BY LARUE PALMER
Awealth of information from health practitioners and public health officials about the rise in chronic diseases such as obe- sity and diabetes among children and adults in the U.S. has
been widely reported for years. Alarmingly, the same holds true
for dogs; for example, obesity and diabetes have risen steadily in
dogs in the U.S. since the 1970s. With a greater understanding of the
chronic diseases that are attributable to poor nutrition, retailers can
better educate pet owners so that they can make informed choices
about dog food and treats.
Hippocrates, who is known as the father of modern medicine,
once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The
concept applies to humans as well as dogs, which is why in the past
eight to 10 years more pet food manufacturers have partnered with
veterinarians and nutritionists to create formulas that can help bring
about better health outcomes for pets in general.
“We do have a number of vets who refer clients to us for diet
correction, and diabetes is a pretty common issue,” said Lorin Grow,
owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif. “Rather than just dictate to the
client which food they need to be feeding, we first explain a little bit
of the physiology of canines along with how different forms of food—
kibble, canned, home cooked, freeze dried and raw, for example—are
metabolized in the body.
“We want the client to have a basic understanding of why food
choices so greatly affect any disease, for that matter, and overall
wellness in general,” she added. “This way, they can have the com-
fort of understanding why we recommend certain foods based on
their ingredients and thereby make informed choices on their own
Frenchie’s Kitchen produces a line of human-grade, gently cooked
frozen entrées and a line of stews called Tasty Toppers that provide
a nutritionally balanced diet, said Sara Morgan, CEO and founder
of the San Antonio-based company. Tasty Toppers join the growing
trend of toppers and other meal enhancers.
“Dogs are getting bored with kibble; therefore, many dogs are be-
coming very picky eaters,” Morgan said. “When they try our toppers
for the first time, they get excited about eating again, and they look
forward to mealtime.”
Cost and convenience have been the major driving factors in the
proliferation of kibble dog food over the past 25 years, and some man-
ufacturers have been critical of dried foods, citing their lack of nutri-
ent density. However, many dry food manufacturers have raised the
bar in the nutritional profiles, starting with eliminating soy back in
the 1990s, and with newer protein and fat sources and other changes
in the recipes to improve nutritional density and quality.
As a result, the dog treat category has seen an expansion in freeze-dried and dehydrated offerings, which raises the question: Could
treats become a viable source of supplementation for dogs that consume mostly dry food?
David DeLorenzo, president of Vetscience LLC/Fruitables Pet
Food in Dallas, said the benefits of treat supplementation would boil
down to the treat’s ingredients.
“That’s a great question, but it depends on whether the freeze-dried treat is a single-ingredient protein like PureBites, for example,
which is not our brand, or if it is a multi-ingredient product,” he said.
“The benefit of the single-ingredient dehydrated or freeze-dried
product is that they are a single-source protein plus the nutrients associated with it, including fat, minerals and vitamins.”
The Key to Health
Pet food manufacturers are touting nutrition as the path to wellness
and longevity for pets.
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FOCUSING ON ANIMAL HEALTH
There are restrictions against manufacturers making veiled or implied claims on pet food
packages regarding the health benefits of their products, so teaching the consumer what to
look for can be a challenge for even the most careful retailer. Veterinarians and other animal
health practitioners are the most reliable source for information, industry insiders said, and
through them, many retailers are gaining access to knowledge that is critical to dogs’ health.
One such practitioner is Marc Ching, a holistic nutritionist and Japanese herbalist. Ching
is the curator and mind behind The PetStaurant in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
“Many people who drive by think we are just a pet store,” Ching said. “We do sell the
typical pet products, but we’re primarily an animal nutrition center. The majority of people
who come here are looking for relief for their pets with various issues. We believe diet and
nutrition are the cornerstone of health for the pet, and we work with the pet parents to
enable them to give their furry family members healthy, long lives.”
Heather Hickey, national sales director for Nature’s Logic, said the Lincoln, Neb.–based
company keeps retailers up-to-date on the features and benefits of its products in a variety
“One of the most important things we’ve done is partner with Dr. Tom Cameron, a
highly respected veterinarian who has worked with the supplement company Standard
Process for many years,” Hickey said. “Standard Process is known for its high-quality
food-based supplements, and Cameron also does nutritional consulting for veterinarians.
He writes blogs for us that we can then share with our retailers. One of the articles he did
recently on grain-free diets talks about the number of dogs and cats that are diabetic, and
how that trend could be related to some of the high-carbohydrate and high-sugar, grain-free
diets that are out there.”
Nature’s Logic shares information from veterinarians with retailers, whether it is
through Dr. Cameron’s blogs, or training seminars with the company’s sales team, retailers
“We post them on a dealer resource site we’ve set up for our retailers, and we also
share many of them through our bi-monthly newsletter, and also through social media.”
Veterinarians can make good partners for retailers
seeking additional pet health and nutrition knowledge.