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.
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.
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.
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.
Consumers are looking for more opportunities to customize their dog’s diet, such as:
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:
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!
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 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.
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 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:
These factors are part of your dog’s body conditioning score, which can help you tell if they are at a healthy weight.
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:
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.