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6:52 PM   April 19, 2015
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Health Products Gain Amid Economic Loss

The market for first aid and medicated items for dogs and cats grows as consumers seek out ways to treat their pets at home.
By Nikki Moustaki

The current state of the economy may have driven veterinary visits down, but it also may have given a booster shot to the pet first aid and medicated product marketplace, according to Teresa Hanson, U.S. director of marketing and product management for Vétoquinol, parent company of Fort Worth, Texas-based Tomlyn Products.

Many dog and cat owners are purchasing natural versions of first aid and medicated products, including ear wipes and washes, bug spray and hot spot remedies. Credit: Cioli & Hunnicutt/BowTie Studio
“During the past year, trends have been economically driven,” she said. “Many pet owners are treating their pets [medically] themselves rather than going to a veterinarian for ear cleaning and treatment of minor skin conditions.”

Other industry participants have noticed this rise in at-home medical care. Liza Simone Wolff, vice president of Warm Whiskers in Woodland Hills, Calif., reported that pet owners may be demanding over-the-counter products that allow them to treat pets at home, reducing the number of visits to the veterinarian.

“I read a recent study that said despite the economic downturn, there has been significant growth in the medication and supplement categories that could potentially reach $8.6 billion by 2012,” Wolff said. “There is definitely a market for products that put more control in the hands of the pet owners. Even things as simple as applying hot and cold therapy to their pets after minor injuries or during post-op recovery often require multiple trips to the vet.”

As is the case with many segments of the pet product industry, “natural” still seems to be the word of the day in pet first aid and medicated products.

“The all-natural active ingredient aspect of first aid products tend to be appealing to consumers,” said Cindy Miller, director of marketing for Nurtured Pets in New Philadelphia, Ohio. “Folks aren’t willing to risk their pet’s overall health with chemically laced solutions that may negatively impact the animal’s health even more severely than the original ailment.”

Kimberly Hall, owner of the Haute Hound Pet Boutique in Jupiter, Fla, said natural products are favored in her store.

“We have an organic ear wash by Aroma Paws that does well,” Hall said. “Some people would rather do the ear washing themselves, especially with short coated dogs that don’t go to the groomer. For dry skin, Happytails makes a good product called Itchin’ for Relief. Customers like it because they can use it right away rather than waiting for bath day.”

Hall is one of many retailers experiencing the effects of the natural-product movement, as is Renee Palmer, co-owner of CityDog Market in Atlanta, who said most of her customers are looking for natural products.

“One product that does well is Neem ‘Protect’ Spray for bug bites by Ark Naturals,” Palmer reported. “Our customers say that it helps keeps bugs off the dogs as well. We also sell eye and ear wipes from Earthbath. They are very gentle and hypoallergenic. The natural product that gets rave reviews is a hot spot remedy from Vet’s Best. It comes as a spray and foam, and the foam is great for dogs because owners can rub it in and it doesn’t sting. Vet’s Best also makes a great ear relief wash and powder with all-natural ingredients.”
Consumers with dogs that have minor skin ailments, such as hot spots and generalized eczema, seem to be drawn to natural products, according to Dr. Phil Brown, DVM, senior vice president of marketing and regulatory affairs at Nutri-Vet LLC in Boise, Idaho.

“Pet owners are also becoming more proactive with prevention in the hopes of reducing health care costs,” he said. “Sales of eye and ear cleansers, as well as dental rinses and biscuits formulated to mechanically prevent tartar accumulation and maintain oral health, are increasing.”

Preventative and diagnostic products are also coming to the forefront, according to Keith Houlihan, founder and president of Sanomedics in Miami.

“Science and technology is moving rapidly, and those changes are becoming affordable for consumers as they see the importance of preventive care,” Houlihan noted.

Other non-invasive products in this category are experiencing innovation as well.

“We have seen new tick-removing products, alternatives to Elizabethan collars, such as the Anti-Lick Strip, more dog boots, safety harnesses and dog seat belts, some of which are not first aid, but have increased and helped the push for safety awareness, which ultimately raises pet first aid awareness,” said Ines de Pablo, president and CEO of Wag'N Enterprises LLC in Herndon, Va.

The location where first aid and medicated products are placed in a store can be as important as the products themselves.

“Depending on the season, retailers should consider grouping relevant products together,” Vétoquinol’s Hanson said. “During flea and tick season, for example, they should group all skin treatment products with flea and tick products.”

De Pablo suggested placing products up front in a well-traveled area of the store so that not only do the products become prominent, the concept of first aid and preventative care becomes prominent as well.

“Storing kits and safety products in the back of the store where there is little foot traffic relegates the concept of safety to [the] back of the brain,” said de Pablo, who also suggested using a bandaged stuffed dog or cat to highlight first aid products.

“Ask a question [on a sign] such as ‘What would you do if…?’” she added. “If you make it funny, the seriousness kicks in more effectively. Asking the ‘if’ question forces customers to think, and they can take the question home: ‘What would I do?’”

An additional way to educate customers includes using manufacturer sales tools and product information.

“Retailers should empower themselves and their employees through creative product testing and partnering with their suppliers to deliver clear, simple product details beyond the package,” said Wolff of Warm Whiskers. “Even using e-mail marketing, demo videos and in-store tutorials to educate customers would be helpful.”

Pet mischief, the weather and concerned owners offer a shot in the arm to this growing marketplace. The economy might need some first aid, but this category may not. <HOME>

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