Sizzling Stock: Health Aids

The trends seen in human health are making their way into pet products, and experts report growing consumer demand for safe, natural alternatives and increased awareness of the health category in general.

"It’s clear that what happens in human health is soon to follow in our industry," said Geoff Hamby, marketing director for Vetericyn Animal Wellness in Rialto, Calif. "It’s [also] common knowledge that pets are treated as one of the family. This fact is driving a demand for pet products that carry some of the same safety or nutritional aspects as those found in human products."

Safety is No. 1, insiders agreed.

"Both dog and cat parents are looking for products that, above all, are safe for their pets," said Tom Wien, director of marketing at Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif. "They want products made with natural ingredients that don’t contain harmful chemicals. "

Customers at Pets on Broadway in Portland, Ore., want a holistic approach to treating illness and injury, said buyer Sarah Hudson-Sims. They also want higher-quality, longer-lasting products.

"Portland is big on naturopathic and holistic medicines, and herbal/diet change solutions are quite trendy in this area," she said."Our customers are continuing to think of their pets more as family than pets. They will spend whatever it takes to make their pet healthy."

Convenience is also critical, sources said, both in regard to how a product is administered and how quickly it works.

"What sells best for us are things that are convenient," said Pattie Boden, owner of Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va. For example, she said, "Hot spot wipes are very easy for the customers to use instead of sprays. [Shoppers are] looking for things that are convenient and products that don’t require them to [conduct] research, [but] provide quick information on the front of the label; and they want it to be a quick fix."

Wien agreed, adding that pet owners’ demand for convenience extends beyond how the product is used or applied.

"The materials used in packaging are also important both in terms of usage—pet parents want convenience and easy application—and in terms of recycling, so as to minimize one’s carbon footprint," he said. "It’s also important for the products to be convenient and easy to administer, since they’re often being used on the go.

"Pets are being included in more activities today such as errand runs, vacations, office work days and road trips," he added. "Many pet parents are taking first-aid and wellness products along on these outings to deal with any minor injuries or health issues that might arise—everything from diarrhea-control remedies to hot spot sprays."

Thanks to innovation and consumer demand for top-notch products for their pets, the health aids category has grown from a few products to a crowded space.

Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products, which has three stores in Pennsylvania, said her most common shopper requests in the category are recovery collars, or e-collars, digestive aids and dermatitis-type aids for things like hot spots or feline acne.

Products that address common eye, ear and skin ailments in general are in high demand. 

"Skin-related problems are usually small cuts and scrapes or topical skin issues like hot spots, torn pads and sores," Hamby said.