Demand for first aid and wellness products—including wound, skin, ear, eye and dental care products—continues to rise for both dogs and cats as pet owners increasingly tackle basic health care needs at home, according to industry insiders.

A recent report from market research firm Verified Market Research shows the global animal wound care market was valued at $1.04 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $1.73 billion by 2028, said Marjorie Murray, pet brand manager for W.F. Young, a manufacturer in East Longmeadow, Mass. Contributing factors include rising pet adoptions, demand for pet insurance and animal health expenditures.

Reduced access to veterinary appointments, caused in part by staff shortages across the workforce at large and by lowered building capacities due to the coronavirus, have also driven pet owners to seek more at-home remedies.

“[A pet owner’s] journey typically starts with their veterinarian, but due to long wait times for vet appointments, an increase in telehealth and escalating costs, people are turning to trusted resources like their local retailer for advice,” Murray said. “Gradually, awareness and confidence to treat minor issues at home is growing.”

Pattie Zeller, owner of Animal Connection, a pet store in Charlottesville, Va., echoed this sentiment from a retailer’s perspective.

“Because vet appointments are so hard to get, we find we’re answering more customer questions regarding products that may resolve common issues like minor digestive woes, hot spots, allergic skin reactions, [and] minor hip and joint pain,” she said. “We find many of our customers prefer the holistic route when possible. We never diagnose and use phrases like ‘may resolve’ or ‘may relieve,’ so we’re not treading in areas we shouldn’t.”

Low-quality diets play a role in skin issues, she noted.

“Because of the increasing amount of low-cost, low-quality pet foods that have absolutely nothing to improve the immune system, we see a lot of skin issues,” Zeller said. “We find that when we switch the pet to less manipulated food options, like gently cooked or frozen, raw or frozen of a better quality protein, those issues resolve fairly quickly.”

Skin issues rank at the top of dog owners’ wellness concerns, according to retailers, with customers consistently seeking solutions for hot spots and itching. Other high-ranking concerns are ear infections and dental problems, said Debra Decker, director of marketing for Pet King Brands, the Westmont, Ill.-based maker of Zymox and Oratene products.

“While dogs seem to outpace cats when it comes to ear infections and itchy allergy skin, these problems are still top health concern for cats,” she said. “Dental health problems, on the other hand, affect both species equally if oral health is neglected.”

For today’s owners, pets’ wellness is top of mind, in both the short and long term.

“Pet parents have placed a greater emphasis on preventing and minimizing health problems that can affect their pet’s comfort or impact their longevity,” Decker said. “This has translated into increased demand for certain diets, as well as health aids that can be used easily at home, don’t contain antibiotics or harsh ingredients, have no side effects and are made in the USA.”

However, owners could use some help determining which products to use.

Based on online search data, W.F. Young has found that most pet owners are looking for solutions to problems they aren’t even sure how to identify yet. They are searching queries such as “red paw,” “skin rash” and “sore spot” to help them diagnose an issue, Murray said.

“Increased education and product awareness for both consumers and pet professionals is key to helping grow the wound care category,” she said. “Building confidence with our consumers that they can address issues themselves at home will be fundamental to increased purchasing, and will in turn allow the animals in their lives to receive the help they need to begin healing immediately.”

On the Market

Health Care at Home

Manufacturers offer several staple items retailers can stock to flesh out their first aid and wellness product assortments, helping pet owners to bolster their preventive routines and treat minor issues at home.

Zymox by Pet King Brands in Westmont, Ill., has been a mainstay of the wellness and first aid category for more than 20 years, said director of marketing Debra Decker.

Zymox offers a full suite of dermatology products including a shampoo, conditioner, spray and cream, as well as ear cleaners and drops for dogs and cats, in addition to veterinary lines of dermatology and ear care products. Zymox’s sister brand, Oratene, provides brushless oral care options, including the Enzymatic Brushless Water Additive, Enzymatic Brushless Breath Freshening Spray, Enzymatic Brushless Toothpaste Gel and Enzymatic Brushless Oral Gel.

“When it comes to oral health, establishing a good oral care routine is paramount to having a healthy mouth and is believed to prolong the life of a pet. For many pet parents there may be roadblocks to this care,” Decker said. “The Oratene line for daily care works without the need to brush and is free of xylitol and detergents. It is also readily accepted by both dogs and cats.”

Banixx in Aberdeen, N.C., offers medicated shampoo; wound care cream for scratches, fungus, hot spots, ringworm, infections and more; and all-in-one sprays for ear infections, hot spots, skin irritation, ringworm, wounds and more.

“Each bottle lasts for three years, which saves a fortune in shelf space because retailers don’t need a product for each ailment or to be constantly sorting through for expired products,” said vice president of finance Jane DeMeulemester.

W.F. Young in East Longmeadow, Mass., introduced the Silver Honey wound and skin care line in 2020. Silver Honey is available in both spray gel and ointment formats, with the spray being ideal for larger conditions or those pet owners may feel uncomfortable touching. The ointment is great for more targeted applications, explained pet brand manager Marjorie Murray.

“Retailers can feel confident in recommending it to customers as the ‘any wound, any time’ remedy for a wide variety of wound and skin conditions,” she said. “It truly is fast-acting and starts healing immediately, plus is super easy to use. … Silver Honey is the perfect product to recommend to customers to empower them to safely and rapidly help heal their pets at home, and to be ready for any scrapes, cuts, rashes or other boo-boos their animals will inevitably get into.”

Ingredient Trends

Alternatives to Antibiotics

Manufacturers are focusing on ingredients with natural healing properties to treat pets’ skin issues and minor wounds.

Pet owners are increasingly interested in products that work without antibiotics, noted Debra Decker, director of marketing for Pet King Brands in Westmont, Ill.

Pet King Brands uses its patented LP3 Enzyme System in all its Zymox skin and ear care products and Oratene dental care products. The system combines three enzymes found naturally in milk and egg whites—lactoperoxidase, lysozyme and lactoferrin—to tackle bacteria and fungus, including yeast in the ears, on the skin and in the mouth, Decker explained.

Because the LP3 Enzyme System is antimicrobial, rather than antibiotic, it targets only single-celled organisms and does not disturb pets’ healthy bacteria, Decker said, adding that there is no concern of toxicity or side effects.

True to its name, the Silver Honey wound and skin care line, made by East Longmeadow, Mass.-based W.F. Young, features manuka honey and MicroSilver BG as its key ingredients.

“Silver Honey is the first and only wound and skin care line to combine the natural healing powers of medical-grade manuka honey and MicroSilver BG,” said Marjorie Murray, W.F. Young’s pet brand manager. “Each ingredient has been used on its own medicinally for centuries, but this is the first time both ingredients have been combined in a safe natural formula specifically developed for all animals.”

Manuka honey is made in New Zealand, where bees harvest pollen from manuka flowers. W.F. Young refines the honey into a medical-grade distillation that, when applied to wounds, kills bacteria, maintains moisture and helps shed dead tissue, Murray said. MicroSilver BG is a micropartical silver with long-lasting antimicrobial properties that helps large particles stay on the skin’s surface as a protective barrier rather than being absorbed, Murray explained.

“Silver Honey can be used on any animal,” she said. “We’ve heard—and experienced—amazing healing stories when it has been applied to dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens and even elephants.”

Marine collagen and chlorohexidine are star ingredients for Banixx. Marine collagen comes from fish skin and conditions to keep wounds or hot spots moist to speed up healing, while chlorohexidine acts as a microbial to heal wounds without alcohol or other ingredients that may sting, said Jane DeMeulemester, vice president of finance for the Aberdeen, N.C.-based company.

These ingredients are paired with essential extracts like aloe vera, peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil in Banixx’s Pet Wound Care Cream, while its Pet Care Bacterial & Fungal Infection Spray features hydronium ions as the active ingredient. The ions set up a low pH environment that is hostile to most bacteria and fungi, said DeMeulemester, adding that though a low pH solution would typically sting, Banixx’s proprietary process makes application sting free.

“We’re really into products with no odor and no color, and all of [ours have] no burn, no sting,” she said. “So many animals are terrified of being treated because they can smell what you’re going to treat them with and because it burns.”

Just as important as the ingredients going into Banixx’s products are those that are not. Its Medicated Pet Shampoo is free of soap that strips natural oils from pets’ skin and instead features surfactants that foam and remove dirt and grime from skin and hair without removing the oils, DeMeulemester said.


Trade Talk

Jessika Zulic, senior brand manager for Dogswell, a brand of Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis

What considerations should retailers keep in mind when curating a wellness and first aid products selection, and how can they establish themselves as the place to go for these essentials?

The supplement and pet medicine categories are growing quickly as more owners become do-it-yourselfers with regards to nutrition and problem solving for their pets. These DIY pet parents value their dog’s health and want to take control by customizing wellness products based on their dog’s needs, aligning to the behavior they have when selecting their own health care products.

Still, the choice for which solutions are right for their pet’s needs is complicated. At Dogswell, we know that every dog is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. We are committed to partnering with retailers to simplify that choice by simplifying the science—offering clear, functional solutions in top-performing categories like hip and joint, skin and coat, digestive health and immune system support. We formulate using proven active ingredients across our line, so pet parents can easily see glucosamine levels in their hip and joint products, for example, as they move from treats to food to supplements.

Retailers that can simplify the shopping experience further for these DIY pet parents by merchandising these functional categories together to create a hip and joint section in-store will not only bring awareness to the selection of products, but also help pet parents easily build the basket with complementary products tailored to their dog’s needs. Many pet shoppers may not even be aware that there are OTC [over the counter] first aid and proactive wellness products developed specifically for pets. By carrying a selection in top functional categories and educating people about their use, retailers can perform a valuable service for pet parents and their dogs, ensuring repeat customers and add-on sales in these growing categories.