The pet food industry is booming with estimated sales of $31.68 billion in 2019—up 4.5% in 2018.* It’s also changing in response to the needs and expectations of today’s pet parents. Learn more about trends in dog nutrition and get tips on feeding your dog.
5 Trends to Watch in 2020
The dog nutrition trends for 2020 tend to mirror the trends we’re seeing for human nutrition. Not that we’re putting our pups on the latest diets in the news, like Keto or intermittent fasting. But we often believe that what’s good for us is good for them too.
That’s not surprising when you consider how close we feel to our canine pals. They’re an integral part of our families, and we want the very best for them when it comes to their nutrition. This includes the ability to make healthy choices, understand and take control of what they eat, and customize their meals to fit their health needs.
1. Healthy Choices
Many of us are looking for ways to improve our own diets by making healthier choices. We’re also interested in doing the same for our dogs. For instance, dog foods and treats that are labeled natural, organic, or non-GMO are becoming increasingly popular. We’re also more likely to buy foods that contain ingredients that may support our dog’s health, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, or added vitamins.
All of these choices can be confusing and a bit overwhelming. Talk to your veterinarian about which options are right for your best friend. Keep in mind that your dog’s nutritional needs will change as they get older or if they’re diagnosed with a health condition. Be sure to continue to discuss your dog’s nutritional needs over the years.
Please be careful about supplementing your dog’s diet with additional vitamins and minerals. Dog foods are carefully balanced, so adding more of something may not be a good thing. It could cause an imbalance in your dog’s diet that may lead to health problems. Chat with your veterinarian about any changes you’d like to make in your dog’s diet beforehand.
It’s just as important to know what NOT to feed your dog to help keep them safe and healthy. See 16 things your dog should never eat.
2. Simpler Labels
Pet parents are looking more closely at what’s in their dog’s food and treats, and many companies are responding with shorter and easier to read ingredient lists. They’re also using enticing terms on their labels, such as “natural,” “organic,” “human-grade,” or “non-GMO.” Some include claims about being environmentally friendly or using sustainable practices to attract buyers.
These terms can be confusing and may not always mean what you think they do. For instance, is “organic” the same as “natural”? No, they’re not always the same. Does “human grade” mean it’s healthier for my dog? Not necessarily. While there are some standards around the use of these terms, they’re not highly regulated yet.
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.” They may sound great, but they don’t have any meaning related to your dog’s nutritional health.
If you have questions about dog food claims or ingredients, you should talk to your veterinarian. You can also look into online educational resources, such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the Animal Food and Feed section of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the Pet Nutritional Alliance.
3. Personalized Nutrition
Consumers are looking for more opportunities to customize their dog’s diet, such as:
- Custom meal services: With these meal delivery services, you can set up a profile with information about your dog’s health and lifestyle. They use this profile to whip up and send you meals that fit their specific needs.
- 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: Some grocery and pet stores have in-store test kitchens where you can watch your dog’s food as it is being prepared.
4. Online Shopping
One reason pet food personalization is possible is due to the rise of online retail, which is clearly lapping other shopping options when it comes to dog food and treats. 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 pet food shopping methods they measured:
- E-commerce: +53%
- Mainstream Retail: +1.7%
- Pet Superstores and Neighborhood Pet Stores: +.7%
- Veterinary Clinics: -5.8%
- Total Pet Consumables: +5% growth
In fact, it’s predicted that e-commerce will become the dominant retail channel for pet food and other products by 2023.+ It’s so easy for many of us to compare and choose dog food options from our laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Plus, you don’t have to haul home that 30-pound bag of kibble. It just shows up at your door!
5. New Protein Sources
Bison, duck, and rabbit are just a few of the new protein options you may spot next to common ones, like chicken, beef, and turkey. If you want to try out one of these new proteins, please run it by your veterinarian first. You’ll also want to introduce it gradually in case it causes an allergic reaction or upsets your dog’s stomach. You can add a little bit to your dog’s current chow and slowly increase the amount if all goes well.
How Much You Should Feed Your Dog?
How much you feed your dog depends on their size, age, health, and lifestyle. For instance, a young Labrador Retriever who loves to run circles around the yard will need more calories than an older Shih Tzu who prefers to nap the day away.
Your veterinarian can give you advice on the best diet to feed your dog now and as they get older. They can also help you make any adjustments if your dog is diagnosed with a health condition.
As far as how often to feed your dog, our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) recommends giving dogs two meals a day spaced around 8 to 12 hours apart. You can feed your dog at fixed times, which is great for dogs who thrive on routine. You can also practice free-choice feeding where you leave dry food out for them to eat whenever they’re hungry. Just keep in mind that some dogs will overeat if you use this method.
What About Treats?
Dogs love treats, and it’s fun to give them a tasty goodie now and then. Plus, they can be useful as rewards when you’re training your dog. It’s fine to give your dog treats as long as you offer them in moderation. They can contain unhealthy ingredients, like 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. The rest should come from nutritionally complete dog food.
You can also treat your dog with pet-safe fruits and veggies. Apples, bananas, blueberries, broccoli, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and carrots are all safe options for dogs. You should cut them up into bite-sized pieces to help prevent choking.
Obesity and Dogs
Obesity is a growing problem for dogs. A clinical survey published by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention showed that an estimated 56 million dogs were overweight or obese.++ Dogs with weight issues are at a higher risk for all sorts of health problems, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
It’s important to take your dog to the veterinarian regularly, so they can track your pup’s weight and intervene if they’re starting to tip the scales. You should also be aware of your dog’s weight by touch and sight:
- When you run your hands your dog’s sides and back, you should be able to feel the indentations of the ribs and gentle bumps along the top of the spine easily.
- When looking at your dog from above, you should see either an hourglass figure or at least an indentation at the waist.
- Your dog’s abdomen should not look rounded or droopy.
These factors are part of your dog’s body conditioning score, which can help you tell if they are at a healthy weight.
Dog Weight Loss Tips
If your dog needs to lose some weight, your veterinarian can help you make healthy changes to their diet and exercise routine. These tips can also help:
- Control their portions: Rather than eye-balling the amount of food you put in your dog’s bowl, use a scale to weigh it or at least pour it out with a measuring cup. This way, you’ll know exactly how much you’re giving them.
- Offer healthy options: Make sure your giving your dog a complete and balanced food that fits their needs and check the ingredient lists on store-bought treats.
- Keep it up: It’s hard not to toss your dog an extra treat or a scrap from the table when those adoring eyes are looking up at you. Instead of giving in, distract them with a good petting or game of fetch, which has the added bonus of burning off some calories.
Being a Great Dog Parent
Feeding your dog a nutritional diet is only one part of being a responsible pet parent. You also need to provide them with quality veterinary care to help keep them healthy and happy. That’s where pet insurance comes in. It gives you some financial cushion when your dog needs medical attention. This way, you can focus on what’s best for your dog with less worry about how much it will cost.
*Americans Are Spending More on Pets Than Ever Before: $72 Billion, American Pet Products, March 21, 2019.
**An Uptick in Clicks and Bricks for Pet Food: An Omnichannel Perspective, Nielsen, November 2018
+Online pet food sales may beat others by 2023, PetfoodIndustry.com, July 2019
++2018 Pet Obesity Survey Results, Pet Obesity Prevention, March 12, 2019.
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.