Dog parents are all-in for the biotics

Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 27 No. 5
Volume 27
Issue 5

Awareness and interest in pre-, pro-, and postbiotics in the human supplement space is translating to the pet health space.

Kirill Kurashov -

Kirill Kurashov -

When it comes to prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics for dogs, not only are companies with a stick in the market relying on market research, but dog parents are also doing their own research to pick just the right biotics for their tail-wagging, furry children.

According to the 2024 annual trend report from Marketplace (Saint Louis, MO), a full-service brand strategy and creative firm serving the pet (and human) nutrition markets, pet parents spent more than one hour in the past year researching pre-, pro- and postbiotics. Specifically, 24% of pet parents and 35% of the subset identified as pet supplement shoppers were keen to learn more about biotics for their pets, with research for that topic ranking second behind vitamins and/or minerals. The research identified 86% of pet supplement shoppers as dog parents.1

Consumer knowledge can help the biotics market for dogs. “Consumers are gaining awareness of the ways the gut microbiome supports aspects of well-being, including digestive health, immune function and holistic wellness,” says Caitlin Donohue, marketing director, Microbiome Solutions, Pet & Animal Wellbeing for ADM (Chicago, IL).

According to data from ADM’s proprietary consumer insights platform, Outside Voice, nearly half of U.S. pet owners believe they are knowledgeable about probiotics but are somewhat less familiar with prebiotics and postbiotics.

It’s not surprising that consumer familiarity with pre-, pro- and postbiotics for dogs would mirror consumer knowledge of biotics for their own personal use. As it stands now, probiotics is the most popular of the biotics in both worlds.

According to Kerry Group’s (Tralee, Ireland) e-book about navigating modern pet parents, “probiotics are the go-to ingredient to support pet digestive health because they are generally understood and accepted by consumers in their own food and beverages.”2

Moreover, Kerry’s research places probiotics in the top five product packaging claims driving purchases for canine nutritional products.2

Prebiotics are poised to leap from a niche ingredient into the mainstream, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.25% to 2030, based on data from Precedence Research, which projects the category will rise to $20 billion by that year.3 The added anticipated awareness by consumers is also a good sign for dogs. And while postbiotics are just beginning to emerge into consumers’ consciousness, John Menton, senior business development director, Pet End Use Market for Kerry, advises that “when we compar[ing] postbiotics to probiotics, we saw that delivering probiotics in specific pet-friendly formats would be highly difficult and costly. Postbiotics are a solution to overcome these manufacturing challenges.”

Donohue also advises the “the inanimate microorganisms of postbiotics may be a helpful alternative to live probiotics when challenging processing conditions are required for the final product.”

If It’s Good Enough for Us, It’s Good Enough for Dogs

The parallels between what dog parents want for their own health and what they want for their canine companions’ welfare is not surprising but serves as a reminder that what’s good for the goose may be good for the gander.

“As probiotic acceptance among humans has proliferated, we see the same opportunity for the canine members of our family,” shares Mark G. Walin, senior vice president of Business Development & Marketing at Bio-Cat, Inc (Troy, VA).

Further, ADM’s consumer insights discovered that 71% of pet owners have purchased biotics for their pet at least once, and of those who have not, only 20% said they haven’t seen or heard about these products.

Donohue adds that “our research indicates the more educated consumers are about a product, the more likely they are to embrace it.” ADM’s research found that in the U.S., 47% of pet parents consider themselves knowledgeable about probiotics, 41% are familiar with prebiotics and 35% are aware of postbiotics.

Driving Pet Parents to Purchase

Kerry’s e-book notes that 78% of pet parents agreed that science-backed ingredients are important in pet food and 50% were willing to pay more for products with functional benefits.2

Menton is counting on dog parents’ interest in science and products with a health purpose to shore up sales for Kerry’s newest postbiotic branded ingredient for pets (and people), a rice-derived ingredient called Plenibiotic (Lactobacillus casei subsp. 327) that supports gut and skin health.

“Research efforts for Plenibiotic have been robust,” notes Menton. He says that “while three human clinical trials have been conducted, focusing on digestive and skin health, resources have also been dedicated to investigating Plenibiotic’s efficacy specifically for canines,” including in vitro and in vivo trials appropriate for dogs.

“Similar to the human health and wellness market, pet owners are seeking out products to support their pets’ gut health due to the perceived link to overall well-being,” advises Donohue. “This is driving development of pet products with functional claims, like biotics for dogs…particularly those [ingredients] with supporting scientific evidence.”

Not surprisingly, dog parents rely on their dogs’ doctors and other perceived experts for recommendations about biotics. “People tend to purchase biotics for their dogs after receiving a professional recommendation, such as from a veterinarian, pet store or a pet care website,” says Donohue.

“Most turn to biotics to address or avoid digestive and gastrointestinal concerns. When seeking out wellness products for pets,” says Donohue, “sixty-three percent of dog owners say branded health ingredients are important to their purchasing decisions as many believe these ingredients are more likely to be backed by clinical evidence.” She adds that four in 10 dog parents say they look for specialized health claims supported by science-based evidence to validate a product’s effectiveness. “Clearly,” she concludes, “recommendations from a trusted source are key to aiding consumer purchase and understanding of the power of biotics for their pets.”4

Jon Copeland, research manager at MarketPlace, says that pet parents generally start looking to supplements to provide a specific benefit. “For example, someone’s dog is having skin and coat issues, so they seek out products and ingredients that deliver that benefit.”

But for companies hoping to convert by-standers to pet supplement shoppers, he adds that “it’s important that the benefits the supplement provides are front-and-center and strategically coordinated with product packaging, media presence, search optimization, and advertising. This will help build trust and familiarity with the brand as the consumer does their information-seeking.”

Copeland also urges dog parents to think about deal-breakers. While dogs may like messy foods, dog parents don’t. “In our surveys, pet parents feel strongly that they will reject any product they perceive to be messy to use or something their pet will not enjoy,” he says.

Science Steps in Because Dogs Can’t Talk

Although many dog parents swear that they speak “dog,” Menton explains that of course, dogs can’t verbally express how they feel after consuming their pre-, pro-, and postbiotics, which is one more reason why Kerry “conducts clinical trials to ensure [its] products are safe and offer measurable health benefits.”

However, even without a dog’s ability to use their words, dog parents can pay attention to how they respond to their nutritional routine. Menton suggests that they can “observe the effects of Plenibiotic by monitoring changes in their pet’s stool and coat health.”

Walin also advises that when cleaning up after their dogs, dog parents can see a direct benefit on stool quality and consistency from probiotics. “Digestive health is a top concern for pet owners, and probiotics are one of the first lines of defense in a proactive approach to digestive concerns,” he observes.

Dogs are exposed to potential environmental pathogens, such as Staphylococcus and E. coli, that lend themselves to gastrointestinal disruption, especially when exploring their environment on walks, in parks, or in their backyards, explains Walin. Bio-Cat’s proprietary probiotic, OptiBiome, with microbial strains from the Bacillus species, has selected probiotics that demonstrate benefits to maintaining a healthy gut flora, helping keep digestive discomfort as bay, he adds.

“Advancements in science and technology are expanding the broad uses of biotics in pet nutrition applications,” says Donohue. As an example, she shares that ADM uses a cold extrusion process with creates soft chews without using heat, water or gumming agents. “This preserves color, texture, flavor and functional benefits of all active ingredients,” says Donohue.

ADM’s new Oral Health solution (Lactiplantibacillus planatarum CECT9161) is a post-biotic for dogs that is a heat-inactivated preparation of non-viable microorganisms and their metabolic components. “This means that ADM’s Oral Health postbiotic is an active ingredient that provides formulators with an easily incorporated solution for pet oral care.”

A consistent refrain, for all the biotics, is picking the right strain and focusing on shelf-life.

“Whether it is in food, treats or toppers, it is becoming increasingly recognized that there is a need for beneficial probiotics which can survive manufacturing processes that may diminish the efficacy of the probiotic strain,” says Walin. Manufacturers should select probiotic strain(s) that are able to do that, he counsels, citing Bacillus species as shelf stable probiotic strains that are heat tolerant and are compatible with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

What’s more, Walin believes that “consumers should be aware that not all biotic ingredients are created equal, especially when it comes to probiotic strains. They should look for shelf life guarantees and avoid ‘formulated to contain’ statements to ensure the probiotic is still active when it’s time to be consumed.”

Even though ADM’s research showed that 50% of surveyed pet owners purchased biotics for their pet at least every six months, Donohue states that “no matter how popular an ingredient may be with consumers, its prevalence in products relies on its stability and functionality in a formulation. Pre-, pro-, and postbiotics must remain active ingredients throughout shelf life of a soft chew or pet health supplement.”

Collaborating closely with customers to ensure the clinically relevant dose of their biotics will remain stable throughout the product’s shelf life is important to Kerry, says Menton.

Do Dogs Have Sophisticated Palettes?

No one has ever accused dogs of being food connoisseurs. In fact, dogs have been called mop replacements, garbage cans for leftovers, and the pre-wash cycle for dishwashers. And let’s not get started about their obsessive interest in grass. In short, it’s a common belief that dogs will eat or snack on just about anything.

But that doesn’t mean they should have to.

Just because dogs aren’t as pernickety as cats when it comes to eating whatever is in given to them, companies still have a responsibility to manufacture nutritional products for dogs that are nutritious, science-backed and yes, tasty. And that appears to be a challenge companies want to take on.

According to Kerry’s e-book, 74% of pet parents agree their pet’s taste preference determines what pet parents feed them.2

Bio-Cat’s Walin points out that “just as humans have specific needs and preferences, dogs have their own preferences or needs due to their breed, size or even life stage.”

And he adds that multiple options should be available, including different delivery mechanisms for food, treats, and supplements. “For example, certain older dogs may need softer food with more fat-digestible ingredients, [such as] probiotics which secrete lipase enzymes,” says Walin, “and supplements may need to be in powder or chew form; whereas younger dogs can handle dry dog food and chewable treats.”

What About Supplements?

Fortunately, “pet health supplements are available in several formats, including tablets, powders and soft chews,” says Donohue. “Soft chews are rapidly outpacing other pet supplement formats on the market as consumer interest continues to grow,” she believes.

Donohue notes that “much like gummy supplements for humans, soft chews are a tasty reward for pets with wellness support as an added benefit that pet parents feel good about giving to their companion-animals.”

MarketPlace calls pet supplement shoppers “early adopters of pet nutrition trends.”1 According to Copeland, “From our data, we consistently observe that pet supplement shoppers spend more time doing research on pet nutrition than the average pet parent. They also spend time researching a wider range of ingredients and consult a wider range of information sources, such as their veterinarians, online searches, and friends and family. From that, we can infer that pet supplement shoppers are more likely than average to find out about pet nutrition trends early.”

“With 72% of U.S. pet owners interested in buying pet health supplements in the future, the market potential for biotics in pet products shows a lot of promise,” says Donohue.

And it’s not just biotic supplements showing promise. Menton says that “we believe the future of pet food innovation will be to use prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics in combination with one another to drive maximum value for pets.”


  1. Copeland, J.; Hill, N. A MarketPlace Trend Report: Pet Category Consumer Insights: Supplements, Ingredients & Behaviors. MarketPlace. 2024. (accessed 2024-05-23).
  2. Navigating the Modern Pet Parent. Kerry. 2024. (accessed 2024-05-23).
  3. Monheit, L.; Rehné, P. Prebiotics in 2023 and beyond. Nutritional Outlook. March 21, 2023.“ (accessed 2024-05-23).
  4. FMCG Gurus. The Humanization of Pets. 2023

Judy Blatman Communications LLC specializes in writing for industry publications and clients, strategic counsel, and media training. Ms. Blatman spent 16 years as SVP, Communications, Council for Responsible Nutrition.

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