As dog owners gain a better understanding of how supplements and
essential oils help their pets, demand for these products grows.
BY LIZE TT BOND
Consumers are becoming more aware of the potential value of pet supplementation and, as a result, the category has seen tremendous growth over the past decade, said Jennifer Cook,
co-founder of Waterdog Supplements in Ozona, Fla.
“Consumers are becoming much more conscious of the benefits
derived from selecting natural, high-quality products made with ef-
fective ingredients for their animals,” Cook said. “We all want to help
our pets get the most out of their years, and to be as active and pain
free as possible as they age.”
Research shows that the most sought-after supplements on the
market today are formulations that assist in hip and joint pain manage-
ment and those formulated with omegas and probiotics, she added.
For these reasons, supplements must consistently deliver superior
quality and palatability while offering a positive experience for the pet,
said John Davies, president and co-founder of Lintbells, a supplement
manufacturer based in Weston, England.
“Not only do they want to know where a product is made,
but also where the ingredients originate and how they have been
grown,” he said.
Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz.,
said she only stocks USA-made and -sourced supplements. Additionally, products must
be free of alcohol and binders such as cellulose, rice powder, lecithin, honey and sorbitol.
“Synthetic-free, organic, whole-food supplements are popular [and] provide vitamins, minerals, probiotics and enzymes easily absorbed by the body,” she said.
When it comes to essential oils for pets, Strong noted that knowledge and understanding are paramount to proper use, yet these insights are sometimes absent.
“I feel that well-meaning pet owners, in an effort to treat with natural remedies, are
not fully educating themselves on the proper use of these products,” she said.
Strong added that because animals have an enhanced sense of smell and absorb the
oils differently than humans, many essential oils are toxic to pets.
“There’s a long list to steer clear of for both dogs and cats,” she said, adding that
Pawz On Main does not stock essential oils.
However, when essential oil products are used responsibly, they offer a simple, nat-
ural solution to help pets live healthier, happier lives, said Vicki Rae Thorne, certified
aromatherapist and herbalist, and owner of Earth Heart in Dundee, Ill.
Further, proper use can offer safe and effective help in creating a calm environment,
soothing itchy or irritated skin, quieting digestive upsets, repelling insects or healing
infections, Thorne added.
“These products can support the human-animal bond, facilitate behavior modifica-
tion and improve health,” she said. “Unfortunately, essential oils are currently overused,
and there is an abundance of misleading information about their use.”
With no regulatory agency grading essential oils, the designations “therapeutic
grade,” “medical grade” or “pharmaceutical grade” are merely a marketing ploy, ac-
cording to Thorne.
“Safety starts with diluting,” she added. “Earth Heart practices responsible aroma-therapy—a ‘less is more’ approach to using essential oils.”
EXPERTISE IS ESSENTIAL
Educated employees are key to offering an assortment of supplements and essential oils for pets,
according to industry insiders.
“Employee knowledge is very important to our brand,” said Jennifer Cook, co-founder of
Waterdog Supplements in Ozona, Fla.
For this reason, the company offers retail employees products for use with their own pets.
“In our most successful retail locations, employees understand the advantages of our
ingredients,” Cook said. “Because they are using our products on their own pets, they can speak
knowledgeably and make recommendations from their own experience.”
Easy-to-use, visually appealing training materials are also supplied and can be utilized as a
quick reference guide, she added.
Lintbells is another manufacturer that offers training to pet stores.
“People are the core of the Lintbells proposition,” said John Davies, president and co-founder
of the Weston, England-based company. “That means we invest heavily in employee training and
awareness to help the customer in finding the best solution.”
In the essential oil market, employees need to be knowledgeable enough to help customers
select the right product for their needs, according to Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and
herbalist, and owner of Earth Heart in Dundee, Ill.
“There is a tendency toward overuse of essential oil products, either by diffusing for long
periods or topical formulations with very high concentrations of essential oils,” Thorne said. “These
practices can overwhelm a dog’s sense of smell, cause sensitization and irritate the skin or lungs.”
A dog’s age, temperament, health, rescue status, symptoms and even scent preferences all
contribute to deciding which essential oils are appropriate, Thorne said.
“The use of too many ingredients can make it difficult to pinpoint what’s working or causing a
negative reaction,” she said. “The best remedy can be as simple as 1 percent lavender in coconut
oil as a relaxant or skin soother. It’s important to note that more than six essential oils can actually
weaken the effectiveness of the blend.”
BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE PRODUCT MIX
Pet specialty retailers reported that a strong-selling mix of supplements for dogs is determined
by consumer demand at the individual store level.
At Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., co-owner Denise Strong recently added raw cow’s
milk kefir and raw goat’s milk to the mix.
“These products provide awesome probiotics with a long list of health benefits,” Strong said.
“The goat’s milk is good for digestive support and awesome for allergies, with probiotics and
antioxidants,” she added. “I promote goat’s milk like crazy.”
Strong noted that hemp oils are often-requested supplements.
“Pet Releaf’s CBD hemp oils still rank No. 1 for overall immune health with the benefits of
treating arthritis, cancer symptoms, anxiety, GI issues and pain in an all-natural way with no side
effects,” Strong said.
The supplement mix at Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va., complements a nutritional
consultation program that aims to enhance prepared foods or balance raw food diets, said owner
“Anything we can do to help our customers’ dogs become healthier is part of the program,”
she said. “Products benefiting senior dogs are another plus.
“We encourage those feeding a prepared kibble to use a good digestive enzyme/probiotic
supplement to bring some of the ‘life’ into kibble. Most people don’t realize that the enzymes are
compromised in the heat process of kibble preparation.”
Essential oils are key to Boden’s role as an animal communicator.
“Because I use essential oils heavily as an animal communicator, I am able to highly
recommend them to my store clients,” Boden said. “I am very picky, choosing only certified
organic products, and I provide recipes to address specific needs. We use them in our grooming
too, for calming.”