For humans, now pets: Pet-health supplement ingredients

Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 22 No. 4
Volume 22
Issue 4

More and more shoppers want their pets to have the same high-quality, cutting-edge ingredients found in human supplements.

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The next time you see young parents pushing a baby carriage down the street, you may want to check before congratulating them on the birth of their new child-it could very well be a dog. Today’s 20- and 30-somethings are spending and doting on their “fur babies” like new moms and dads, and even considering them as practice for the real thing. They dress them in clothes, bring them everywhere, and, yes, seek out the highest-quality foods and wellness products for them. And this is great news for pet nutraceutical ingredient suppliers and brands.

“The state of the pet health market as a whole is on the rise because of the overwhelming growth in the number of Millennial pet owners” who are willing to loosen their purse strings for high-quality food and nutritional supplements, says Jon Getzinger, chief marketing officer at Puris (Minneapolis, MN). In fact, according to Nielsen Product Insider, demand for high-quality premium pet food has boosted sales dramatically, with annual pet food household spending increasing 36% between 2007 and 2017.1 Looking ahead, the global pet supplement market is expected to expand at a CAGR of about 5% between 2018 and 2026, says Research and Markets.2

“I’ve been in this industry since 1999, and I would say that the industry is stronger now, and the growth more dynamic and robust, than I’ve ever seen it,” says National Animal Supplement Council president Bill Bookout. “The changes in society being more conscience of what we eat, like GMOs, as well as a focus on the importance of nutrition, exercise, and health in general-all of this is fueling growth in the human area and then in the pet area.”

Bookout says that tried-and-true ingredients in the pet space, like chondroitin and glucosamine, remain popular. In fact, he adds, 20% of the ingredients on the market make up 80% of the demand for products. So there are still some big players that are and always have been on pet owners’ radars.

That said, trends in the human supplement market are trickling into the pet supplement arena, opening the door for new and interesting ingredients and research.


Digestion Demands

According to Packaged Facts’ most recent “Pet Supplements in the U.S. report,” digestive-health supplements have joined joint-health supplements as the most commonly purchased condition-specific supplement types among dog owners, with 13% of buyers purchasing them. Digestive-health supplements actually surpassed their joint-health counterparts among cat owners, with 7% and 5% purchasing these types, respectively.

“Digestive support is a priority for pets, as it is not uncommon for dogs or cats to experience episodes of spontaneous vomiting, regurgitation, flatulence, and diarrhea,” says Sam Michini, vice president of marketing and strategy at Deerland Probiotics and Enzymes (Kennesaw, GA). “In both dogs and cats, many studies have shown that a healthy population of gut bacteria is vital to a well-functioning gastrointestinal tract.” And, as pet owners understand the importance of a healthy microbiome for themselves, they are looking to support the same in their pets. According to Michini, strains known to benefit dogs include Bacillus coagulans and Lactobacillus acidophilus, “which has been shown to improve frequency and quality of stools in dogs with sensitive digestive systems,” he adds.

Enzyme ingredients represent yet another digestive-health category heavily in demand for pets. Michini says popular enzymes for pets include protein-digesting protease, bromelain, and papain; fat-digesting lipase; carb-digesting xylanase, cellulase, beta-glucanase, amylase, and glucoamylase; and pancreatin (a combination ingredient).


Joint Health Opens the Door

Joint health has always been a popular category for pet supplements. “Since joint pain is one of the most prevalent issues for pets, joint-health products are commonly sought after by pet owners,” says Andrew Rice, director of product and brand strategy at Stratum Nutrition (Carthage, MO). The downside? “Many joint-health ingredients that have been on the market for some time take several weeks to work-if they work at all-which is displeasing for pet owners.” That’s why his company’s NEM brand eggshell membrane is piquing the interest of pet supplement brands and shoppers alike. According to Rice, NEM’s results can be seen in just one week.

Collagen is yet another joint-health ingredient that’s incredibly popular in the human supplement market and making its way to the pet aisle. “Lonza’s UC-II undenatured type II collagen, which forms part of the increasingly popular super-premium pet food category, helps to enable mobility, flexibility, and healthy joints,” says Kevin Owen, global business development, companion animals, for Lonza Consumer Health and Nutrition (Morristown, NJ).

It’s no surprise, also, that pet owners are also seeking out weight-control ingredients. No, Millennial pet parents haven’t completely gone off the deep end-healthy weight often means less stress on joints. And, for that, Lonza offers its weight-management ingredient Carniking L-carnitine.

“L-carnitine helps the animal’s body to metabolize and convert dietary fat into energy, enabling more effective fat utilization,” Owen explains. “Lonza’s Carniking L-carnitine ingredient, for instance, has been shown to help maintain lean muscle mass in active dogs, while also aiding recovery after exercise.” Last year, the ingredient was granted a U.S. patent for use in pet food at a dose of 250 mg/day.

The ingredient has also been shown to help with energy, another category seeing growth in the human and pet supplement aisle. In four canine research studies, Lonza says, Carniking was shown to improve exercise performance, activity, lean muscle mass, muscle recovery, and oxidative stress during strenuous exercise.

But no discussion of performance-pet or otherwise-is complete without touching on protein. Getzinger says that pet brands are moving towards more high-protein products, and away from grains, just like in the human market. “Pulse proteins and pulse starches and fibers have been a strong portion of pet diets over the last decade,” he says, “but consumers are always looking for the next best thing.” For Getzinger, this means a shift towards sustainable, regenerative, and ethically sourced ingredients (yet another trend that’s trickling in from the human side), such as those from the pea. “Puris pea starch is one of the newest products being offered, alongside our protein line,” he adds. “Peas are unique because they have the ability to not only provide nutritious food for people and pets, but they provide nutrients to the soil” as they pull nitrogen out of the air and pack it back into the earth-which leaves the terrain healthier than before they were planted.



Sidebar: What’s Happening with CBD?

According to National Animal Supplement Council president Bill Bookout, hemp cannabidiol (CBD) represents the most innovative and exciting newcomer to the pet supplement market. Here, he tackles some of the most pressing questions facing the industry.


Q: Why is hemp oil in demand right now for pet owners?

A:  Like many trends on the companion animal side, they tend to follow those established on the human side. People make the assumption, sometimes wrongly, that what is good for them may also be good for their dog, cat, or horse. This is not always the case, and an example would be [the cannabinoid] tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) toxicity in animals where the response or sensitivity levels would be different than people’s. That’s why I always recommend buying a product from a quality company experienced with these types of products specifically marketed for animals.


Q: What are some of the concerns with using CBD or hemp oil in pet supplements?

A: Very simply, I think the two greatest concerns right now are the regulatory uncertainty and opportunistic suppliers getting into the market who want to make a fast buck. As I have said about all supplements, there are two things that are always true. First, cheap products are generally cheap for a reason; quality costs money, and you usually get what you pay for. Second, companies that make claims that sound too good to be true probably are. If you see a company with a product claiming to help cancer, arthritis, Cushing’s syndrome, seizures, etc., or implying potential benefits for treating or preventing any disease, the company is irresponsible. Don’t buy their product. They are in violation of the law and should be a concern to all responsible members of the industry.


Q: Where should supplement brands and manufacturers look for the most updated information on this topic?

A: This particular topic is a very fluid and dynamic environment. Many people have opinions but the fact is no one really knows what the final pathways for marketing these products will look like until FDA gives us all more definitive guidance. [Recently resigned] FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb indicated this guidance may take two to three years to be developed, and Congress may further consider the issue as well. The legal blogs usually do a pretty good job of presenting the current facts; however, opinions here still vary. My best advice is to get information from multiple credible sources and not rely on any one particular opinion.


  1. Nielsen Product Insider. “Trends in Pet Care Mirror Those of Pet Owners.” Published April 26, 2018.
  2. Research and Markets. “Global Pet Supplements Market, 2018-2026 - Rising Endorsements of Pet Supplements by Veterinaries.” Published June 14, 2018.
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