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When it comes to minor skin and wound issues, pet owners have become more comfortable treating their pets at home, industry insiders report. Natural products that help with these issues are commonly sought, particularly among millennial pet owners, according to insiders.

“The younger crowd has high expectations and, more often than not, looks for natural solutions,” said Pete Stirling, president and CEO at Skout’s Honor, a manufacturer in Irvine, Calif. “In general, millennial pet parents are more interested in natural and holistic alternatives and less trusting of traditional solutions than their parents were. More importantly, they are willing to spend more on products that fit their lifestyle and the lifestyle they want to create for their pets.”

Understanding how skin and wound care products work and how to use them to treat their pets has become a bigger focus for owners, who are increasingly looking for ways to educate themselves, insiders noted.

Officials at Vetericyn have observed pet owners’ thirst for knowledge firsthand. The company’s website has experienced a “dramatic” uptick in traffic to its how-to blog articles, said Geoff Hamby, marketing director for the Rialto, Calif.-based manufacturer. More pet owners are turning to these how-to blogs for information on minor wounds or skin issues, Hamby said.

“This shows that pet parents are seeking out educational content so they can make informed decisions,” he said. “They also are more engaged on social channels like Instagram or Facebook.”

Many pet owners are inclined to, at the very least, use at-home treatments for minor issues.

“My customers are still taking their pets to the veterinarian for something serious, as they should, but often minor cuts, bruises or scrapes—and various skin issues—can be treated at home with the right products,” said Kim Matsko, owner of Natural Pet Essentials, a pet store in Charlottesville, Va.

Matsko added that in terms of itching and hot spots, determining the root cause—whether it be nutritional or food allergy related, or something environmental—is not always easy. She works closely with pet owners to try to determine what’s actually causing their pet’s issues.

Denise Strong, owner of Pawz on Main, a pet supply store in Cottonwood, Ariz., said that questions on skin-related issues—particularly scratching from allergies—come up daily at her store. She, too, works closely with customers to discern whether these issues are airborne or food related.

“Itching and scratching due to airborne and/or food allergies are some of the biggest issues I see,” Strong said. “Some customers want to address airborne allergies from the outside with shampoos or anti-itch sprays, but this may only cover the surface issue and not treat the problem. Working from the inside out can have much better success.”

While some issues might require deeper conversations with retailers, products that are easy to use and address common issues are resonating with pet owners. For example, Vetericyn’s Feline Antimicrobial Facial Therapy product is filling a void for cat owners who want a simple solution to manage feline issues such as cat acne, allergy symptoms, eye discharge and more, Hamby said. It comes in a two-ounce size and features a nozzle that makes it easy to apply to the cat’s face.

Skout’s Honor has seen a strong uptick in probiotic skin care sales, Stirling said, noting that this trend reflects the idea that natural alternatives might work better than traditional treatment options as long-term, preventive solutions.

The company recently completed several third-party scientific studies on its topical probiotics line, which includes Skout’s Honor Probiotic Hotspot Hydrogel, Probiotic Daily-Use Deodorizer and Probiotic Shampoo + Conditioner.

“I’m proud to say that our proprietary topical probiotic kefir demonstrated a very high level of effectiveness against Candida [yeast] and ringworm [fungus],” Stirling said. “This is a significant finding, because those are two of the most common yeast and fungus-related skin infections for both dogs and cats. In fact, our probiotics outperformed the common antimicrobial agent benzalkonium chloride in a standard zone of inhibition test, which is typically used to estimate the efficiency of a potential antibiotic.”

Consumer Education

Assisting Pet Owners

Industry insiders say that it’s not uncommon for pet owners to try their best to educate themselves when it comes to addressing skin problems and wounds. This self-education not only includes looking for information online, but also turning to local, independent pet retailers for help. Retailers can play a role, both in person and online, in helping customers to become more comfortable using these products.

“Education is huge in this category because many pet owners are uncomfortable caring for wounds or doing routine eye and ear cleaning,” said Geoff Hamby, marketing director for Vetericyn, a manufacturer in Rialto, Calif. “Blogging, social media and in-store classes are all great ways to educate your customer on how easy the products are to use and their impact on pet health.”

Of course, carrying a well-researched assortment of products to be able to supply pet owners with what they need is also important.

“Find and stock brands that offer a family of products to fit their needs,” said Pete Stirling, president and CEO at Skout’s Honor, a manufacturer in Irvine, Calif. “The younger pet parent may be less brand loyal, but they do like to shop a collection of products rather than have several random brands throughout the house. The more comprehensive the brand, the better, so look at expanding the product billboards that are working for you and your customers. Remember, a comprehensive wellness plan has as much to do with prevention as treatment.”

Pricing Trends

Addressing Cost

In general, because they see the value, pet owners seem only minimally price sensitive as it relates to buying products that will help promote better health for their companion animals.

“Price point is fairly important for my customers, but when addressing the cost of using a health solution, such as [cannabidiol] CBD, on a daily basis, it’s much cheaper than continuous vet visits,” said Denise Strong, owner of Pawz on Main, a pet supply store in Cottonwood, Ariz. “Pet parents are factoring that in to the equation. And with natural solutions, there are no side effects like there can be with prescription and over-the-counter drugs.”

Sherry Redwine, owner of Odyssey Pets, a pet store in Dallas, has noticed that her clients value quality over cost.

“People want a quality product that they’ll feel confident will work—so if it’s $5, that doesn’t instill much confidence,” she said. “Of course, if it’s $35 or more, that can be a harder sell. Between $20 and $35 seems to be the sweet spot.”

Pete Stirling, president and CEO at Skout’s Honor, a manufacturer in Irvine, Calif., agreed that customers are weighing cost versus value for these types of products—and they see the upside in investing in quality products.

“The consumer shopping skin and wound care is typically looking for a solution to a very uncomfortable problem and willing to invest in the best to ensure the comfort and well-being of their pet,” he added. “To a certain extent, the customer associates spending more with doing more, and often the quality of goods reflect that assumption. The focus should be on high-quality products with safe ingredients that work at a reasonable price and not on low-cost items.”

Geoff Hamby, marketing director for Vetericyn, a manufacturer in Rialto, Calif., echoed a similar sentiment.

“There will always be price shopping of course, but more and more owners are comparing what goes in the products they give their pets,” he said. “We all know pet parents treat their pets as an extension of the family. As a result, they demand top-quality, natural products that help keep their pet healthy—just as they would any other family member.”