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These Were the Most Popular Pets+ Stories of 2017

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INVISION headlines of the yearYour favorites, based on web traffic.

At the end of the  year, it’s always fun to look back at which stories have attracted the most reader interest.

Below are the 10 most popular Pets+ stories of 2017 based on web clicks. Note that there may have been further developments in these stories since they were published.

1. PetSmart CEO Resigns. PetSmart Inc. announced in August that Michael J. Massey had decided to step down from his roles as CEO, president and board member.

2. Petco Buys Company That Appeared on Shark Tank. Petco announced in November that it has acquired PupBox, a subscription service company that delivers customized products and training information to new puppy and dog parents.

3. Major Pet Food Maker to Add Target, Other Chains to Distribution Network. In August, we learned that certain products from Wilton, CT-based Blue Buffalo Pet Products would soon be available at Target, Publix, Kroger and Meijer.

4. Animal Supplement Maker Acquired. Manna Pro Products LLC, a Missouri-based manufacturer and marketer of animal nutrition and care products, acquired Corta-Flx Inc., a supplier of equine and canine health supplements.

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5. Top Dog Names of 2017 Revealed. My Dog’s Name, an online resource for finding dog monikers, announced the top dog names of 2017. It also revealed an interesting trend: a sharp increase in Star Wars-themed names.

6. A Major Trend Could Soon Take Hold in Pet Food, Report Says. Ten years ago, organic pet foods appeared ready to become the next big thing in the pet world, but the trend never quite materialized. But it soon may, Packaged Facts reported.

7. Pet Food Company Announces $38M Expansion. Simmons Pet Food Inc., a supplier of custom and private label pet food solutions in the U.S. and Canada, broke ground on a facility expansion at its Flexible Packaging Facility in Emporia, KS.

8. 4 Crucial Things to Know About Millennial Pet Owners. Younger pet owners could set the pet industry on a “new course,” according to market research firm Packaged Facts.

9. Here’s the Most Pet-Friendly City in America. A new list from WalletHub examines the “most pet-friendly” cities in the U.S., ranking Scottsdale, AZ, at No. 1.

10. How Will Pets React to the Eclipse? As the Aug. 21 eclipse drew near, many pet owners wondered what the event might mean for their beloved companions. Fortunately, eye damage from the eclipse was not much of a risk for pets.

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US Total Pet Spending Climbs to $78.6B

Growth was muted compared to the prior year.

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Total pet spending in the U.S. climbed by 1.9 percent in 2018 to reach $78.6 billion, according to the Pet Business Professor blog.

The $1.47 billion increase was well below the $9.84 billion jump seen in 2017, the blog’s John Gibbons writes.

Here’s how the market shook out by segment in 2018:

  • Food: -$2.27B (-7.3%) decrease
  • Supplies: $1.22B (+6.6%) increase
  • Veterinary: $0.56B (+2.7%) increase
  • Services: $1.95B (+28.9%) increase

A mix of factors led to the relatively muted growth.

“The FDA warning regarding grain free dog food wreaked havoc in the second half and the new tariffs on supplies flattened spending during that period,” explains. “Veterinary prices turned up again resulting in a net “no gain” in the amount purchased by consumers.”

Additionally, he said, many young adults who’d been living with their parents ended up moving out with their pets in tow.

Services segment “saved the year with a spectacular increase in spending as consumers finally responded to the convenience of significantly more outlets,” he writes.

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Purina Opens $320M Factory

Currently nearly 200 employees work at the plant.

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HARTWELL, GA — Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. recently commemorated the opening of its 21st factory in the U.S. in Hartwell, GA.

With a total investment of more than $320 million, the new Hartwell factory is Purina’s first new U.S. factory in two decades and represents Nestlé’s single largest investment in a pet care facility in the last decade in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Currently nearly 200 employees work at the Hartwell facility, and the number will grow to 240 as new lines and other expansions at the site are completed over the next few years, the company said in a press release. Purina also operates a manufacturing facility in Fairburn, Georgia, which employs 350 people.

“Nestlé Purina is focused on delivering world-class products and is one of our key growth pillars for Nestlé,” said Laurent Freixe, Nestlé CEO for the Americas. “Purina is in a position of strength for long-term sustainable growth and this investment in Hartwell demonstrates Nestlé’s commitment to continually innovate and shape the future of pet care.”

Purina announced its investment in Hartwell in 2017 and began initial operations of a distribution center at the site in spring 2018. The company purchased a long-idled textile facility that it set out to remake and rebuild with the installation of modern equipment and technology for production of brands including Fancy Feast. The opening marks the first step in launching the Hartwell factory’s production.

“Through this investment in Hartwell, Purina is continuing to deliver science-based nutrition made to the highest standards of quality and safety that pet owners have come to trust for more than 90 years,” said Joseph Sivewright, Purina CEO. “Purina’s Hartwell team is critical to helping us deliver quality nutrition so pets can live longer, healthier lives with their owners. We’re very excited to be a part of the Hartwell community, and we’re proud of the great teamwork by everyone involved to build a world-class facility that will operate in a sustainable way.”

The Hartwell factory is using innovative water conservation and treatment methods, aims to be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity in the near future and currently sends zero waste for disposal to traditional landfills, instead utilizing composting, recycling and energy recovery, according to the release.

Purina’s investment in Hartwell also makes a significant contribution to the local economy and community. Purina has engaged with the community since work began in early 2018 by actively supporting local pet shelters and rescues, education, civic causes and hunger relief.

At the grand opening ceremony for the new factory, Purina also announced a $20,000 donation to the Northeast Georgia Council on Domestic Violence as part of its Purple Leash Project, a partnership between Purina and national non-profit RedRover.

“I am proud to congratulate Purina on the opening of their 21st U.S. factory in Hart County,” said Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp. “As one of the nation’s leading pet food companies, Purina’s expansion into Hartwell and continued commitment in Fairburn are creating exciting opportunities for hardworking Georgians and their families, and I am grateful for their investment in our state. I am excited to see another member of the Georgia Made family grow their operations, and I have no doubt that our top-notch workforce will ensure Purina’s continued success in the years ahead.”

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10,000 Dogs Wanted: Study Will Look at Canine Aging

It’s called the Dog Aging Project.

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(PRESS RELEASE) Everyone who loves a dog wants the animal, whether pet or work companion, to enjoy as many years as possible. Learning the whys behind the length and strength of dogs’ lifespans has become the impetus for the largest research data-gathering program of its kind, the Dog Aging Project.

The initiative is jointly operated by the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. It will create a national community of dogs, owners, veterinarians, researchers and volunteers, all working together to advance knowledge about how genes, habits and the environment influence dog aging.

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Although the project has been in its preliminary stages for a while, its full-throttle launch was announced Nov. 14 at the annual Gerontological Society of America meeting in Austin, TX. After that date, owners can nominate their canine as a candidate on the Dog Aging Project website.

Nomination involves creating a secure user portal and providing comprehensive health and lifestyle information about the dog through questionnaires and the sharing of veterinary medical records.

Dogs of every age, from puppy to senior; all sizes, from miniature to huge; male and female; neutered or not; and living in all types of locations are invited to be nominated. Healthy dogs and those with chronic illness will be considered.

“All owners who complete the nomination process will become Dog Aging Project citizen scientists and their dogs will become members of the Dog Aging Project ‘pack.’ Their information will allow us to begin carrying out important research on aging in dogs,” said one of the project’s trio of directors, biology of aging expert Daniel Promislow, professor of pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a UW professor of biology.

Also leading the multi-institutional project are veterinarian Dr. Kate Creevy, associate professor of veterinary internal medicine at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and longevity and healthspan researcher Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. More than 40 other researchers from a variety of fields and institutions will join them in this endeavor.

“Aging is the major cause of the most common diseases, like cancer and heart problems. Dogs age more rapidly than people do and get many of our same diseases of aging, including cognitive decline,” said Kaeberlein. “They also share our living environment and have a diverse genetic makeup. This project will contribute broadly to knowledge about aging in dogs and in people.”

Over the 10-year project, scientists will gather information on the 10,000 enrolled dogs in a collaborative, open-data platform. This means that, like the Framingham Heart Study and the All of Us research program, the massive amount of data can be analyzed by scientists around the world in a variety of ways. For this study, the largest of its kind ever undertaken, the dogs will be followed throughout their lifetimes.

“We are excited to work with companion dogs in this research program. As a veterinarian, it is important to me that our work benefits dogs directly. But our work with dogs has the added value of shedding light on the human aging experience as well,” Creevy said.

The researchers emphasized that their goal is not merely to increase life expectancy; their target is not lifespan, but healthspan, which refers to the period of life spent free from disease. Improved quality of life in advanced age is a goal many people have for their dogs and for themselves.

The Dog Aging Project will have four key endeavors:

  1. New metrics of canine aging: The research team will develop tests to measure each dog’s changes in physical function as it gets older. There are such tests in older human adults, like moving from seated to standing, grip devices, or age-specific normal ranges on blood chemistry values. For dogs, however, aside from owner observations, there are few standardized assessments.
  2. Genetics of aging: Genome sequencing data from all 10,000 dogs will be integrated with health measurements and behavioral traits in comprehensive genome-wide association studies.
  3. Systems biology of aging: Scientists will look for molecular predictors of disease, decline or longevity.
  4. Medication intervention study: About 500 middle-aged dogs will be part of a trial to assess the effects of rapamycin on cognition, heart function, healthspan, and lifespan.

The project is supported by a federal grant from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institute of Health (UI19AG057337) and private donations.

The participating institutions are:

Core Research Leads

Purdue University

Princeton University

Texas A&M University

Arizona State University

Cornell University

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences

University of Washington School of Medicine

University of Washington School of Public Health

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Seattle Children’s Hospital

Veterinary Schools

Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine

North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Credit: UW Medicine

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