Meal toppers and mix-ins for pet food has seen explosive growth in the last few years. The reason is largely due to the fact that consumers have become more educated and concerned about what they feed their dogs and cats. Many pet owners realize that plain dry kibble is often lacking in important nutrients and are seeking healthy enhancements to fill in the gaps. Some just want to add a little variety and extra flavor to their pet’s meals, and others are wanting to entice a picky eater or help a pet with specific health issues.
Toppers are anything that is added to your pet’s regular daily meal. The ingredients, as well as the amount and frequency, will vary based on your preferences and the health of your pet. You may wonder: are these meal boosters necessary, or simply another trend for pet parents wanting to spoil their lovable companions? Maybe a little bit of both.
Toppers can provide a wide range of health and wellness benefits, including adding important vitamins, probiotics, enzymes and other nutrients; boosting protein intake; supporting healthy skin and coats; strengthening bones and joints; and helping with digestive issues. They are a great solution for picky eaters and are ideal for adding needed hydration – especially for cats who typically do not hydrate often enough.
Meal toppers are probably not necessary for most healthy dogs and cats being fed a high-quality food. However, pets will still benefit from the live probiotics, prebiotics and digestive enzymes as well as the boost in nutrition that toppers provide. Think of pet food toppers in the same way as a person that has a bowl of oatmeal every morning and adds some nuts, fruits, cinnamon or seeds for added flavor and nutrition.
There are several different types of toppers available, but they fall into three main categories.
- Liquid and wet toppers include premade bone broths, raw goat’s milk, pour-over gravies, and canned pet food used as a mixer/topper. One key benefit is the hydration factor - some dogs and many cats simply need more water in their diet. Another benefit is that pets can’t separate it from the base food.
- Freeze-dried morsels are very nutritious, but they may not blend well with food, so some dogs simply eat the topper and leave the rest of the food! Even if you wet it, it doesn’t mix-in like a gravy, it just makes the chunks moist. One advantage to freeze-dried toppers is that they can also be used for a treat. There are freeze-dried options developed specifically as a topper, but you can also get regular freeze-dried food and use it as a topper.
- Powders or dry mixes are easy to use – you simply sprinkle it on the food. Many freeze-dried foods can easily be broken up so they have a powder-type texture.
Toppers often include functional “superfood” ingredients formulated to improve mobility, gut health, digestion, skin issues, immune health, and numerous other preventive health needs. Examples of such functional ingredients are ashwagandha for stress, turmeric for heart health, green mussels for joint inflammation, shiitake mushroom for brain function, kelp for allergies, and many more. Toppers can also be human food such as pumpkin, yogurt, pureed vegetables, blueberries, sardines, and eggs. Whatever you choose, toppers should only make up about 10% of your pup’s diet.
Kibble toppers make a healthful addition to regular meals for cats and dogs. They’re an easy, cost-effective way to improve the nutritional value of food, add variety, and provide the essential hydration that dry food lacks. The fact that animals love them is just a bonus!