Small Animal Nutritional Supplements

Carrying quality supplements for small pets can set retailers apart from their competition among consumers who want to optimize the health of their animals with premium formulas.




As consumers continually welcome more pets into their homes, pet retailers are presented with seemingly endless opportunities to build an inventory that promotes the health of all types of animals. In fact, the American Pet Products Association’s recently released 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owner’s Survey revealed an estimated $75.38 billion dollars in pet industry expenditures for 2019.


When examining consumer behavior in the pet goods industry, it is clear that products that promote the health of small pets will occupy a noticeable portion of that spending.


“As advancements in care [and] nutrition continue to lead to increased longevity among pets, chronic health conditions requiring long-term support will likely continue to increase over time,” explains Lucas Stock, communications manager at Oxbow Animal Health, located in Omaha, Neb. “As additional needs arise, pet parents will rely on their trusted brands to be there with support in the form of products such as supplements.”


To ensure their small pets lead healthy lives, consumers are willing to invest in supplements that can promote proper organ function and overall health. These products include nutritional supplements that support dental hygiene; joint, skin and coat health; and digestive- and urinary-system function of their small pets.


“A common concern of most pet owners is that they are providing their pets with all-natural and healthy products,” said Amanda Altman, marketing coordinator of Wolcott, N.Y.-based Marshall Pet Products. “Retailers should be aware that the shopping habits of pet owners reflect the standards they have for themselves. They want quality and natural ingredients that benefit their pets.”


Discovering Small Pet Supplement Options

Due to overshadowing from the dog and cat side of the market, a lot of consumers  may not be aware of the supplement options that are available for small animals. At Tams Pet Foods & Supplies in Reseda, Calif., husband and wife owners Chris and Marla Rossi carry an array of different goods for pets, including those aimed at keeping small animals happy and healthy. One issue Chris has noticed when speaking with customers who are shopping for these animals is that they are interested in creating—not buying— their own formulas of vitamin and mineral supplemental dishes.


“Sometimes, the produce pet parents are giving to their small pets might not offer balanced vitamins and minerals,” he reveals. “They might just be giving them lettuce or too many carrots. If they don’t feed them balanced supplements, they just mix up something themselves. A supplement gives them the vitamins and minerals that the pets need.”


Manufacturers of supplemental products are able to determine the appropriate ingredients that will benefit animals who require a bit of help to maintain optimum wellness. When pet parents reveal that they are not providing the most healthful diets for their animals, retailers must ask the correct questions and be prepared to provide solutions according to the particular needs of each individual case.


“Vur-O-Vite’s all-natural paste contains essential vitamins that ferrets need in their diets,” explains Altman, whose company is focused on ferret care. “Its high caloric and nutritional value makes this a great supplement for ferrets who are picky eaters and may not be getting all they need from their diet alone. The cod liver oil included in the Fur-O-Vite is what makes it taste so good to a ferret and helps with their shiny coats.”


Even though not all pets are finicky eaters, those with healthy appetites still need to be watched to make sure they’re receiving the proper nutrition.


“Our customers want to know whether the food is well balanced,” says Rossi, who revealed that after recognizing the need for supplements, his customers are often searching for a specific solution. “Most of the time, they’re looking for a vitamin C supplement, or other vitamin supplements.”


Creating Quality Supplements

Known to ease the ill effects of stress, vitamin C is beneficial for overall health of small animals and can be an excellent supplement to a diet comprising wholesome foods. In Stock’s business, he has also noticed the higher demand for vitamin C supplements to keep his clientele’s guinea pigs, chinchillas, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, rats and mice healthy.


While he feels strongly about the benefits of vitamin C supplements, Stock warns that the quality of these products can vary and pet parents will be most satisfied with goods that are easily administered to pets.


“Not all vitamin C supplements are created equal; Oxbow’s Vitamin C supplement is made with only the highest-quality, stabilized source of vitamin C,” he advises. “Providing supplements in the form of a tablet takes away the guesswork, offering pet parents the peace of mind of knowing that their animals have received the daily supplement they need.”


For the tiny bodies of small animals, providing supplements made from superior—yet gentle—ingredients is crucial. When searching for supplements, Altman recommends that pet parents be informed about the benefits of these products while maintaining the sensitive digestive systems of these creatures.


If consumers are not aware of these issues, retailers must take it upon themselves to learn and understand the different types of supplements and their benefits so they can become wa source of knowledge.


“When it comes to dealing with small animals, they have very different digestive tracts and nutritional needs than other domestic pets. Educated pet owners know that they are shopping for their pet’s specific needs,” says Altman. “Our supplements address that fact and are created for the health and wellness of specific animals.”


While this might seem obvious, manufacturers and vendors of pet goods know that a single recall or case of an animal falling ill due to product contamination could prove disastrous for the reputation of their businesses. Stock understands these concerns of pet parents who expect that the products they buy to potentially extend their animals’ life and increase wellness will be safe to use.


“The most common concerns of pet parents who are shopping for supplements include safety and effectiveness,” he explains. “Ingredient safety is paramount for customers who are proactively looking for solutions to specific health-and-wellness needs, and they also want to feel confident that the products they choose will provide a discernible benefit to their pet.”


Selling Supplements Together

To aid customers in finding the most beneficial supplements for their small pets, retailers should work with their manufacturers to learn important details about the products they’re selling. Through becoming experts in the small-pet supplement segment, retailers can channel the knowledge they’ve acquired into merchandising initiatives in their stores, in addition to providing invaluable guidance to customers.


“Placement of these products is most prominent near the food where a pet owner frequents and will naturally look for a supplement to their pet’s diet,” advises Altman. “Salespeople on the floor should be educated on the dietary needs of the small animals being sold and be able to speak to the value that the products bring to the animal’s quality of life.”


Maintaining strong relationships based upon trust between manufacturers, retailers and consumers is necessary to provide solutions for beloved pets of all sizes. Within the small-pet supplement segment, cultivating and maintaining this trust is extremely important due to the limited size of this category.


“When it comes to supplements, it’s especially important to consider the experience of pet parents and the specific health-and-wellness needs they are seeing and reporting with their pets,” says Stock. “Communication with retailers is critical when it comes to keeping a pulse on the health-and-wellness challenges being experienced by their clients’ pets.”  PB


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