Human food trends are driving pet food innovation, including solution-based dog foods. As more people change their eating habits to promote wellness, they also seek wholesome meals for their dogs.
Instead of buying what is on sale at the big box store, dog parents are researching brands, reading labels and seeking out processing and sourcing information. They are fussy about ingredients and nutrition and are willing to pay more for solution-based formulas that prevent or solve health problems.
Solution-based brands and formulas for specific health issues include:
- Allergies: Runny eyes, sneezing, skin irritation, unhealthy coats and constant licking may be signs of a food allergy. Grains are typically the first thing eliminated from a dog’s diet when allergy symptoms persist, because some carbohydrates may not be easily digested. Fillers, dairy and some meats like beef and chicken can cause allergies. A veterinarian can help identify food allergies and recommend an appropriate diet.
- Digestion: Dogs with sensitive stomachs may experience vomiting, gas and diarrhea. The health of the gut also impacts overall immunity and vitality so it’s important to work with a veterinarian to determine the cause of digestion issues. Dog foods with probiotics, a lower fat content and a little extra fiber may help. Plus, there are formulas of wet and dry food to try in rotation to help with digestion.
- Weight Management. High protein, low carb and low glycemic foods are marketed to help dogs who are obese. Portion control is important for a healthy weight.
- Joint Health and Arthritis: Dog food supplements that address mobility issues include glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Anxiety and Stress: Foods with L-Theanine (an amino acid from green tea) and the right mix of B vitamins may help overly anxious dogs. CBD (from hemp) supplements are exploding in popularity as pet parents try to reduce dog stress.
- Aging: With more dogs living longer, senior formulas address a variety of aging issues, including neurological, mobility and cardiovascular health. Dog food for seniors may include the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 oils from fish.
- Natural: Whether kibble, wet/canned, air-dried, dehydrated, raw-coated, raw (fresh and frozen) or freeze-dried, dog food of any type that is “natural” sells. Pet parents know the ingredients that go into a pet food reflect its quality, which is why food without preservatives, chemicals and additives are so popular. Pet parents are looking for foods that are gluten-free, GMO-free, organic and with limited ingredients, which corresponds to the growth of raw (fresh & frozen) and freeze-dried foods.
- Novel/Unique Proteins: Limited-ingredient dog foods with unique/novel proteins are trending. Novel proteins include alligator, venison, wild boar, pheasant, bison, elk, goat, quail, salmon and lamb.
- Superfoods: There are more formulas using superfoods like pumpkin, blueberries and flaxseed, and this dog food trend links to the human superfood trend. Superfoods are ingredients that provide extra nutrition (minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants and omega fatty acids) not usually found in meat and grains. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and certain fats can be superfoods.
- Grain-free: While dogs are omnivores and can eat meat and plant-based foods, proteins are important for healthy, balanced canine diets. That’s one reason that grain-free formulas continue to be popular. Typically higher in meat and protein and lower in complex carbohydrates, grain-free formulas are closer to ancestral diets and may be easier on the digestive system. Grain-free formulas may have no carbs from wheat and corn, which are culprits in some dogs’ digestive allergies and can be hard for dogs to digest.
- Supplements: Supplements are hot sellers. They balance nutrition or add nutrients for specific care and come in pills, chews, oils, liquids, sprays, toppers and broths.
According to the Pet Food Institute, veterinary researchers have identified more than 40 essential nutrients for dogs, including vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, protein and amino acids. Most commercially prepared dog foods that are “complete and balanced” offer essential nutrients at proper levels for the body’s growth, structure, systems and metabolism.
The quantities and ratios of essential nutrients vary by life stage. For example, a puppy needs more calories than an adult dog. According to the AAFCO, there are four pet life stages: gestation/pregnancy, growth (kittens and puppies), maintenance, and “all” life stages.
One guide to determine a dog’s nutritional needs during a life stage is the nutritional adequacy statement found on food packaging. Dog food manufacturers are responding to the interest in label reading by including more space for nutrition information and ingredient sourcing on its packages.
The desire for dog foods that support wellness is resulting in more premium brands. Better ingredients cost more, and pet parents are willing to pay for solution-based and natural foods. It’s a win-win for dogs, their humans, independent pet stores and the entire pet food supply chain.