Nutritional supplements are one of the fastest-growing segments of the pet industry. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, August 2011, pet supplements are growing faster than other pet categories. According to Dr. Donna Spector DVM, DACVIM, and consulting veterinarian to Halo, Purely for Pets, pet supplements are defined as either dietary or therapeutic supplements. Dietary supplements (also called dietary nutrients) are substances added to petfoods to make them nutritionally complete and balanced. Therapeutic supplements (also called nutraceuticals) are foods or food nutrients that are taken orally to provide a health benefit, either for prevention or treatment of disease. There are thousands of pet health conditions that may be appropriately treated using one or several of the numerous pet supplements available.

There are several categories of supplements that can promote better health for pets:

  • Vitamins : Organic compounds that are essential to growth, development and day-to-day life-support functions
  • Minerals : Examples include calcium, magnesium and potassium which maintain bone growth, the nervous system, the muscular system and the ability to assimilate nutrients
  • Enzymes : Involved in a variety of basic biological processes, enzymes aid cell creation and repair, conversion of food to energy and regulation of body chemistry
  • Probiotics : "Good bacteria" that fend off harmful bacteria and aid digestion

The use of pet supplements and nutraceuticals is a relatively recent practice in veterinary medicine. It is up to the consumer to become informed about the integrity and ethics of the manufacturer to provide any measure of assurance that the product is effective and unadulterated, says Spector. According to Dr. Spector, reliable product packaging for pet supplements should have the name and contact information of the manufacturer, information about its contents—ideally with some sort of minimum analysis of the active ingredients, information about any inert carrier substances that are present (e.g., milk, sugar, whey, vegetable or animal proteins), and herbal products should also include the Latin name of the plant, a harvest date or an expiration date, the part of the herb used and the amount of active ingredient. The National Animal Supplement Council, a non-profit trade organization comprised of companies committed to providing health supplements and nutritional supplements for companion animals, suggests that consumers simply look for their seal of quality.

So who's taking advantage of this growing market segment?

Steadfast Canine is an example of an innovative, advanced supplemental formula, containing new ingredients specifically designed to support total joint structure and normal mobility, and to ease discomfort. NEM is a whole-food matrix of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid and amino acids. NEM recently won the Frost & Sullivan 2011 North American Dietary Supplements for Joint Health New Product Innovation of the Year Award. The ingredient NEM was shown in human clinical trials to be more effective than glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate combined, claims the company. Steadfast also contains TêlaFIRM, an advanced micro-ingredient system of organic chelated minerals designed to support normal bone remodeling. These two proprietary ingredients work in combination to provide complete support of healthy joints, hips, cartilage, bones, tendons and ligaments.

NoviPet recently introduced three products for dogs in the US that are designed to enhance their diets and make sure they receive the full daily values of necessary vitamins, minerals and other natural compounds. “Pet parents want to make sure their dogs live vigorous, healthy lives and have realized that traditional pet foods don’t always provide all the nutritional building blocks needed to accomplish this,” said Guy Setton, head of NoviPet’s international business development. “Our product line makes it simple for pet parents to supplement their pets’ daily diets to safeguard their longevity.” All three products, which are approved by the National Animal Supplement Council, are sold in packages of 30 individually sealed chew treats that are highly palatable and created with a patent-pending "soft-chew" delivery system. NoviPet will expand its product line in early 2013 to include additional digestive and calming aid supplements for dogs and a full product line for cats.

Wapiti Labs’ natural pet supplements are endorsed, recommended and distributed by veterinarians practicing both Eastern and Western herbal medicine, according to the company. Wapiti Labs produces premium supplements created with Minnesota Elk Velvet Antler and Chinese herbs using a proprietary extraction process. The company offers a full line of both dog and cat supplemental products that promise to aid in joint and hip function, health and energy, respiratory congestion, stomach discomfort, healing and post-trauma recovery, muscle tone and vitality.

Products on the market: Supplements, nutraceuticals and fortified treats

Our online consumer product database has a varied number of petfood supplement products! Just type ‘Supplements’ in the search box to start.