Pet food is a booming industry with sales of $27 billion in 2018, which is up over 4% from 2017.* It's also evolving in response to the needs and expectations of pet parents. Find out more about these trends and get tips on feeding your pooch.
5 Trends to Watch in 2019
Dogs are part of our families, so it's not surprising that nutritional trends for pets mirror those for humans. In general, we want the same kinds of healthy food choices we want for ourselves.
1. Ingredient Lists and Labels
Consumers have been looking more closely at ingredient lists on dog food products, and the industry is responding with easier-to-read labels. They're also touting claims that appeal to pet parents, such as "natural," "organic," or "non-GMO." Some companies also make claims regarding their focus on environmental friendliness and sustainability, which is something that has become increasingly more important to millennial consumers.
Navigating claims on dog food labels can be as confusing as it is with human food labels. For instance, "organic" doesn’t necessarily mean "natural" although they sound similar. Some are also the subject of debate, such as "human-grade." This claim is supposed to indicate that the food is edible by humans, but it has no official definition by animal feed regulations.
One thing you should look for on dog food labels is "complete and balanced." "Complete" lets you know the product has all the essential nutrients, including protein, fats, and carbohydrates. "Balanced" tells you that the nutrients are represented in appropriate proportions. You can gloss over claims such as "premium," "ultra-premium," or "gourmet" since there are no regulations mandating higher standards for products using these claims.
If you have questions about dog food claims or ingredients, you should talk to your veterinarian. Additionally, you can review the detailed guides offered by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
2. Healthy Choices
Many people are striving to make healthier diet choices for themselves, and they want to do the same for their dogs. This is driving interest in ingredients that may enhance your dog’s health, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and vitamins. Caution should be used when supplementing diets with additional vitamins and minerals. Dog foods are carefully balanced, so additional supplementation can create imbalances leading to health problems. Talk with your veterinarian about any supplements to ensure you're not providing too much of a good thing!
There are also prescription products to help with specific conditions, like arthritis or digestive issues. Since your veterinarian knows your dog's current health status and history, they're your best resource for figuring out the optimal diet for your pooch.
3. Personalization and Control
Consumers are increasingly looking for more opportunities to customize and control what they feed their pets. Here are a few ways pet parents are personalizing their dogs' meals:
- Custom meals: They can go online and sign up for dog food delivery services that customize the food based on their dogs' needs and have it delivered to their doorstep.
- Meal toppers: These products are designed to be added to your dog's usual kibble. They can add protein, vitamins, and flavor to liven up everyday meals.
- Test kitchens: There have even been in-store test kitchens for dog food where you can see exactly what goes into the food and watch as it's prepared.
4. Online Shopping
One reason pet food personalization is trending is because of the rising popularity of online sales. The internet enables companies to offer pet parents more choice right from their laptops or other devices.
According to a Nielsen study, the sales of pet consumables online grew 53% in 2018.** This is remarkable when you compare it to the growth of other shopping methods they measured:
- Total Pet Consumables: +5% growth
- E-commerce: +53%
- Mainstream Retail: +1.7%
- Pet Superstores and Neighborhood Pet Stores: +.7%
- Veterinary Clinics: -5.8%
Shopping online offers pet parents the convenience of home delivery, as well as the ability to research different brands from the comfort of their homes. However, there are still many pet parents who prefer to shop at big box or neighborhood stores, as seen by the sales growth in those channels even though it is modest compared to online growth.
5. Different Protein Sources
You may have noticed more protein options in dog food in the pet food aisle of your grocery store. In addition to more common dog food proteins, like chicken, beef, lamb, and turkey, you'll find options that include duck, rabbit, bison, and salmon.
If you decide to try out a new protein, you may want to speak with your veterinarian first. You should also introduce it slowly by adding a little of the new food to your dog's usual meal and gradually increase the amount. Stop using the food if you notice any signs of allergies or stomach upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea.
How Much You Should Feed Your Dog?
How much you feed your dog depends on their age, size, and lifestyle. For instance, an older lapdog like a Shih Tzu will need to take in fewer calories than a young Labrador Retriever who loves to run around outside. You should discuss your dog’s nutritional needs with your veterinarian.
As far as a feeding schedule, our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) recommends all dogs be fed twice a day around 8 to 12 hours apart. You can feed your dog at set times or leave out dry food that won't spoil for what is called free-choice feeding. Keep in mind that some dogs will overeat if they're allowed to chow down whenever they want.
You may also want to take unfinished food away after a fixed period of time. So, if your dog doesn't finish a meal in let’s say 30 minutes, you'd put that food away. Again, all of this is something you should talk to your veterinarian about to help make sure your dog is eating the right amount in a way that optimizes their health.
Are Treats a No-No?
Absolutely not! Dogs love treats, and it sure is fun to give them a yummy reward now and then. But treats should be given in moderation. They can be full of sugar and fats, which can contribute to obesity.
The ASPCA advises that treats should represent 5% or less of your dog's daily food intake with the rest coming from a nutritionally complete dog food.
Dogs and Obesity
Obesity is a growing problem for dogs, and it can have many negative health effects. Overweight and obese dogs are at an increased risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. Your veterinarian will track your dog's weight during wellness exams, so you can tell if your pooch is starting to tip the scales.
Dog Weight Loss Tips
If your dog needs to lose weight, your veterinarian can help you figure out a healthy diet and exercise program. These tips can also help:
- Control their portions – Use a measuring cup to pour your dog's food into their bowl. This way, you'll know they're getting exactly the right amount.
- Offer healthy snacks – Substitute store-bought treats with pet-safe fruits and veggies, like slices of apples, carrots, or green beans. You can also make homemade treats with easy recipes.
- Stick with it – It can be tempting to give in to those puppy dog eyes and give your pooch a few extra treats or scraps from the table. Remember, by refraining from giving your dog treats, you're doing something good for them, even if they're not happy with you at the moment.
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Responsible Pet Ownership
Feeding your dog a nutritional diet is only one aspect of responsible pet ownership. You also need to make sure they're getting enough exercise and mental stimulation, living in a safe home environment, and enjoying lots of love and attention.
Plus, you need to provide them with quality veterinary care, which is where pet insurance comes in. It helps you give your pet the best medical care possible. Learn more about pet insurance or jump in and get a free quote now.
*Pet Food in the U.S., 14th Edition, Packaged Facts, January 2019
**An Uptick in Clicks and Bricks for Pet Food: An Omnichannel Perspective, Nielsen, November 2018
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.