At times overlapping with natural but still mostly in a class of its own is functional pet food designed for preventive healthcare or to address specific pet health conditions. With pet parents increasingly concerned about the long-term wellness of their fur babies, functional pet food products are positioned to play a pivotal role in overall industry growth, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the report Pet Industry Outlook: Veterinary Services and Pet Product Retailing.

"Just as many Americans are proactive about their own health diet-wise, a sizeable majority of pet owners believe the pet foods they buy have a strong impact on the health of their pets," says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Survey data published in the report reveal that 72% of dog and 67% of cat owners agree that "High-quality dog foods/cat foods are effective for preventive healthcare," and more than a three-fourths of dog and cat owners agree that "targeted pet foods with special nutrition formulations are beneficial to pets with specific health concerns." Top functional foods sought by dog and cat owners include:

  • Oral/dental health formulas
  • Skin and coat/long hair formulas
  • Senior/mature formulas
  • Weight management formulas
  • Joint/mobility formulas
  • Digestive/sensitive stomach formulas
  • Hairball formulas (for cats)

Many of these conditions are related to the greying of America's companion animals. Dogs and cats are living longer, and as a result are dealing with are suffering from age-related conditions including joint, coronary, cognitive, and immune-system-related, as well as diabetes and cancer. Senior-targeted pet products cover all of these needs as well as routine daily concerns, and because of their more specialized health focus, senior products and services are typically priced well above the market average.

Older pet populations also drive human-style advancements in veterinary care, medications, and supplements supported by newer payment options such as pet insurance. Moreover, as pets age, the human/animal bond deepens, creating an increased willingness among pet owners to do whatever it takes to keep their pets healthy and happy for as long as possible. Because of all these factors, Packaged Facts forecasts functional pet food targeting conditions related to aging will have excellent growth prospects in coming years.