Posted: November 5, 2013, 4:15 p.m. EDT
Discovering what’s new in the pet supplement industry.
By Keith Loria
As increasing numbers of people become better educated about health matters for humans and their companion animals, supplements have become more popular. Pet owners realize that heat from processing dry or canned pet food can compromise their vitamin content, so additional supplements make a great deal of sense, said industry experts.
Although many companies attempt to create some new buzz with specialty supplements, the foundation multivitamin mineral supplement with vitamins C, E and B, and a wide array of amino acids and a basis assortment of minerals, is still the best, said Chip Sammons, owner of Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore.
"Of course that’s easy for us, as a retail store, because we have our own brand of dog and cat vitamins made right here in Oregon,” Sammons said. "Vetline Veterinary Vitamins are all human-grade ingredients put together in an FDA-certified lab that also makes vitamins for humans. While there are specialty supplements for joints, anxiety and specific issues, a good, all-around basic vitamin is the best insurance in order to make sure our family companion dogs and cats have the nutrition they need regardless of what type of food they ingest.”
Administering supplements to pets ensures owners they are not compromising on their pets' vitamin intake. iStock/Thinkstock
The best supplements for your dog will depend on your dog’s diet and individual health, said Mary Straus, a blogger with Dogaware.com.
"The importance of supplements for pets depends on a variety of factors,” Straus said, "including the health of the pet, what they are being fed and what supplements are being given.”
According to the experts, it’s not necessary to add vitamins and minerals to most commercial diets, though appropriate amounts of vitamins C, D and E may be beneficial for some dogs. Other supplements, however, such as probiotics, enzymes, certain oils and supplements for specific conditions, such as liver disease, heart disease, canine cognitive dysfunction, anxiety and more, can help many dogs, Straus said.
"The one supplement that I think can benefit almost all dogs is fish oil,” she continued. ”It provides the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that help to reduce inflammation, regulate the immune system and support the kidneys and heart. Omega-3 fatty acids are fragile and break down quickly when exposed to light, heat or air, so they are often in short supply in the diet.”
The Latest Buzz
More companies are offering new and improved products for cats.
"We are launching a line of nutritional rewards for the most common issues for cats and their humans,” said Rebecca Rose, president of In Clover in Boulder, Colo. "Retailers and customers are asking for easy, healthful, grain-free supplements that do not have harsh chemicals, preservatives or fillers.”
Another trend revolves around ease of delivery products; according to industry insiders, a large number of soft chew products have been introduced in the supplement segment.
St. Joseph, Mo.-based ProLabs’ latest offering is Flex Rx, made from an active ingredient used in human medicine.
"It’s been very successful for helping human joint problems and is proving to be a great product for dogs as well,” said brand manager Brian Reardon. "Flex Rx offers pet owners a new option for dogs with mild to moderate joint issues. In our case, customers seeking joint health products were looking for a new mode of action. The vast majority of what is available for canine joint health is glucosamine/chondroitin. These work ok in some situations, but certainly not all.”
Retailers have been asking for supplements that are easier to administer because feeding a supplement to a dog or cat is equivalent to administering a supplement to a little kid, said Guy Setton, head of international business development at NoviPet in Temecula, Calif., which manufactures and sells supplements for dogs and cats.
"We are providing a totally new format for dietary supplements,” he said. "Specifically, we are not going down the traditional route of a tablet or liquid because we wanted to provide something more like a treat for a dog or cat. We have an individual packed soft chew with the exact dosage written on the packaging. With a powder, there is no guarantee they will eat all the powder.”
NoviPet also has seen interest on the dog side of supplements for calming and anxiety issues, and on the cat side a rising demand for urinary tract infection supplements.
Amy Paris, CEO of The Pet Hydration People, maker of Licks for Dogs brand supplements, is seeing more interest in all-natural holistic remedies with long-term health benefits that source high-quality ingredients.
"As the American consumer becomes more aware of the origin and healing properties of the natural and herbal ingredients in their own food, the trend becomes more prominent in pet consumption,” she said. "The most difficult aspect of product development of holistic, purely sourced ingredients in the pet industry is the actuality that these ingredients are smelly, ugly and occasionally messy, because they often contain meat. Additionally, for holistic health supplements to be effective, they need to be administered habitually, and the health benefits may take several weeks to actualize.”
To promote habitual use, the company created single-serving pouches and changed the name on its joint supplements to signify usage patterns versus number of uses (changing 5-use and 15-use to 10-day and 30-day).
The Retailers Speak
Pet retailers are always looking to fill the needs of their customers and their pets, and providing the newest and most popular supplements is important.
"I have a lot of customers looking for glucose-meat type products. That’s my biggest seller and probably what most people ask for,” said Michele Zigrossi, owner of Heritage Feed and Supply in Bullville, N.Y. "I do have a lot of people also asking about allergies, so they are looking for supplements that will enhance a dog’s immune system and fight the allergy battle.”
Lately, manufacturers seem to be pushing powdered and treat supplements, Zigrossi added.
"If you can give your dog a treat and it’s something holistic that is going to help them out, I think it’s great. I do that with my own animal,” she said. "The dogs like it and the cats do, too. If it’s something like liver flavor, they have no idea that it’s a supplement and it makes it a little more fun.”
As a retailer, Zigrossi believes it is part of her responsibility to educate her customers on the pros and cons of each supplement the store offers, and a simple conversation can go far.
"We talk a lot with our customers, and we also provide the materials the manufacturers give us, but I find that just sitting down and going over the strengths and weaknesses of each product is the best method,” she said. "I want to understand the dog first and what motivates them in terms of food so you are not selling them something the dog will not eat or ingest.”
Zigrossi’s dog supplements are displayed together on metal racking in an "L”-shape; cat supplements are displayed with the cat treats.
At TailsSpin, anti-oxidant supplements have been quite popular, such as pumpkin, kelp and cranberry, said Colby Branum, co-owner of the Georgia organization with three retail locations. Fish oil and glucosamine supplements are also high-demand items offered at TailsSpin.
"The way manufacturers make foods is different now,” Branum said. "Using cheap fillers and by-products are looked upon as bad practice. We feel that to be successful, we must cater to these circumstances. As customers are becoming more educated about the importance of pet nutrition, we find that they are more likely to demand that their pet foods contain fruits and vegetables, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin.”
TailsSpin employees educate their customers on how supplements will add important nutrients for multiple benefits, including coat, digestion, oral care and joint health.
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