For dog owners looking for products in the fast-growing category of supplements and essential oils, their demands are as easy as ABC: all natural, beneficial and convenient.
"Customers are asking for supplements that will better their pet’s life without side effects," said Andrea Margelis, manager of Pets Naturally in Traverse City, Mich. "They want these products to be free of artificial colors, preservatives and flavors."
Pets Naturally’s top-selling supplements include Wapiti Labs’ Senior Mobility for Dogs, Herbsmith’s Microflora Plus for Digestion, Organic Pet Superfood Immunity from Bixbi Pet, Holistic Blend’s Seagreens Powder and Bee Pollen, Nordic Naturals products and Cranimals products, Margelis said.
"We see demand toward enhanced nutrition, better-quality ingredients and products that might help deliver more comprehensive benefits, and it all has to backed by research and educational support," said Heidi L. Nevala, president of Natura Petz in Minneapolis.
The company introduced its Starter Pack Series at SuperZoo in Las Vegas this year. Formulas include Anxiety, Cleanse & Detox, Digestion, Immunity, Skin & Coat, Stone Breaker, Urinary Tract Infection and Wound & Hot Spots, Nevala said.
Supplements with natural ingredients are in high demand, especially products that contain fatty acids and digestive enzymes, said Holly Anderson, inside sales and marketing for Kauffman’s Animal Health in Lebanon, Pa.
"Our customers require a high-quality natural supplement that will improve coat condition, immune function and the overall well-being of their pet or show dog," Anderson said.
At The Whole Pet, which has stores in Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Ark., customers rarely need supplements once they switch to a healthful pet food, said manager Courtney Phillips.
"The few [supplements] we do sell mainly relate to calming nervous dogs or helping to stimulate appetite for pets that are recovering from surgery, as well as pain relief using omega-3 fatty acids," Phillips said. "For these situations, I recommend HomeoPet Anxiety [Relief] for the former, especially because people do not like having to medically sedate their pets. For the latter issues, I recommend Nature’s Logic’s North Atlantic Sardine Oil and Grizzly Salmon Oil [from Grizzly Pet Products]."
The quality of natural ingredients is important, said Tony Lewis, product development for Dallas-based The Bramton Co., maker of Vet’s Best.
"The closer you get to nature, the more benefits there are, and that’s our approach in our lines. We use natural ingredients that complement each other and work together in a product for which it was specifically designed," Lewis said. "We take a more holistic approach and try to be more proactive. For example, if a dog owner knows their dog has allergies, we suggest the early use of our Seasonal Allergy Support to get through the season without [the dog’s allergies] getting out of control."
Ken Wilks, business consultant for Designing Health Inc., maker of The Missing Link brand of pet supplements in Valencia, Calif., said the most common questions the company receives are related to joint health and skin and coat issues.
"This may surprise some because processed kibble foods have improved their ingredient profiles and claims over the years," Wilks said. "However, skin and coat and joint health issues appear to plague animals eating inexpensive kibble and those eating designer kibble, more or less."
Effective and Easy to Use
In addition to all natural ingredients, consumers want supplements to be beneficial and convenient. Some supplements offer even more with extra benefits.
W.F. Young Inc. in East Longmeadow, Mass., recently launched NuPath canine supplements, said Bill Miller, founder of NuPath.
"Pumpkin is widely recognized for its use as a digestive because it’s high in soluble fiber and dogs love the taste of pumpkin," Miller said. "We developed something better than pumpkin; it’s a patent-pending proprietary pumpkin puree called Pure-Ease that’s the delivery system for supplements. We use the puree form because it’s easier to digest, resulting in greater bioavailability. I refer to it as the DoubleMint gum effect—where you get two things in one, a great digestive product and some good supplements."
The product is available in four formulas: Digestion, Hip & Joint, Skin & Coat and Calming.
NWC Naturals Pet Products launched its Tri-Krill for Pets Pump earlier this year, said John R. Taylor, CEO and founder of the Laguna Hills, Calif., company.
"Omega-3 fatty acids supplements for pets are not new; it’s commonly found in fish or salmon oil," Taylor said. "The reason krill oil is better is because it’s a phospholipid instead of a triglyceride, which means it instantly mixes with water and immediately goes into the body.
"The product is like a caulking gun; it’s in a sealed system," Taylor added. "As you pump on the top, the piston below it moves it higher and higher so no air gets in and touches the oil. It’s in an oxygen-free environment, so the oil stays very, very stable."
Natural Pest Control
Products containing essential oils are gaining attention, especially in the flea and tick control category.
A growing number of consumers believe in natural products and use these products themselves, and this awareness extends to the products they purchase for their pets, Lewis said.
"You want to make sure they really are natural essential oils and avoid synthetics that use a fragrance, like a lavender or peppermint scent," Lewis said. "Also, there are different qualities, you want a pure, high-quality oil; with a high-quality oil you can use less. If a chemical method is used to extract the essential oil out of a plant, sometimes traces of the chemical(s) is left.
"One thing you have to keep in mind about naturals is that they degrade," Lewis added. "If a dog goes in the sprinkler, or rain or just ultraviolet light, it degrades a little bit. You might apply a natural more often than a chemical that lasts for months."
Essential-oil-based flea and tick control products are in high demand, said Cheri Zachow, manager of Natural Pet NW in Vancouver, Wash.
"With increased reactions to many of the traditional flea control products, people are looking for another way to help fight the problem of fleas and ticks," Zachow said. "Far and away we sell the most of the Mad About Organics line of flea control products. We carry the Organic Flea and Tick Topical Treatment for dogs and cats, the Organic Herbal Insect Relief Spray, and the Organic Flea and Tick Shampoo."