Global Dog Food Market Trends

Dogs worldwide are enjoying better food and longer lives, multiple studies show. If you are the owner of a canine, you are helping to drive that trend. By the year 2017, demand for pet food is expected to boost sales to $95.7 billion across the globe, according to a new report by Global Industry Analysts Inc. (GIA).

This report and others help reveal pet food trends in other countries. Here’s a look at what is happening now in some key locations:

Australia

Down Under, the number of dogs and cats per household is actually declining a bit, the industry analysis firm IBISWorld suggests. Some of that is due to increasing urbanization, since farmers tend to care for more animals in general. Pet food and other product sales are booming, though, just as they are in many other countries. The reason: increasingly spoiled pooches and kitties. “Though declining in number, the average pet now enjoys better food, more treats and even inclusion in sophisticated human products like health insurance,” says IBISWorld analyst Craig Shulman.

Online sales of pet food are going up in Australia, with the Internet market “in a growth phase, brought on by expansion of products and services.” Over the past five years in Oz, online sales of dog food and other pet products have doubled. Shulman and his team credit this to improved technology and infrastructure supporting such purchases.

Europe

GIA concludes that the European pet food market is now primarily influenced by four factors: health-oriented products, foods for dogs at different life stages, breed-specific diets, and treats. Health concerns are paramount, though.

Although dogs remain incredibly popular in the United Kingdom, fewer families are able to keep larger-breed canines, says Lee Linthicum, head of food research at Euromonitor International, another market analysis firm. The tough economy is taking a toll on families, requiring them to work more hours while still limiting their budgets. “It burdens those owners that want to offer the best for their pet but cannot afford to do so.” Nevertheless, people are working hard in an effort to feed their dogs the best and healthiest foods possible.

In fact, they often feed their dogs too much. “Obesity is also emerging as a major issue for pet owners in the U.K., driven in large part by the fact that many are feeding their pets human food,” explains Linthicum. He adds that this practice “perpetuates the increasing costs associated with owning a pet.” In the U.K. and elsewhere, it is better to feed your dog a quality commercial diet.

Asia-Pacific

This large, widespread region is enjoying the fastest-growing market for pet foods. GIA found that in Vietnam, India and China, product pricing and value for money are extremely important to dog owners.

Japan is somewhat similar to Australia. As for that nation, many families in Japan own older pets, so people are interested in buying new products that are appropriate for aging and elderly canines. That’s a good sign, further supporting that dogs are living to advanced ages.

In Singapore and South Korea, as well as Japan, four factors are fueling pet food sales:

1.    Innovation

2.    Shorter product lifecycles (customers want to feed the freshest possible foods to their pets)

3.    Healthier products

4.    Convenience

Shared Trends

In most places around the world, the following seem to hold true, based on the GIA findings:

· Dog food sales are growing at a faster pace than cat food sales.

· People are mostly buying their pet food at retail grocery chains, at pet superstores and on the Internet.

· There are good signs that the economy is now post-recession, so leading companies are gearing up with new food product launches.

“The pet food industry continues to grow and expand,” says Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). “Even during the toughest economic times, owners want the best for their pets.”

Duane Ekedahl, president of the Pet Food Institute in Washington, D.C., agrees. “Pets have become like every other member of the family, and this is increasingly reflected in how people feed their animals.”

“Pet foods are looking more like people food,” adds Ekedahl. “Consumers are into organic, natural foods now, and that’s what you’re seeing on pet food shelves. The industry has really come a long way in the past 10 years in meeting this growing interest.”

New Supplement Can Help Your Dog’s Digestion

If your dog has experienced tummy troubles in the past, such as diarrhea, your vet may have suggested to feed it a mixture of white rice, chicken and yogurt -- the latter will help balance bacteria in the gut.

Now, there is a new dietary supplement that helps manage doggy diarrhea. Just as probiotics in foods with active live cultures like yogurt are being touted as a way to maintain human digestive health, they can have the same benefits for dogs. Below, Dr. Trisha Joyce, veterinarian of New York City Veterinary Specialists, weighs in on dog stomach concerns and the utility of dietary supplements that contain beneficial bacteria for preventing them.

What Causes Loose Stool in Dogs
Joyce emphasizes that the most common cause of diarrhea in your dog is you. “Pet owners should not be feeding table scraps,” she says. “People food is too rich, and dogs are not accustomed to it. It is likely to cause soft stool or watery diarrhea.”

Some dogs simply have sensitive stomachs, especially as they age, and stressful situations like a new pet in the home or even a veterinarian appointment can be the precursor to an episode of runny poop; so can changing your pet’s formula. “Always transition from one food to the next by mixing them together in shifting proportions over the course of a few days,” says Joyce.

Finally, there are some digestive ailments that are chronic and need to be treated with a prescription diet. These include irritable bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease. “The nature of those digestive signs is different for a dog that got pizza the night before. The pizza eater will go from having formed stools to having sudden watery diarrhea. The dog with IBD will have low-grade chronic signs over a long period.”

When to Worry
Joyce says that diarrhea is common in dogs and can be expected to last about five days, though the first 24 hours are usually the worst. Diarrhea is only an emergency if it is:

  • Very profuse.
  • Accompanied by vomiting.
  • Primarily bloody, like raspberry jam, says Joyce. “A little bit of blood is common with diarrhea because the rectum and the colon become inflamed. A couple of drops of blood are not a big deal.”

If your dog’s diarrhea fits the description above, a trip to the emergency veterinarian is in order.

Ways to Keep Your Dog Diarrhea-free
One good way to start is to feed your dog a supplement that contains Bifidalis, which includes a strain of live and active culture. It can help to balance the microflora in your pet’s gut, reducing the likelihood of not only diarrhea, but also uncomfortable digestive issues like gas and bloating. Ask your veterinarian about such supplements.

“Live and active cultures are effective for maintenance of a healthy GI tract,” says Joyce. “These treats are not preventive against dietary indiscretions or diseases like IBD, but they may promote general intestinal health. They certainly won’t hurt, and they may help. They’re easy for a veterinarian to recommend.”

Joyce also suggests:

  • Avoiding table scraps and quick switches between different pet formulas.
  • An annual fecal exam to confirm that your pet is dewormed. “Parasites sometimes don’t flare up until your dog is stressed. Doing regular fecals guarantees they’re not carrying anything.”

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/AVAVA

How You and Your Dog Can Go Green

As we all become more aware of our impact on the planet, efforts to go green have crept into many aspects of both corporate and individual decision-making -- from how to package products to what kind of soap to buy. It is no surprise, then, that dog owners have become more interested in feeding their pets in environmentally responsible ways.

“I think for all my clients, sustainability takes a backseat to nutrition,” says Dr. Patricia Joyce, a veterinarian at BluePearl Veterinary Partners. “With that said, most pet owners would love to make ethical environmental choices in all aspects of their lives, including what they feed their dogs.”

The pet food industry is responding to this desire. In a recent industry survey conducted by the trade magazine Petfood Industry, 62 percent of respondents reported believing that consumers value sustainability and cited consumer demand as one key reason for their operations adopting green practices. Below, Joyce and Virginia-based emergency veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson weigh in on balancing your dog’s nutritional requirements with environmental responsibility -- and what else you can do to protect the planet while caring for your pooch.

Dog Nutritional Needs
While a vegetarian diet has less of an impact on the environment than one that includes animal proteins, Joyce and Nelson stress that dogs are omnivorous in the wild and should remain so in your home. “Animal protein is an essential source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids for dogs,” says Nelson. “You can do research and find a dog food you feel good about -- say one that uses cage-free chickens. But it’s neither fair nor healthy to force a vegetarian diet on your dog.”

Keeping that in mind, certain animal food sources do leave less of an environmental footprint. For example, because of a chicken’s relatively small size, transporting it “from farm to fork” results in a substantially smaller amount of greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation of beef does. Not unrelated, due to overfishing, some sea-dwellers have become better environmental choices than others. The World Wildlife Fund lists these fish, and a little research can go a long way in deciding which fish-based commercial food to feed your dog.

Though less publicly considered, even the farming of produce has its environmental costs, and as such, there is increasing interest in pulse crops -- crops such as peas, lentils and garbanzo beans -- which derive their own nitrogen fertilizer from the air, requiring less fossil fuel to grow, and releasing less carbon dioxide into the air. Environmentally aware pet owners might look for foods that count these pulse crops among their fiber sources (“Not as their protein source,” reminds Joyce) to guide their selection of food.

Other Ways to Help the Environment
“At the end of the day, the goal is to feed your pet the best-quality food,” says Nelson. “If that’s beef, then it’s beef. You can try to reduce your environmental footprint in other ways that don’t negatively impact your dog’s well-being. Ride your bike rather than drive. Recycle.” And use the Web to start researching the following nonfood aspects of your pet’s kibble company:

  • Packaging. Look for companies that use renewable or recycled materials for their packaging. For example, some dog food now comes in resealable plastic bags that can be returned to the grocery store for recycling after use.
  • Energy consumption. Some commercial pet food makers have made public commitments to using renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. Look for these commitments, as well as manufacturing plant Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
  • Giving back. Corporate philanthropy often supports green causes. Pet food manufacturers in North America are involved with all sorts of philanthropic programs -- from dedicating a percentage of their profits to supplying clean water to children, to supporting local conservation efforts.

With the pet food industry coming on board to support a whole host of changes that are environmentally friendly, dog owners can feel more optimistic about reducing their best friends’ carbon paw prints.

Dog Food: Then and Now

The latest archaeological evidence suggests that dogs were domesticated as early as 26,000 years ago. It’s amazing to consider that commercial dog food dates back fewer than 200 years. So how did packaged dog food emerge and evolve?

James Spratt’s Mid-1800s Breakthrough
Before a better understanding of dogs’ nutritional needs developed, people mostly fed dogs dribs and drabs from human food stores. This held true for shipyard dogs, which used to gobble down hardtack biscuits. These biscuits, which are still sold today, were just crunchy, wheat-based crackers that stored well.

According to Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor for The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one day in the mid-1800s lightning rod salesman James Spratt had a light bulb moment while he was standing on a dock. Spratt, from Ohio, “watched how dogs would eat up hardtack biscuits on fishing docks, and thought, ‘I could make something similar,’” says Zawistowski.

Spratt compressed beet root, various other vegetables, meat and wheat into cakes and baked them, and the first manufactured pet food was born. He called it a “Meat Fibrine Dog Cake” and cleverly printed ads on the opposite side of dog show flyers, which he created and controlled with business partner Charles Cruft, founder of Crufts dog shows.

At around this same time, says Zawistowski, small-business owners -- often working through farm animal feed operations or veterinary offices -- started selling their own pet food products to locals. Horsemeat was a popular ingredient in early dog foods, since horses were plentiful then. (Using horsemeat for pet food was outlawed in the U.S. in the 1970s.)

Early Advertising Fuels Interest
Advertising targeted dog owners, with celebrities of the time serving as spokespeople. For example, Zawistowski says that posters of Admiral Richard Byrd, a famous explorer who went to the Arctic and Antarctic, featured photographs of Byrd in the tundra with his dogs. At least one pet food company even paid Byrd to travel around the world and promote dog food.

Regulated Products and the Birth of AAFCO
With the growing popularity of commercial pet products came a need for regulation. In 1909, the Association of American Feed Control Officials was founded to oversee pet food quality. To this day, quality pet foods feature an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement that indicates that the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage. Kurt Gallagher, communications director of the Pet Food Institute, indicated that AAFCO paved the way for canned dog foods, “with regulations established in 1917 for canned pet food products.”

1950s Machinery Breakthrough
The two World Wars put a dent in businesses, but during the high-growth 1950s, snack food manufacturing resulted in yet another ingenious moment. Clever observers, watching cheese puff extruders turn out tasty bites, had the idea that such machinery could produce dry pet foods with yummy nutritious coatings, says Zawistowski. This resulted in the first pellet-sized dry foods, similar to those still sold today.

During the early- to mid-20th century, new influential entrepreneurs associated with companies like Purina, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Iams forged new commercial ground. Paul Iams, for example, “worked as a dog food salesman during the Depression,” according to Jennifer Bayot of The New York Times. “Not even severe economic hardship, he learned, could deter pet owners from paying the price to feed their companions.” Iams created some of the first meat-based, high-protein foods for pets, putting the emphasis on quality and good health. Gallagher says that, at the same time, interest in pets began to skyrocket. “Dog food sales in 1958 were $298 million,” he says. “In 2010, they were about $12 billion.”

Continued Emphasis on Quality and Growth
To this day, most dog owners wish to feed their pets foods that contain high-quality ingredients with health benefits. The “eat healthy” trend really kicked in during the late 1960s, with momentum building with each subsequent year. We all want to live longer, healthier lives, and that extends to our dogs as well. “The pet food industry continues to grow and expand,” says Zawistowski. “Even during the toughest economic times, owners want the best for their pets.”

Can New Dog Feeders Help Solve Mealtime Problems?

The slow-food movement isn’t just for organic foodies anymore. Take a look at the food bowls offered at online pet stores and you’ll find more than a handful of newfangled slow-down dog food bowls, along with claims concerning various health benefits.

The Skid Stop Slow Feed Bowl ($3.95), for example, is supposed to “slow rapid eating, promote regular digestion and prevent bloating and discomfort.” The Break-Fast Dog Food Bowl ($13.20) says it’s veterinarian-tested and “helps reduce risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus (bloat).” And the makers of the Omega Paw Portion Pacer Ball ($14.99) pull no punches whatsoever: “Studies show that bloat is a leading cause of death in dogs. The Omega Paw Portion Pacer lets you control how fast your dog eats, to prevent choking, gulping, vomiting and bloat.”

The bowls themselves are pretty standard, except they have one to three raised bumps in the middle that dogs have to work around to get their food. The Pacer Ball, which is essentially a 2-pound oversized pinball, serves to do the same thing when placed in a standard bowl. Online customer reviews indicate that they can indeed slow down dogs’ eating. But whether the slower pace can prevent bloat and ultimately save lives is a question better left to veterinary professionals.

Canine Bloat and Fast Eating

Bloat is a condition with which a dog’s stomach becomes overstretched by excessive gas, the buildup of which is usually caused by some obstruction or internal injury. It’s most common in large breeds with deep chest cavities, like Great Danes and Saint Bernards. However, smaller breeds that have deep chest cavities, such as Basset Hounds, are also susceptible. No one cause is to blame, although increased speed of eating is a risk factor, along with genetics and old age. Makers of slow-down bowls suggest that dogs eating slower will swallow less air, and therefore be less susceptible to bloat.

“It’s not an unreasonable claim,” says Dr. Patricia Joyce, an emergency clinician at NYC Veterinary Specialists. “We don’t know why it happens. For some dogs there might have been a combination of eating and excessive exercise. So that means a lot of food and a lot of air in a short period of time.”

Dr. Amy Dicke, a technical services veterinarian for Iams, says that eating slower is, in general, a good thing: “Slowing food intake could potentially aid in digestion by reducing the incidence of vomiting. Food gulping can be associated with the swallowing of excessive air, which may lead to flatulence.” She notes that published research has linked fast eating and bloat, but adds: “With that said, I am not aware of research to indicate the use of these bowls will curb the incidence of bloat.”

Elevated Food Bowls?
You’ll also find a fair share of elevated food bowls, such as the adjustable Store-N-Feed Elevated Dog Feeder ($21.99), the stylish Pet Food Storage and Server ($39.99), and the spill-proof Neater Feeder Dog Bowl ($56.41). Makers of these bowls laud their digestive benefits, which they say are due to better posture while eating. Joyce says her practice, like many others, recommends elevated bowls for all large breeds.

But there is something of a controversy over elevated bowls. A Purdue University study published in 2000 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that eating from an elevated bowl is actually a risk factor for bloat, as well as increased speed of eating. This study, however, only proved a correlation between the two -- not that one causes the other.

“What we need to keep in mind is this was a prospective study,” says Dicke. “It identified factors associated with an increased risk of bloat, but no cause-and-effect relationship was established; therefore, their true influence is not known.”

If you’re not sure about whether or not you should get an elevated bowl for your pet, speak to your veterinarian about your dog’s condition. As for slow-down bowls, Joyce puts them in a category she calls “benign recommendations.” There’s no harm in trying, she believes, so anyone concerned may as well give it a shot. Even if slow-down bowls don’t actually prevent bloat, most dog owners would agree there’s nothing wrong with cutting back on their dog’s vomiting and flatulence.