The market for dog and cat anxiety relief products is growing with products for dogs leading the charge. As interest in cannabidiol (CBD) products remains high, other solutions such as calming chews and pheromone-mimicking products are also seeing success.
"Anxiety awareness by pet parents continues to grow, and more and more products claiming anxiety relief are coming into the market," said Dominick DeDominicis, vice president of sales for ThunderWorks in Durham, N.C. "The category continues to grow, and you are seeing more product and more retail shelf space being dedicated to this issue."
Baby boomers and millennials make up the highest number of pet owners, said Judy Morgan, DVM, owner of Dr. Judy Morgan’s Naturally Healthy Pets, a Woodstown, N.J.-based online store. These age groups typically have more pets than children in their homes and are more in-tune with their pets, helping to drive sales in the category, she said. An increase in pet rescue work is also contributing to a boost in consumer demand for anxiety relief products.
"Animals that have been victims of abuse, neglect or natural disasters are finding their way into loving homes," she said. "Unfortunately, those emotional traumas can come with high anxiety."
While both dog and cat owners are showing interest in anxiety relief products, manufacturers say the market for dogs is currently more lucrative. Part of this could be because signs of stress are more obvious in dogs.
"Dogs and cats display their anxiety very differently," said Jillian Dutson, marketing and advertising manager for Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo. "Cats usually hide, where a dog may bark [or] run away."
Jennifer Kasten, technical services veterinarian for Tomlyn Veterinary Science in Fort Worth, Texas, agreed that signs of stress are more subtle in cats. She said signs of anxiety in cats include hiding, increased sleeping and grooming, decreased appetite and interaction, and eliminating waste outside of the litterbox.
"While we appreciate the significant size of the dog anxiety relief market, the cat anxiety relief category offers a significant opportunity for growth," Kasten said. "With improved access to high-quality information regarding cat health, cat owners are likely to become increasingly aware that their cats are stressed. With this improved information, cat owners are likely to seek solutions, and the market for these products will grow."
DeDominicis said dog and cat owners both spend money on anxiety relief products, but in different ways. For ThunderWorks, this means ThunderShirts and ThunderWunders Calming Chews sell more to dog owners, while cat owners are more likely to purchase the ThunderEase diffuser, which mimics the calming pheromones released by a mother cat when nursing her kittens.
The ThunderShirt has been ThunderWorks’ best-selling dog product for 10 years, DeDominicis said. Morgan recommends them to her customers for thunderstorms and fireworks anxiety. CBD products, herbs, food therapy and desensitization therapy are also among her suggestions for dogs.
"Cat owners need something their cat will take," Morgan said. "They are picky and suspicious. We’ve had pretty good success with pheromone diffusers, CBD treats, flower essences and essential oils made specifically for cats."
Dutson said CBD works to soothe both dogs and cats in their own ways. She explained that CBD activates receptors in the endocannabinoid system, allowing body systems to better communicate and making it easier for the body to calm down.
Pet Releaf offers CBD in a range of formats for dogs, and in oils and liposomes for cats.
"We see the highest success in our products that have the highest potency of CBD oil: our oils, liposomes and capsules," Dutson said. "However, our baked goods do almost equally as well because of the human-grade ingredients we have in our Edibites [chews for dogs]."
When a customer comes in looking for anxiety relief for their pet, Scott Kegerreis, owner and operator of Scally Waggs Doggy Bakery & Pet Supplies in Monroe, Mich., first suggests that they take a look at the pet’s environment to identify any potential causes.
"A lot of times, it’s a change in their day to day, whether or not [the owners] have moved, they’ve changed carpet—there’s so many variables," Kegerreis said. "Just check the environment first."
Oftentimes, after talking with the owners, he finds that dogs have excess energy that needs to be burned off. If getting rid of that extra energy doesn’t help reduce anxiety, then he might suggest a remedy such as CBD.
"I just kind of try to tread lightly to make sure they’re doing what they can for the dog naturally," he said.
Offer Information on CBD and More
Helping pets beat anxiety issues means educating consumers on what products are available.
Judy Morgan, DVM, of Woodstown, N.J., said the No. 1 question she gets at pet expos and similar events is "What do you have for anxiety?"
Morgan owns the online store Dr. Judy Morgan’s Naturally Healthy Pets, and she has more than 50,000 followers on her Facebook page.
"I have a huge Facebook following, and I use Facebook Live videos to educate daily," she said.
Her Facebook Live videos typically range from about seven to 15 minutes in length, and each features a specific topic. For example, she has posted videos about cannabidiol (CBD), dental care, pet food, and issues such as cancer and obesity.
Morgan also sends out her "Friday Five," a weekly email to subscribers that highlights different products along with supporting articles. Many of her customers are particularly interested in learning more about CBD.
"There is a huge voice surrounding the use of CBD, with new companies and products coming online daily, so many consumers have heard of it and are interested in getting more information," she said.
General consumer awareness of CBD has caused a "seismic shift" in the dialogue between pet owners and retailers, said Steve Smith, president of Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo. For example, he said, the average consumer now knows CBD doesn’t cause a high. But he warns that because the industry is not regulated, there has been an influx of "bad brands and adulterated CBD products."
Pet Releaf’s high standards and educational efforts through the internet and its regional sales representatives set it apart from other manufacturers and help the company maintain relationships with its retailers, he said.
"Our pets deserve the best, so Pet Releaf will continue to invest significant money and time to educate, educate, educate as the overall CBD market grows and, therefore, continue to force the competition in pet CBD to try and keep up with our market-leading standards," Smith said.
Ingredients and Manufacturing Processes
Manufacturing methods and ingredients help makers of calming products stand out.
Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo., prides itself on seeing its cannabidiol (CBD) products through "from seed to sale, from plant to pet." Marketing and advertising manager Jillian Dutson said the company uses a specialized strain of hemp, PR-33, grown specifically with pets in mind.
"Because we use a high-quality, full-spectrum CBD hemp oil, our products do not need other calming ingredients added," Dutson said. "It gets the job done on its own."
The hemp is grown at the largest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic hemp farm in the U.S., she added.
"We have the long-term contracts with our farmers including tens of thousands of acres of USDA organic land ready to expand into as we continue our exponential growth," said Pet Releaf president Steve Smith. "With our CO2 extraction partner, we also installed what is arguably the most advanced hemp CO2 facility in the USA."
Pet Releaf produces standard hemp oils and liposome hemp oils for both dogs and cats.
"Our liposome hemp oils use a technology that allows the hemp oil to be protected while in the stomach and intestines, so that the oil can be put directly on the pet’s food and absorbed properly," Dutson said. "Both [the hemp oils and liposome hemp oils] are equally as effective if used properly, but it really comes down to what is more convenient for the pet parents and which is the best option for your specific animal."
L-tryptophan is another popular ingredient in anxiety relief products. L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, said Jennifer Kasten, technical services veterinarian for Tomlyn Veterinary Science in Fort Worth, Texas.
"Serotonin positively affects mood, creates a sense of drowsiness and diminishes anxiety," Kasten said. "The goal of supplementing L-tryptophan is to increase levels of serotonin."
L-tryptophan is a starring ingredient in Tomlyn Veterinary Science’s Relax & Calm Chews for dogs and cats. The chews also contain calming chamomile and ginger.
"Ginger helps settle the uneasy stomachs that can accompany stress," Kasten said. "These chews help pets cope with stressful situations such as travel, boarding, thunderstorms, fireworks and household transitions."
L-tryptophan, chamomile and ginger also appear in ThunderWorks’ ThunderWunders Calming Chews for Dogs. Additional key ingredients include melatonin, passionflower and thiamine, said Dominick DeDominicis, vice president of sales for the Durham, N.C.-based company. Alongside
the original ThunderWunder Calming Chews, the company also offers another formula with hemp seed oil.
New Ways to Comfort
Manufacturers are offering innovative, drug-free calming solutions to both cat and dog owners.
The Dog Pillow Co. launched out of Naples, Fla., in March. The company currently offers four designs of circular pillows for dogs, with more designs on the horizon.
Co-founder Dawn Ward said the idea for the pillows was born from observing her own three dogs.
"They, like all dogs, like to rest their chin on something," she said. "We created the circular design for multiple purposes. They can rest their chin from any side or angle. The inner circular area of the pillow acts as a secure, huggable part of the pillow, which can help with anxiety, comfort and security."
Also in March, ThunderWorks in Durham, N.C., released ThunderWunders Calming Chews for Cats and Cat Calming Paw Gel. The calming chews contain thiamine, L-tryptophan and chamomile to reduce stress, while the salmon-flavored paw gel contains oat, chamomile, passionflower and catnip.
"The challenge for many finicky cats is to get them to eat the calming supplement," said Dominick DeDominicis, vice president of sales. "That is why we have a standard chew as well as paw gel. Cats are very finicky, and sometimes they just say ‘no’ to a chew. Our paw gel gets around that because every cat will clean themselves."