Pet Supplements: What You Need to Know Today
These days, our pets are right there with us sleeping, working, eating, even doing yoga, so doesn’t it make sense that the pet supplement market would be growing right behind its human counterpart?
As of 2016, a whopping 71 percent of American adults reported taking dietary supplements, and it looks like pets might be following that same path. Owners want their companions to have a balanced diet, more energy, lower stress levels, and healthy joints too—according to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) a third of U.S. dog households use supplements, and a fifth of their cat-owning counterparts do too.
The pet supplement market is poised to follow in the footsteps of the larger nutraceuticals market meaning it will be important to understand the past, present, future, and nature of the niche.
The History of Pet Supplements
The pet supplement space is in the process of rebounding from a less-than-flattering past.
In 2002, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) released a plan to help state officials pull unapproved animal supplements from the market. This was due to the problem of products that promised nutritional and therapeutic benefits that hadn’t been substantiated by the FDA.
Veterinarians and pet owners reacted quickly because of (somewhat ill-informed) fears that “natural remedies” for pets and animals were being pulled from shelves. In response, the National Animal Supplement Council (a coalition of then 25 animal supplement companies) launched a program to address AAFCO and FDA concerns and help bring unapproved ingredients up to compliance with both state and federal laws.
Today is a very different time for the pet supplement industry, with the market showing an upward trend in the United States and looking positive (retail and nutraceutical sales are expected to hit $1.6 billion this year).
Take a look at the pet supplement industry (which is split right in half between dogs/cats and horses), and you’ll see a lot of similarities to your own medicine cabinet. Likely because our lives are somewhat similar, our pets are seeing benefits from the same supplements we use to improve our own lives.
Our pets are active right alongside us, so joint support will always be important, especially as they age. The joint health category in is a key leader, taking up a solid 39 percent of the pet supplement market.
Natural ingredients such as NEM (a derivative of eggshell membrane) helps support flexibility, range of motion, and joint comfort and have been found to significantly improve joint discomfort and function compared to a placebo.
Omega-3s in the form of fish oil seem to be everywhere for humans, and it’s possible that dogs and cats can see some of the same benefit (bonus for some, they might even love the taste!). Just like in humans, the supplement can help address joint problems, stave off skin issues, aid in brain development and has even been claimed to potentially be more effective than glucosamine-chondroitin in addressing joint pain.
Don’t leave glucosamine out though. The human favorite has also been found to come out on top of cat and dog joint supplements.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for humans, and things are no different for our animal companions.
Pet obesity appears to be a growing problem, so it’s not surprising that interest in their weight management is on the rise. Obesity in pets can contribute to other serious conditions including damaged ligaments and joints, heart and digestive disorders, and other health conditions.
Additional certifications and specifications that make their way into pet supplement formulations tend to mirror those of their human counterparts. Some popular options of the moment include things like organic and non-GMO ingredients and components.
Animal GI (gastrointestinal) health matters too and the demand for pet supplements that take on GI health is increasing steadily.
The same probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes that have become so popular for humans have popped up in the pet world. Special formulations help animals keep their good and bad bacteria in balance and promote overall healthy digestion.
Can’t We Just Share?
Since we’re all taking the same supplements, can’t we just skip the cat and dog vitamins and pick up an extra bottle next time we’re at the supplement store?
The short answer there is “No.”
Take digestive support for example. While some of the ingredients in your probiotic might be similar, animals have different mixes of bacteria living in their guts, so it’s in no way safe to assume that the pill that’s keeping you regular will do the same for your constipated cat.
Beyond that, the pet supplement market is still a growing and developing industry. We have much more information on how even common supplements impact human health, but in the pet realm, there’s still a lot of progress to be made.
As with most pet care, and supplements in general, it's always best to talk to your veterinarian to get clarity on the subject.
In the meantime, keep an eye on the pet supplement industry for even more progress in optimizing the lives of our animal companions.
About the Author: Megan Williams
Megan stepped into the world of nutrition almost by accident when she started training Brazilian jiu jitsu to "reset" after graduate school. Her professional background in business (she has an MBA in international business) and hospital consulting gives her a unique perspective not only on nutraceuticals, but also the B2B world of supplements and performance. Megan still enjoys training with partners that range from office workers to MMA fighters, as well as keeping up with the business of sports and professional athletics online.