In August 2017, a team of researchers from the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois launched an online survey aimed at dog owners. So far, they’ve received about 2,000 responses, but they need more.
The survey is designed to capture the practices of pet owners in terms of their lifestyle, dietary choices, and food behavior, and how they translate those practices to their pets. Maria Cattai de Godoy, an assistant professor in companion animal and comparative nutrition, is leading the effort. She and graduate student Juliana Nogueira will analyze survey responses to better understand how humans make dietary choices for their dogs.
“Pet foods have really diversified in recent years,” said Cattai de Godoy in a press release. “The vast number of choices now available to pet owners stems mostly from the humanization of pets, and the closer animal-human bond we have developed with dogs and cats over the last several decades. However, very little empirical evidence is available on what dog owners base their decisions on, in terms of daily care and nutritional choices of their pets.”
Survey may benefit pet nutrition development
The researchers may use the survey results to develop educational materials for owners about their dog’s nutritional needs and wellbeing. Published results from the research questionnaire may also assist the pet food industry in developing products tailored to owners’ habits and preferences, as well as dogs’ nutritional needs.
“We would like to encourage dog owners to participate and to share this research questionnaire with their friends, family and social network,” said Nogueira in the press release. “We need your help to receive 1,000 more responses by the end of August 2018 to achieve our goal and provide results that can further benefit our furry best friends.”
The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete online, and is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Pet humanization trend in the US
Interest in rewarding and even spoiling pets may be encouraging higher spending on treats among American pet owners. A US pet food market report from market intelligence agency Mintel reveals that sales of pet treats have outpaced both dog and cat food over the last five years, with treats sales increasing by 29 percent between 2012-17 to reach US$4.39 billion. Meanwhile, dog food sales grew eight percent between 2012-17 to reach US$11.8 billion, while cat food sales increased 11 percent to reach US$6.83 billion during the same timeframe.
With snacking frequency on the rise among Americans, it seems the snacking trend may be extending to their pets as one in 11 pet owners say they feed their pet toppers (such as sauce and gravy) as a snack or treat. Three quarters of pet owners agree that treats are their way of showing their pet love, making treats more than just a way to reward good behavior. Treats are also popular for their health benefits as 24 percent of owners give their pets treats designed to address specific health issues, such as dental care.
Sixty-six percent of pet owners say their pet is treated like a member of the family and 58 percent agree their pet makes their house feel like a home. When it comes to acquiring their furry family member, nearly seven in 10 Americans agree adopting a shelter animal is the best way to get a pet.