Dog Nutrition Trends for 2021

happy Labrador retriever eyes a full food bowl

2020 was quite a year with lots of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of those shifts, such as an increasing reliance on e-commerce and a focus on immune-boosting supplements, are impacting dog food trends for 2021.

1. Online Shopping for Dog Food

Dog and puppy adoptions soared in 2020 for obvious reasons. Lots of people were lonely, bored, cooped up, and stressed out as they dealt with the consequences of the pandemic. A new dog was just the relief some families needed to help cope with our "new normal." And many of us had more time at home to train and cuddle with a four-legged best friend.

All of those newly adopted dogs meant an increase in the sales of dog food and supplies, particularly in the online retail space. E-commerce has been on the rise for years because of its ease and convenience—and its popularity grew even more in 2020. It gave dog parents who were unable or hesitant to go to a store a safe way to shop.

In 2019, a Nielsen study forecasted that e-commerce would become the primary retail channel for pet food and other products by 2023.^ As more people get comfortable with purchasing dog food online, this prediction is certainly on track.

2. Online Subscription Services

In addition to an increase in online sales, there was a spike in the use of online subscription services, which grew 28% from February to March in 2020.+ These services let you schedule a recurring order of dog food or other regularly used canine essentials, like treats or waste baggies.

Online subscriptions are gaining customers for a number of reasons. First off, there's the added convenience. Once your delivery is set up, you don't have to think about it again. And you don't have to worry about running out of dog food since you have a steady supply.

In addition, there are more online retailers promoting this feature on their websites. Some even offer discounts if you order by subscription.

spaniel puppy eating food from a green dog bowl

3. Focus on Sustainability

Over the years, more dog parents have been choosing brands or companies committed to sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices. This dog food trend held steady in 2020, and it looks like it will hold strong in 2021.**

Sustainably produced dog food products are typically more expensive than other choices. So, it's a little surprising that they've continued to grow in popularity during the pandemic. Many people faced job losses or cutbacks that made it necessary to tighten their budgets.

But sustainability is a core issue for many people, millennials in particular. Their desire for sustainable products has remained steadfast even during tough economic times.

Dog food is one of many expenses dog parents need to cover to care for their pups. Learn about the costs of having a dog.

4. Healthy Foods and Supplements

Our interest in healthy foods and immune-boosting supplements grew in 2020 as we looked for ways to help avoid getting sick. This focus on maintaining good health through good nutrition has extended to our dogs. This makes sense since dogs are an integral part of our families. We often want the same for them as we want for us.

We've also generally been able to spend more time with our dogs during the pandemic, making us more conscious of their health needs. The dog food industry has responded by continuing to expand on its lines of healthy dog food and supplement options.

You should talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog supplements. You'll want to ensure that they're safe and effective for your pooch. It's also important to know the right dosage amount for your dog's age and weight. Some supplements that are currently trending for dogs include:

You can boost your dog's intake of healthy vitamins and minerals by feeding them safe fruits and veggies, like apples, carrots, and kale.

5. Greater Transparency

You can't make healthy choices for your dog if you don't know what's in their food. For this and other reasons, dog parents are demanding more transparency when it comes to food labels. And dog food manufacturers are listening.

Like human food labels, dog food labels have been getting easier to read. You can see a list of ingredients, calorie count, and percentages of protein, fat, fiber, and water on product packaging. However, these labels can still be confusing, especially when it comes to claims like "natural," "organic," "human-grade," or non-GMO.

While there are some standards around certain terms, they're not highly regulated, and they don't always mean what you might think. For instance, "organic" is not always the same as "natural," even though they seem interchangeable. "Human-grade" also isn't necessarily healthier for your dog. It just lets you know the product is safe for people to eat.

One thing you should look for on a dog food label is the statement "complete and balanced." "Complete" tells you it has dog nutritional requirements, including carbs, fats, and protein. "Balanced" means that nutrients are provided in appropriate proportions.

You can look past claims like "premium," "ultra-premium," or "gourmet." They might draw your eye to the packaging, but they don't mean anything when it comes to your dog's nutritional needs.

Your veterinarian can help you understand dog food claims and labels. Additionally, you can look through the online guides offered by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA's list of public health advisories is an essential resource for dog parents. There you'll find information about dog food recalls and other health concerns.

How to Choose the Right Dog Food

You should talk to your veterinarian about the best dog food choices for your pup. What kinds of dog food and how much you feed them depends on their age, health, and lifestyle. Keep in mind that your dog's nutritional needs change over time.

Dogs and Obesity

It's so important not to overfeed your dog. Obesity is a growing problem among dogs, and it can lead to all sorts of health issues, from joint problems to diabetes. If your dog is tipping the scales, your veterinarian can help you establish a diet and exercise routine to help them lose those extra pounds.

Feeding your dog a nutritional diet is only one part of taking great care of them. Make sure they get plenty of exercise, have a rich environment that keeps them mentally active, and receive preventive medical care. For these planned visits and unplanned medical care for illnesses or injuries, pet insurance can help you manage the costs.

And, of course, shower them with lots of love and attention!

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.

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