With dogs living longer, the number of senior pets is on the rise. Now, with those over 7 years of age being categorized as adults and subcategorized as geriatric, it gives pet specialty retailers a golden opportunity to focus on this market and stock the growing number of products targeting this category beyond just food options.
According to Wendy Guyer, owner of The Pet House in Santa Barbara, California, asking the age and breed are leading questions when recommending products to customers.
“It’s important to know the age of the dog in order to make the correct recommendations whether it’s treat or toy related and is a guidance for numerous other categories of products within our store as well,” she said. “Lots of older dogs have plenty of zip and energy, but they can still benefit from products made with older canines in mind.”
Better Mobility, Health
Solvit products, now under the umbrella of Knoxville-based Radio Systems Corporation, has a reputation in the marketplace for specializing in senior pets with a variety of in-house and travel accessories to make life easier and remain fun for senior dogs. “Pet owners are taking great care of their four-legged family Members and understand the value of access and mobility items to keep pets comfortable both at home and when they travel by allowing them access to their favorite places throughout their lifetime,” said Mandie Sweetman, category manager of travel and access for Solvit PetSafe Products. “Not just for existing age and ailments, these products are also key in preventing injuries, as well as wear and tear over a pet’s lifetime, so that they are in their best shape overall when they reach senior pet status.
“Our sales and consumer feedback indicates that stairs are more accepted as access tools in the home, probably due to the short amount of space they take up away from sofas and beds,” she added. “And ramps seem to be used mostly for traveling.”
There are several designs and heights from which to choose. Similarly, the company has developed a variety of ramps that collapse and fold easily so that they can be stored permanently in a vehicle and used anywhere.
For canine mobility issues, there are CareLift harnesses. The full body version allows pet owners to completely lift the dog up from a lying position, and the rear lift version is designed to help a dog get on its feet by aiding the hindquarters with a lift.
“The full body medium and large CareLift harnesses are generally the most popular of our lifting harnesses,” Sweetman said.
The Ergo Pet Steps from Pura Naturals Pet are made in the USA and carry the Leaping Bunny certification which deems them made from animal-friendly and cruelty-free products. The steps come in four colors and three sizes, the two-, three- and four-step models. The products are manufactured from a lightweight but sturdy eco foam and covered with a machine-washable cover in a micro suede.
“The [step] design is perfect for older dogs as well as short-legged breeds,” explained Julie Creed, vice president of marketing and sales for the company. “Further, with regard to the design, the steps are angled at a gradual slope, have rounded edges and a wide landing area, making them very easy for dogs to use with confidence.”
Senior dogs are often prone to lumps and bumps. The company’s Healing Balm is designed to soothe stiffness and aches as bumps and bruises and skin abrasions heal.
“Our balm includes willow bark for inflammation, stiffness and aches and organic neem oil to treat minor wounds and cuts,” Creed said. “Because it is made from food-grade ingredients, it’s safe if the dog licks it.”
The company has also just introduced a special dental kit for seniors. The kit comprises a USDA certified organic tooth gel that doesn’t contain any preservatives, chemicals, dyes, fluoride or sweeteners and the brush, designed to manage older canine teeth and gums, is BPA-free.
Switching Things Up
As a 26-year veteran of the natural pet food business, Anthony Bennie, founder and chief nutrition officer at Clear Conscience Pet, admits that he has come to reject the conventional wisdom that prevails in the pet industry with regard to food, treats and chews for older dogs.
“The prevailing trend focuses on senior food and treats with less protein, less fat and fewer calories while adding supplements and dietary fiber. The trouble is that these senior feeding ‘rules’ are not supported by canine biology,” he said. “Protein and fat are the core life-sustaining nutrients for dogs, which is why the Guaranteed Analysis must declare the minimum percentage for both. Older dogs want and need the same game as their younger pack mates, products rich in protein, fat, and numerous trace nutrients essential for vibrant good health.”
Seven years ago, Bennie set about tackling the issue of senior dog taste fatigue creating his holistic instant gravy mix for dogs named SuperGravy.
“We recently completed a major expansion and re-imagining of the SuperGravy line from the original ‘Au Jus’ brown beef gravy to a line of three artisan crafted holistic gravies,” Bennie said. “Each is made with a single protein to provide options for dogs with allergies, and all now include live probiotics and digestive enzymes to address the aforementioned concerns about digestive efficiency decreasing as dogs age. Keeping older dogs eating is the main purpose for the SuperGravy line.”
Bennie has also focused on creating safe but tasty treat chews for older dogs.
“The Lamb Airy Bark low-density crunchy treats are an innovative spin on roasted lamb lung. It’s roasted in slabs which makes it very easy to break and crunchy without being hard like a baked cookie. And the Lamb and Beef Trachey Chews are our all-natural rugged chewing option,” Bennie added. “We are doing older dogs a huge disservice if we stop giving them rugged chewing options. And, in fact, frequent chewing with the right chews is exactly what dogs need to prevent dental problems in the first place!”
Supplements and Bedding
When it comes to pet supplements, as with human ones, there are lots of options.
“Diet and environmental factors can often lead to chronic inflammation in pets,” said Evan DeMarco, chief marketing officer for Omax Pet Health. “Omega-6 fatty acids sourced from cheaper corn, sunflower and safflower oil are so prevalent in dog foods and treats. These high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids are 10 to 100 times more likely to promote inflammation, leading to chronic disease.
“Our Omega-3 oil is concentrated to 93.9 percent without using harsh chemicals or solvents. By removing the pro-inflammatory Omega-6, we are producing a pure Omega supplement,” he said. “Also, our patented 4:1 ratio of EPA to DHA supports joint, heart and brain and eye health while promoting a lifetime of health and vitality, thus offering senior pets a product that supports their optimal health and well-being.”
The supplements are a soft gel and bacon-flavored.
Supportive beds and mattresses can go a long way in offering good orthopedic support for aging pets and, generally, pet bed manufacturers are cognizant of this with memory foam becoming a recognized component in this line of manufacture.
“Humanization is a big factor, so we always seek out human trends in bedding and support and gel infused with memory foam adds contoured support and a cool feeling to help soothe aching joints, bones and muscles,” explained Aimee Diskin, vice president of product development for cat supplies and bedding at Worldwise Inc. “Our Petlinks Deluxe Dreamer, Supreme Soother and Soothing Escape are typical examples that have been well received by senior dog owners and retailers looking to offer their customers a range that meets the needs of all pets, especially senior ones.”
Apart from a variety of sizes and on-trend colors and designs to complement any home decor, the Petlinks bedding line has removable covers that are machine washable—always a useful feature, especially as far as senior pets are concerned.