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Functional foods are in the news for the right reasons and are driving pet food industry growth. According to a market research firm's survey, 67 % of cat owners and 72 % of dog owners believe high-quality pet foods are essential for preventive healthcare. A majority of those surveyed agreed that pets with health concerns benefit from functional foods formulated with specific nutrients.
With amazing advancements in veterinary medicine and care, pets are now enjoying healthier lives and have longer lifespans. Senior dogs have different nutritional needs based on the changes in the body functions, activity levels or eating habits. Smaller breeds are considered "senior" when they reach 8 or 9 years of age while giant breeds like Great Danes are deemed to be seniors at the age of 5 or 6 because of shorter life expectancy.
The need for functional foods in senior pets
Although most dogs and cats are healthy at and beyond this age, some older dogs or cats develop some age-related conditions. These can include:
- Problems with vision
- Digestion related problems, food intolerances
- Weight gain or loss
- Skin issues
- Dental problems, excessive drooling
- Bad breath or halitosis
- Joint pain or osteoarthritis
- Impaired mobility or reduced exercise levels
- Behavior changes such as irritability, aggression or confusion
- Impaired sleep pattern
- Reduced immunity
Senior pet foods may need several modifications in terms of nutrients, digestibility, texture, added supplements for joint or heart health, fiber, omega-3 or antioxidants. Functional foods confer health benefits that are beyond those provided by fats, minerals, vitamins, proteins and carbohydrates.
Halitosis or bad breath can seriously impact the close relationship between owners and dogs. A randomized study found that when sixteen dogs of all age groups including seniors were fed a diet containing fish meal, bioflavonoids, fish oil, beet pulp, FOS, Yucca schidigera, and other functional ingredients, there was a considerable decrease in bad breath. A functional food based diet was also tested on fifteen adult dogs. Researchers found that the functional food diet decreased all major symptoms of the bacterial infection such as foul odor, erythema, discharge from the ear, and ear blockage. A specially formulated diet with functional ingredients also helped boost immunity in dogs and cats. Highly digestible foods were effective in controlling chronic diarrhea in cats.
Functional food categories for senior pets
The functional pet food industry is witnessing remarkable growth in these areas:
- Dental and Oral health formulas
- Coat, skin and hair formulas
- Mature/Senior formulas
- Joint and mobility
- Weight management formulas
- Digestive formula
- Hairball cat food formulas
These foods contain specific mix of functional ingredients ranging from fruits, vegetables, bran, whole grains, botanicals and plant components such as fructooligosaccharides, inulin, turmeric, supplements including collagen, chondroitin, coenzyme Q10, prebiotics and probiotics.