Humans have shared their lives with cats and dogs for a very long time.1 Now more than ever, pet owners are aware of the importance of nutrition for the health and well-being of their pets, and as more and more people take their own supplements, they are considering supplements for their pets.
Many companies selling ingredients or products for human use are looking to extend their service offerings to the companion animal area. Something we often hear from our customers is, “My food ingredient or dietary supplement has been shown to be safe for humans, so I have to be good for pets, right?” Unfortunately, the answer we give is probably not the one they want to hear: “Not necessarily”.
The good, and possibly the bad, news is that the path to showing that your product is safe and effective for pets can vary greatly depending on the ingredient and information you already have. When considering bringing a pet food ingredient to market, there are many things to consider to ensure that you not only have the data you need, but also that you properly plan the way forward to avoid duplicates and potential delays. While this article won’t discuss regulatory options for your product, one point to consider is that from a regulatory standpoint, there is no category for supplements in the US pet space. United as there are for humans.
In this article, we’ll cover just a few of the many things to consider when planning your product’s journey into the exciting world of pets. Also consider: what species do you want to market your product to, now and possibly in the future? This is a key consideration, as there are important differences between species and within species as well. This article will focus on cats and dogs only and is not intended to be a detailed comparative physiology session, but rather a general discussion regarding some of the things you may want to consider depending on your product and its intended use.
It is also important to decide if your product is intended for the animal to consume daily as part of their regular diet or if it is something that will be given on an intermittent basis. One consideration is that cats prefer to eat several small meals throughout the day and even at night, while dogs are often content with one or two meals a day. Of course, it’s important to remember that it’s hard to generalize feeding behavior, and possibly preferences, for dogs or cats as a whole. Another important consideration for dogs, which is not as obvious in cats, is intraspecific variation. Our dog population is very diverse – think Great Dane versus Chihuahua – and often a “one size diet” isn’t right for everyone. This is also true for cats to some extent, but not to the same extent as it is for dogs.
These details are important to consider when planning the supporting data you need to show that your product is safe and appropriate for the target species.
It is also important to realize that there are significant differences between life stages, regardless of species, and it is strongly recommended that you determine which life stage(s) you are interested in before proceeding. forward with your program. Evaluating the safety of your ingredient in a puppy is very different from evaluating the safety of your ingredient in a healthy adult, and even different if, for example, geriatric dogs are your target population. Life stage is important when planning your safety and efficacy studies. While this is important for many reasons, one consideration is that as pets age they may be less willing to eat new foods, or they may develop a preference for tastier foods.1
The unique nutritional needs of cats compared to dogs may also be important to consider for certain ingredients. Although there are many differences between the species, it must be taken into account that cats, unlike dogs, are obligate carnivores, which means, among other things, that a cat’s diet should not be rich in carbohydrates. They also have a lower ability to regulate amino acid metabolism and have a higher need for dietary protein than dogs.2
There are also some interesting similarities and differences between cats and dogs in their taste and texture preferences. For example, while dogs show a preference for sucrose, cats don’t seem to be attracted to sweet flavors, but both seem to find high-fat foods more palatable.1 It is also important to think about calories, especially if your product will be fed in addition to the animal’s usual diet. Pet obesity is becoming a serious concern and risk to our pet population.
While you’re considering all of these things, and more, it’s also important to consider the needs of homeowners and what may interest them. You can have the best ingredient ever with exceptional health benefits, but if, for example, it gives off an odor that, although attractive to a dog, does not attract the owner, it may not never reach the dog dish.
About the Author
Margitta Dziwenka, DVM, DABT, is Director of Preclinical and Companion Animal Services at Nutrasource/GRAS Associates (Guelph, ON, Canada; https://www.nutrasource.ca). Dziwenka is a licensed veterinarian as well as a board certified toxicologist. She has many years of experience with companion animals as a practicing veterinarian in addition to experience in laboratory animal medicine. Dziwenka also brings extensive experience in designing and conducting preclinical research studies, including safety, pharmacokinetics and efficacy studies, both as Study Director and Study Monitor, in a variety of laboratory species. She is well versed in regulatory aspects including Good Laboratory Practices, Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) submissions and New Food Ingredient Notifications (NDI). Dziwenka managed a large academic facility accredited by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) and has over 10 years of experience as a member of institutional animal care and use committees.
- Case of LP et al. Canine and feline nutrition: a resource for pet professionals. 3rd ed.. Mosby; 2010.
- Legrand-Defretin V. “Differences between cats and dogs: a nutritional point of view.” The Nutrition Society Proceedings, flight. 53, no. 1 (Mar 1994): 15-24