With more pets than people, America has become a nation of animal lovers!
We Americans really love our pets. How much do we love them? Let’s look at the numbers.
Two-thirds of American households have a pet at home, often, more than one. In fact, research indicates that there are more pets living in the US than there are people. (393 million versus 326 million.)
As you might expect, cats and dogs account for about half of the pet population, with cats slightly outnumbering dogs (94 million cats and 90 million dogs.) They are often considered integral members of the family (we call them “fur babies” for a reason!). And if Gerrard Gethings’ remarkable new photos for a card game are any indication, we grow to look like our pets as well.
As pets become part of the family, we want to bring them with us wherever we go, whether it’s on a family vacation or, increasingly, to accompany us during the workday at the office.
The “bring your dog to work” trend dates back to the 1990s when Silicon Valley software companies, such as Autodesk, began offering this as a perk. The idea has spread around the country, and we here at Formaspace love to bring our dogs to work with us as well.
As Pets Become Part of the Family, Pet Healthcare Insurance Policies are in Demand
The cost of taking care of our pets is rising, mirroring the ongoing increases in health care costs for people. On average, we now spend nearly $260 each year on routine veterinary care for every one of our dogs and $182 for each of our cats. That’s just for routine care, such as checkups and shots. In the advent of a serious accident or illnesses, the cost of pet health care can skyrocket.
To keep unplanned costs under control, more and more Americans are electing to take out health insurance policies for their pets. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the number of insured pets now tops 2 million, with premium payments totaling over $1 billion annually.
Employers have taken notice. The New York Times reported that in response to popular demand, some companies are offering insurance for employee’s pets in addition to ‘human’ healthcare coverage.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Keeping Pets Healthy with Safe, Nutritious Food.
While having pet insurance coverage can provide some financial peace of mind, those of us with pets in the family would certainly prefer to prevent any sort of illnesses in the first place. As a result, many pet owners are looking to offer their pets healthier meal choices by scrutinizing the ingredients on pet food labels in an attempt to avoid “bad” ingredients or “suspect” food sources.
What do pet food consumers look for on the ingredients label? Country of origin is often at the top of the list.
Many consumers have become suspicious of any pet food products or ingredients made in China — and reasonable so — due to the horrifying melamine-tainted pet food scandal that occurred back in 2007. That year, as many as 3,600 pets died in the USA, often due to kidney failure, after eating pet food contaminated with melamine. (Melamine is an inexpensive, but ultimately lethal, a non-food compound used by illicit Chinese producers to fraudulently increase the protein levels in the wheat gluten products marketed to unsuspecting pet food manufacturers.)
The Chinese pet food supply chain was implicated again in 2014 when companies such as PetCo and PetSmart recalled imported jerky treads after FDA reports of nearly 5,000 pets (mostly dogs) becoming ill.
Now that consumers are paying more attention to pet food ingredient labels, a new problem has arisen: in some cases, they are choosing food for their pets that reflects their own personal dietary choices, such as gluten-free meals or “clean eating” diets, rather feeding their pets the kind of balanced, nutritious meals that are appropriate for them.
In other words, putting our pets on trendy human diets can be a bad, sometimes fatal, idea, as some anguished dog owners have recently come to find out:
Over the past year, vets across the nation began to notice a small but significant uptick in the number of dogs suffering from mysterious breathing problems or cases of exhaustion. Unbeknownst to their owners, these dogs were suffering from enlarged hearts, which, over time, caused fluid to collect in their lungs, resulting in severe coughing, exhaustion, and sometimes even death.
This condition, called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), caught the attention of the nation’s cardiac veterinarians. A clue came from a distraught pet owner who had two dogs from different bloodlines that were both suffering from what turned out to be DCM. One dog had died from DCM, and the other one was seriously ill. After searching the home environment to look for a common thread, investigators zeroed in on the grain-free dog food the dogs were eating.
As word spread of this potential connection between DCM and grain-free pet food, veterinarians across the nation began reporting that many of their sick dog patients had also been fed grain-free diets that were high in legumes, such as peas, lentils, potatoes, and other legume seeds.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took notice and began investigating a possible link between DCM and pet food products. The current working theory is that the enlarged hearts are caused by a lack of an amino acid called Taurine. Dogs eating chicken or beef will get enough Taurine, but those dogs who only eat lamb, rabbit, or legume-based diets won’t get enough unless the pet food manufacturer supplements the ingredients with Taurine.
What’s a responsible pet owner to do?
While the FDA regulates the safety of pet food, many states and manufacturers turn to the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) for specific guidance on how to establish consistent food labeling standards. In other words, the AAFCO provides model legislation for states to implement (and many do) but does not do animal food testing directly; however, its standards and definitions are widely used in the industry.
One AAFCO standard definition that consumers should be aware of and look for on the label is the seemingly innocuous phrase “Complete and Balanced.”
According to the AAFCO, “’Complete’ means the product contains all the nutrients required. ‘Balanced’ means the nutrients are present in the correct ratios.”
Be sure to look for this phrase on the label of any pet food you purchase. Take Victor Pet Food, which is made in Texas, on their website, you can follow an easy-to-understand guide to nutrition analysis of their different pet foods.
For example, Victor’s Multi-Pro dog food is “complete and balanced” in accordance with AAFCO guidelines; it contains 68% meat protein, 7% plant protein, and 25% grain protein. Detailed laboratory analysis indicates that the food includes the following ingredients and compounds:
As you can see, this particular dog food has a good supply of the amino acid Taurine which can help prevent incidents of DCM.
Pet Food Testing and Diagnostic Testing Laboratories are Working Hard to Keep Our Furry Friends Safe
The Animal Feed Testing Market is large and growing. According to IndustryArc consulting, the worldwide annual revenue was estimated to be $1.1 billion USD in 2017, and they predict continued rapid growth (6.80% CAGR) between 2017 and 2023. The majority of the laboratory testing revenue comes from testing feed used agricultural production – 32% of revenue comes from testing swine feed, 28% for poultry feed testing.
Pet foods are currently less than 40% of the overall animal feed testing market. However, the demand is expected to grow as the demand for pet food increases. Grand View Research estimates the overall pet food market will grow at 4.3% CAGR, becoming a $98 billion USD business by 2022.
On their website, AFFCO lists over a hundred (107 to be exact) different laboratory facilities across the US and Puerto Rico that offer pet food testing services.
From a laboratory perspective, the process of testing and certifying animal feed is very similar to testing food products destined for human consumption; so many facilities offer both, e.g. they are combined feed/food testing laboratories.
The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) publishes guidelines for best practices for food and feed testing. They also recommend looking at the guidance published by the FDA in their draft Food/Feed Testing Laboratories Best Practices Manual.
Food and feed testing laboratories typically offer a combination of the following services
• Food Nutrition Laboratory Analysis
Laboratory workers provide a detailed chemical analysis of the food/feed, including detailed analysis of nutritional components, such as amino acids, proteins, carbohydrates, etc. The information is used to create labels that comply with applicable regulations.
• Analytical Chemistry Laboratory Analysis
Laboratory personnel separates the chemical components of the ingredients (both natural and artificial) to quantify the number of contaminants (such as pesticides or other adulterations), preservatives, additives, such as artificial colors or flavors, minerals, and trace elements.
• Food Microbiology Laboratory Analysis
Lab professionals investigate the potential for spoilage in the food products as well as looking for the presence of disease-causing pathogens, which could cause food poisoning.
• Food Allergen Laboratory Analysis
Laboratory workers identify any known food allergen proteins that could cause undesirable allergic reactions.
• Sensory Testing Laboratory Analysis
Not all testing is done with sophisticated laboratory gear. Investigators use all of their senses, including the sense of smell and taste to test for food/feed quality issues.
If you have questions about how to build (or update) a food/feed testing laboratory, come to Formaspace for answers.
We recently built the second phase of the largest food and diagnostics testing laboratory in the USA at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. This Department of Defense facility, known as FADL (for Food Analysis and Diagnostic Laboratory), performs full microbiological, chemical, and toxicological testing of the food supply chain to ensure the health of our military and civilian populations.
Another recent Formaspace laboratory project is the new Antech Diagnostics laboratory in Orlando, Florida.
Antech Diagnostics, whose parent company VCA Inc trades on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the symbol ‘WOOF’, is a long-term Formaspace client. They are one of the largest pet disease diagnostic laboratory companies in the world. To give you some idea of the scope of their work, they typically have more than 45,000 laboratory samples in transit each day to and from their 19,000 veterinary clinic and animal hospital clients.
Antech needed an additional laboratory facility to provide coverage in the Southeast US region, so they called on Formaspace to build the custom laboratory furniture in their new facility in Orlando, Florida. The new building is nearly 15,000-square feet in total. Inside, there are two reference labs kitted out with Formaspace laboratory workbenches, including 7 wet lab sinks as well as fume hoods provided by Formaspace.
According to Orlando city officials, Antech Diagnostic invested around $1.35 million in construction and lab equipment costs to build out the new reference laboratories. C4 Architecture of Orlando was the architect of record. Kirk McKinnon, of HKM General Contractor in Sanford, Florida, filled us in with some of the project details. He said Antech made some changes mid-stream to the height of four frames for their exhaust hoods, but Formaspace was able to ship new frames within a week. “I was impressed with the response time,” said McKinnon. He was also impressed with the on-time performance of Formaspace’s on-site furniture installers. “Christian Slaughter and his team performed beyond expectations. They were waiting for me when I pulled in at 5:45 a.m. I know this sounds trivial, however, it (on-time performance) could be the difference between getting future work from a client or not.”
Antech Diagnostic is a leader within the overall Veterinary Laboratory Testing Services industry. According to IBISWorld research, the overall market has $7 billion USD in annual revenues, employs over 85,000 people, and had 4.5% growth (CAGR) over the period 2012 – 2017.
Contact Formaspace to Help You Create the Ideal Certification or Diagnostics Laboratory
Remember, if you can imagine it, we can build it, here at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Talk to one of our experienced Formaspace Design Consultants to learn more.
Whether you are building a wet lab, tech lab, or a clean room, we will be happy to provide useful insights for building or remodeling your laboratory project.
And when it comes time to build your furniture, we can create all your interior furniture needs here at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Contact your Formaspace design consultant today and find out why so many high-profile Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies choose Formaspace for their laboratory furniture needs.