau often recommends hip and joint supplements for aging dogs.
“I sell a lot of The Missing Link products; they cover all of the bases, including hip and joint supplements,” she said.
Owners are seeking a variety of options when it comes to the needs of their senior pets, said Jillian Dutson, marketing manager for Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo.
These solutions include the use of cannabidiol (CBD) products for pets, she added.
“Since many pets will experience aliments similar to those of their human counterparts, joint pain, or inflammation, for example, it is important to start regulating and selecting a product that will help with issues the pet is currently facing, and is also healing for sustained use,” Dutson said. “For example, we always offer senior pets our soft-chew Edibites for daily health, while we suggest oil for assisting in pain management, situational anxiety, hip or joint pain, or other ailments.”
At Pawz on Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., owner Denise Strong reports a strong customer base of senior dog owners.
“The No. 1 issue is joint pain, and I always recommend Pet Releaf CBD hemp products,” she said. “CBD is the No. 1 selling item in my store.”
Connie Romano, owner of Bark Out Loud Doggie Boutique and Café in Mansfield, Texas, also carries hemp treats for joint mobility and other issues facing senior dogs.
“I stock Treatibles,” she said. “I love the brand and their customer service.”
The initial signs of loss of mobility are often missed by pet owners, with the first visible change being a struggle to get off the ground and stand after lying down. In these cases, a rear support leash is a great addition for pets straining to stand or needing help in finding their balance, Pratt said.
As loss of agility progresses, a full-body support harness will help bolster both the front and rear of a dog at the same time, she added.
“It’s easy to use, and great for helping a dog up the stairs, outside for bathroom breaks or getting into the car for road trips with the family,” she said.
Pet owners can nurture agility by establishing good habits in their pets at a young age, said Celeste Vlok, marketing manager for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp.
“Stairs and ramps play an important role in the quality of life for pets by preventing injury and supporting them through their senior years,” Vlok said. “As parents, we ask our pets to jump more than double their height each day, in and out of vehicles and onto furniture, but we often don’t think about long-term damage or potential injury to joints, muscles and even bones.”
In addition, ensuring that furry friends get enough exercise, both physically and mentally, is important for the overall health of a pet, she added.
“A good harness designed to minimize leash pulling is a must,” Vlok added.
For energetic youngsters, Lisa’s Doghouse offers a range of harness and collar selections. Further, puppy-owning shoppers are often receiving guidance from a professional trainer and arrive with a list of recommendations.
“One trainer might prefer a harness that leashes up in the front; another uses martingale collars,” Rousseau said.
When it comes to keeping peppy puppies occupied, Romano recommends chews and toys, and the store offers a broad selection.
“I either take customers to our antlers or Himalayan chews, or to our many toys,” she said.
It is important for retailers to inform customers of available solutions for issues faced by aging, injured or disabled pets, said Jennifer Pratt, marketing and project manager for Walkin’ Pets by Handicapped Pets in Amherst, N.H.
“The best way to do this is with in-store videos and displays,” Pratt said. “For example, we offer several videos that show disabled pets living happy, healthy lives while running, playing, exploring and enjoying their family. Pet parents are given hope as they see that it’s possible for their pet to live a normal life.”
At any life stage, knowledge is central, said Jillian Dutson, marketing manager for Littleton, Colo.-based Pet Releaf, which makes cannabidiol (CBD) products.
“However, specific to CBD, it is important to understand a pet’s needs as they continue to age,” Dutson said. “So identifying and learning more about the life cycle of a pet can help pet parents in providing the best life possible.”
In Mansfield, Texas, Bark Out Loud Doggie Boutique and Café owner Connie Romano speaks from her own experience when discussing hemp products.
“I can attest to the success of my own dog, who, at 16, became more puppylike,” she said.
Romano also cited the advantage of manufacturer brochures, and customer confirmation.
“In my store, customers talk to each other about the success of hemp in the lives of their own dogs,” she said.
Lisa Rousseau, owner of Lisa’s Doghouse in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, reports that inquiry is the cornerstone to stellar customer service.
“We ask a million questions before making a recommendation,” she said.
Prevention is another key element to the educational process, according to Celeste Vlok, marketing manager for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp.
“We should practice mindfulness with the joints and bones of our pets and recognize the importance of exercise for long-term health,” she said.
On the Horizon
Manufacturers are continuing to research and develop products that make the lives of dogs and their owners easier throughout the pet’s life stages.
“The possibilities are endless, but as we learn more about the common conditions affecting our pets, there will be more affordable, adjustable, customizable, and tailor-made products to fit and suit a dog’s specific needs,” said Jennifer Pratt, marketing and project manager of Walkin’ Pets by Handicapped Pets in Amherst, N.H.
For example, in the pet mobility category, the adjustable, commercial version of the dog wheelchair has made a strong impact on the lives of disabled dogs, Pratt said.
“It evolved from a custom-made specialty product to an off-the-shelf, adjust-it-yourself product,” she said. “As long as retailers and manufacturers are listening to the wants and needs of their customers, there’s no end to the innovation that’s possible.”
Jillian Dutson, marketing manager for Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo., noted that information is the foundation to product development.
“We are actively engaged with our consumers in order to hear the pet needs,” Dutson said. “We have two veterinarians on staff to assist in ingredient formulation to ensure we are always first to market with quality products.”
Innovating and Creating
As demand grows for products that help during specific canine life stages—particularly puppyhood and the senior years—manufacturers are taking feedback and bringing innovation to these products.
This year, Walkin’ Pets by Handicapped Pets released several products designed to improve the quality of life of senior and special needs pets by offering solutions to issues such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, subluxations, decubital ulcer recovery, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), and hind-end weakness or paralysis, said Jennifer Pratt, marketing and project manager for the Amherst, N.H.-based company.
The Walkin’ Hip-EEZ is designed to provide support to a pet’s hip joint.
“With five interchangeable attachments, the Hip-EEZ can be customized to accommodate a range of hip-joint deficits,” Pratt said.
Accessories include an amputee sleeve for tripod dogs, a bridge attachment for pups with mild to moderate hip subluxation, a donut accessory to alleviate pressure when a pet is lying down, and a cross-assist attachment, a training tool that sits high up between a dog’s thighs to keep the pet from crossing its hind legs, ideal for pets suffering from hind-end weakness, neurological disease, strokes, spinal compression and post-surgical procedures, according to company officials.
The Walkin’ Scooter is the company’s newest mobility solution. Roller ball casters slide easily across household surfaces for effortless movement, allowing paralyzed pets to scoot and zip freely around the house and maneuver through tight spaces and around indoor obstacles with ease. The scooter features a durable nylon scooter bag that is perfect for pets with incontinence issues, officials said.
Walkin’ Pets’ new vertebraVe support system is ideal for dogs suffering from intervertebral disc disease, back pain, during post-surgical recovery and rehabilitation. A patented two-tier support layer provides optimal stabilization of the spine and surrounding muscles while still allowing pets to run, sit and go to the bathroom, according to Pratt.
Boom Bars, Pet Releaf’s most recent introduction, are available in three flavors, including Longevity, which is formulated with senior companions in mind.
“The bar contains key ingredients like goji berries, which naturally reduce inflammation, as well as baobab, a fruit containing 10 times more vitamin C than an orange, to help maintain bone strength,” said Jillian Dutson, marketing manager for the Littleton, Colo.-based company.
PetSafe recently released its Walk-Along outdoor harness, which is perfect for walks with senior dogs and features padded chest straps for optimal comfort. A water-resistant, zippered pouch is centered on top of the harness to hold essentials, such as a wallet, car keys, a phone or waste bags. The size and location of the small pouch prevents the possibility of adding too much weight and overheating a dog during walks, said Celeste Vlok, marketing manager for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp.
Exercise is key at any life stage, and PetSafe’s new Ricochet electronic dog toy features two interactive, paired toys that will have pups and the young-at-heart running back and forth from toy to toy, trying to catch the “moving” squeak sound, said company officials.
“Another recently released option, the PetSafe Ribinator, is a durable, treat-compatible dog chew toy,” Vlok said. “The large rubber tubes and nylon supports make the toy long-lasting and help stimulate and engage your best friend for enhanced playtime.”