More than half of your customers own pets. And chances are, if they?re filling their carts with quality food and supplements for themselves, they?re apt to make the same quality purchases for their animal companions. Whether it?s to avoid expensive vet bills or, more likely, to keep Fido healthy and happy for years to come, your consumers will appreciate a well-stocked pet supplements section.
From antioxidants to vitamins and minerals, the same research that drives human supplements sales can often be applied to dogs and cats. Natural pet-supplements manufacturers know this and offer product lines for prevention and treatment of common conditions. Following are frequent pet ailments and natural supplements for treatment that you will want in your pet section.
Maintenance with multis
Should dogs and cats take a daily multivitamin? ?If you have a perky dog or an active dog, I would recommend a one-a-day with antioxidants,? says L. Phillips (Phil) Brown, DVM. ?Dogs eat the same food day after day, and they may require a bit more of a certain nutrient. Also, an animal?s age is about seven years for one human year, so stop and think about the stress and changes that their bodies are going through.?
Many pet multivitamins now exist, often with additional ingredients for specific animal types and sizes. In addition to vitamins, Halo Purely for Pets adds green foods to its daily nutrient products. ?Pets that eat potted plants are not getting enough greens in their diet and you want to address the cause,? says Andi Brown, director of the Palm Harbor, Fla.-based company.
For aging dogs, Nature?s Answer makes a senior one-a-day. ?It promotes better cardiovascular and neurological health,? says Burton Miller, DVM, director of animal health for the Hauppauge, N.Y.-based company. In its formula, ?Co-Q10 promotes energy production on the cellular level, particularly heart muscle cells and gingivitis cells in the mouth, and hawthorn increases the strength of heart contractions and slightly lowers the heart rate,? Miller says.
Like quality natural pet foods, pet supplements should contain superior ingredients. Old Mother Hubbard?s supplements line uses only human-grade ingredients in its supplements. ?They should be manufactured in a facility that uses good manufacturing practices and is regularly inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These standards ensure the highest degree of quality and standardization,? says Greg Kean, product developer for the Chelmsford, Mass.-based company.
?I am a big fan of antioxidants because a lot of the time [pets] are under stress that we don?t even know about,? Phil Brown says. Gregory Todd, DVM, also advocates antioxidant use for pets. ?Research has shown that vitamins C and E are potent antioxidants for dogs; they maintain joint integrity, central nervous system health and, by reducing oxidative injury to the body, they help all the organs function better.?
Old Mother Hubbard uses standardized grapeseed extract in its antioxidant blend. ?Grapeseed extract contains powerful natural antioxidants, known as bioflavonoids or proanthocyanidins, that can cross the blood-brain barrier and are highly bio-available,? Kean says.
One of the most common health problems affecting dogs, especially larger breeds, is joint degeneration. As with human joint-health supplements, chondroitin and glucosamine are also the stars in pet formulations. ?Even though some studies question their effectiveness, clinically I?ve seen responses,? Todd says. When his clients gave their older dogs chondroitin and glucosamine, the animals improved greatly, he says. He recommends a joint formula for larger dogs and very active dogs. Although Todd doesn?t prescribe it routinely for cats, he will advise it for a feline with arthritis—?when [a cat] stands funny with [its] elbows together or you feel an inflamed joint.?
Halo?s joint blend combines glucosamine and chondroitin with minerals and enzymes to keep the ingredients in the body longer. ?The body doesn?t retain [glucosamine and chondroitin] for very long—they are urinated out. We designed our formula so they would stay in the body longer,? Andi Brown says.
In addition to two forms of glucosamine, Dancing Paws adds shark cartilage to its joint formula. ?Shark cartilage is a source of chondroitin, which helps heal damaged cartilage,? says Leon Rosen, president of the Tustin, Calif.-based company.
Stress and anxiety
Whether it?s anxiety about an owner leaving or a nearby hyperactive child, just about everyone has seen a dog become stressed. ?One of the biggest problems that we see in animals is lack of socialization, and they can have a lot of anxiety and depression,? Phil Brown says. ?Homeopathy or supplements with chamomile or tryptophan can have calming effects.? But he suggests using these on an as-needed basis. ?If you?ve got a golden retriever, you certainly don?t need to give him anything; a Jack Russell terrier might need some help.?
Todd uses flower essences for his stressed-out pets. ?Flower essences are good for immediate problems or stresses that aren?t part of a dog?s everyday life,? he says. ?I?ve had great success with [human formulation] Bach?s Rescue Remedy,? which he puts in the dog?s mouth or water.
Nature?s Answer makes several blends that address an animal?s emotional health. Its travel blend contains ginger to settle the stomach and valerian to calm down an animal in transit. ?Valerian is as close to valium as the plant kingdom comes,? Miller says.
Another product contains kava kava, St. John?s wort, oats and passionflower to relax animals alone at home. ?They often become more playful when they take it because they relax,? Miller says. Pets with more serious depression or anxiety issues can take the product long-term.
Urinary tract health
Cats are particularly susceptible to urinary tract infections. ?I would start a male cat on a [urinary tract formula] from day one,? Phil Brown says.
Halo Purely for Pets markets a straight vitamin C product made from bioflavonoids and rosehips, which are effective for urinary tract health, according to Andi Brown. ?You get the C punch without it being cut by other ingredients.? She says it prevents UTIs because it keeps the body slightly acidic. ?When you keep the body acidic as opposed to alkaline, the problem bacteria can?t grow,? she says. The company?s daily blends also include cranberry and juniper berry for urinary tract health.
Healthy skin and coat
In addition to feeling nice, a healthy coat means an animal is free from dry, itchy skin and sores. ?Some dogs require higher amounts of omega fatty acids to help skin and coat,? Phil Brown says. ?Collies, cocker spaniels—dogs with fuller coats tend to be dry.? Supplements, though, will not help a dog on a poor diet, he says. ?You can?t load them up on supplements and then feed them crap in a can.?
?Most foods are cooked at very high temperatures so that all the oils are cooked out—that?s why they call it dry food,? says Andi Brown. ?When animals eat this day after day, they become depleted—the coat dries out.? Halo?s blend of garlic, wheatgerm, safflower, sunflower and cod liver oils will produce results in 10 days or so, she says.
Miller, of Nature?s Answer, recommends starting an animal early in life on an omega-3 and -6 supplement. ?Animals will experience [fewer] problems by being on it; it?s a good way to practice preventive nutrition.? Many pet supplements manufacturers believe that retailers have an opportunity to offer consumers something they can?t get elsewhere, even in the pet superstores.
?Everyone wants to stay out of the vet,? says Andi Brown. ?Pet sections are often the orphan child—they?re not given enough attention. If retailers offer a full line, I think they will see an ever-increasing source of customers.?
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 3/p. 80, 82