The dog and cat first aid and wellness category—including over-the-counter ear, eye, skin and dental care products—is seeing steady growth, industry insiders report. Pet owners are gaining awareness, education and confidence in caring for their pets’ health at home, which is helping accelerate the demand, according to Geoff Hamby, marketing director for Vetericyn in Rialto, Calif.
"We’re seeing more pet parents becoming comfortable with at-home care of minor wounds or eye and ear issues," Hamby said. "While many issues still require a vet visit, there are equally as many that can be managed by the owner."
Cardinal Pet Care sees evidence of this growth in rising sales of its Remedy+Recovery line, which offers pet first aid and wellness products such as antiseptic sprays, recovery collars, styptic powder and dental care items, said Tony de Vos, president of the Azusa, Calif.-based company.
There will always be a steady demand for first aid and wellness products, said Alison Cremeans, marketing manager for Dayton, Ohio-based MiracleCorp Products.
"Pet owners purchase these items both proactively in advance of emergencies and accidents, and reactively because their pets are experiencing any variety of issues, from hot spots to ear mites," she said.
De Vos noted that recent natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires have made pet owners more aware of emergency preparedness.
"People are devising disaster plans for their families, and they’re including their ‘four-legged kids,’" he said. "They’re putting together first aid kits for their dogs and cats so they’ll be ready if an emergency does occur."
Some category success has stemmed directly from the prevalence of skin allergies, which lead to hot spots and skin infections, said Debra Decker, marketing director for Pet King Brands in Westmont, Ill.
"Skin allergies are also one of [the] top conditions seen by veterinarians," she said. "Providing relief is the mission of most pet parents."
Consumer demand is trending toward nontoxic and antibiotic-free solutions, according to Decker. Some pet owners are concerned about antibiotic resistance, and, as a result, they are turning to enzyme-based products such as Pet King Brand’s Zymox ear and skin care products, she said.
Cremeans said first aid and wellness products that are labeled "fast-acting" and "all natural" perform well on the market.
"Pet owners seek an immediate solution but don’t want the product to be harmful or difficult to use," she said. "Dogs don’t always cooperate, especially if they’re in pain or uncomfortable, so being able to use the product easily and with confidence it will work is critical to the long-term success of any product."
Hamby said today’s pet owners keep themselves informed, meaning they actively seek out educational content and compare brands to one another when making purchasing decisions.
"There’s still shopping for the best price, of course, but more and more owners are comparing what goes in the products they give their pets," he said. "… They demand top-quality products that help keep their pet healthy—just as they would any other family member—and their choice of product purchases in this category reflects that."
Curating a Health and Wellness Selection
Pet specialty retailers that create a "pharmacylike environment" see consistent sales of first aid and wellness products, according to Debra Decker, marketing director for Pet King Brands in Westmont, Ill.
Because first aid and wellness is such a large category, retailers have a lot of bases to cover to ensure their assortments have something to meet every customer’s needs.
"I would recommend starting from a pet’s nose and working down to their toes," said Alison Cremeans, marketing manager for MiracleCorp Products in Dayton, Ohio. "If you have a product for every part in between, you have a complete set. Dental care, eye care, ear care, skin and coat care, supplements, flea and tick preventatives, nail care, etc.—you need all of these product categories to prepare for those customers who need them the most."
Christine McCoy, owner of The Natural Pet Enrichment Center in North Royalton, Ohio, said retailers need to offer at least three to five products for each of these categories.
"I definitely think they need to set aside an area that is specifically for wellness products," she said. "… Many different pet owners have multiple categories that they need to be able to look at."
Retailers can position themselves as a one-stop shop and fend off online competition by carrying products that are typically needed on a moment’s notice, like wound, skin, eye and ear care products, said Geoff Hamby, marketing director for Vetericyn in Rialto, Calif.
"We suggest keeping a selection of product on hand for the more common skin ailments," he said. "These are usually small cuts and scrapes or topical skin issues like hot spots, torn pads and sores. Our wound and skin liquid and hydrogel products are great to have on hand for these issues, as they provide quick relief and jump-start the healing process."
In particular, Hamby said Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Hot Spot Gel and Spray performs well and receives positive consumer feedback that speaks to its effectiveness.
"On quite a few occasions, we’ve seen stores sell out of our Antimicrobial Hot Spot Gel and Spray during the warmer months, when pets seem to be more affected by hot spots," he said.
In addition to carrying a well-rounded selection of products, retailers need to be prepared to talk about them.
"Ear infections, diarrhea and hot spots are the most common first aid complaints," said AdreAnne Tesene, owner of Two Bostons, which has stores in Illinois. "Make sure you have one or two great options to take care of each of these issues while ensuring your team can confidently talk your customers through each treatment choice."
Some manufacturer-recommended first aid and wellness products to check out include:
• Styptic powders, such as MiracleCorp Products’ Miracle Care Kwik Stop Styptic Powder and Cardinal Pet Care’s Remedy+Recovery Professional Groomer’s Styptic Powder
• Bandages and liquid bandages, including Remedy+Recovery Liquid Bandage for Dogs
• Over-the-counter skin remedies, such as Remedy+Recovery Medicated Hot Spot Spray, Medicated Antiseptic Spray, Hydrocortisone Lotion, and Wound & Infection Medication; Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Hot Spot Gel and Spray; and Pet King Brands’ Zymox Topical Spray and Topical Cream for Hot Spots and Skin Infections
• Ear care products, including the MiracleCorp Products’ Miracle Care Ear Kit; Vetericyn Plus Ear Rinse and Feline Antimicrobial Facial Therapy; and Zymox Ear Cleanser and Enzymatic Ear Solution
• Eye care products, such as MiracleCorp Products’ Miracle Care Eye Clear, Sterile Eye Wash, Sterile Eye Wash Pads and Tear Stain Pads; and Vetericyn Plus Eye Wash, Antimicrobial Ophthalmic Gel and Feline Antimicrobial Facial Therapy
• Dental care products, like Pet King Brands’ Oratene Toothpaste Gel, Water Additive and Breath Freshener; and Remedy+Recovery Hemp Breath Spray and Plaque Re-Lease Easy Pinch Tablets for Dogs
• Recovery collars, such as the Remedy+Recovery E-Collar and Remedy+Recovery Stay Rite Xtra Strong Recovery Collar
At-Home Health Solutions
Manufacturers continue to release a variety of products designed to help pet owners maintain their pets’ health—or address potential issues—at home.
Last year, Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif., introduced Remedy+Recovery Hemp Breath Spray for dogs, which helps soothe gums, fight bacteria, freshen breath and prevent tooth decay, said president Tony de Vos.
More recently, the company also launched Remedy+Recovery Plaque Re-Lease Easy Pinch Tablets for Dogs. One tablet is given daily to reduce plaque and tartar without brushing, de Vos said. The tablet can be pinched over a bowl of food, pinched onto the dog’s tongue or placed directly in the pet’s mouth.
"Both of these new products were designed to provide pet parents with convenient alternatives to toothbrushing that promote dental health," de Vos said. "They are targeted toward the large number of pet parents who believe it’s important to brush their dogs’ teeth regularly but say they rarely or never do so."
In August, Vetericyn in Rialto, Calif., released its Feline Antimicrobial Facial Therapy, an all-in-one product that helps relieve and manage common issues around the eyes, nose, mouth, ears and chin.
The sting-free, safe-to-ingest formula helps clean and heal cat acne, cuts and mouth sores, said marketing director Geoff Hamby, who noted that it also helps to relieve allergy symptoms and flush and clean discharge from the eyes and ears.
Hamby said the niche product is taking off well and fills a gap in an underserved area of cat health.
"It just arrived in stores, but we are already seeing an incredible uptake from customers," Hamby said. "… We gave cat owners one simple product to manage what they would normally buy at least three for."
MiracleCorp Products in Dayton, Ohio, acquired the Natural Chemistry Pet & Home brand in June from Muntech Products in Suffolk, Va. The move expanded MiracleCorp’s assortment of flea and tick control, stain and odor control, and grooming products.
"We are very excited to start making these items and growing this brand with our retail partners," said Alison Cremeans, MiracleCorp’s marketing manager.
Educating on the Shelf and Online
While the pet first aid and wellness category has received increased attention and there is greater consumer awareness of over-the-counter health products for pets, there are still many pet owners who don’t know the full scope of the category, said Tony de Vos, president of Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif.
"We believe that through manufacturer and retailer education, the category has tremendous upside growth potential," he said. "… Retailers should educate pet parents that it’s wise to have canine first aid remedies on hand before they’re needed. By doing this, they can both increase sales in the category and help their customers take better care of their pets."
Informative point-of-purchase displays can serve as "silent salesmen," said Debra Decker, marketing director for Pet King Brands in Westmont, Ill. For example, Pet King Brands provides hangtags that describe the company’s products’ key features and benefits.
Similarly, Cardinal Pet Care offers retailers handouts that explain Remedy+Recovery products and which types of injuries or irritations they should be used to treat.
"The most important thing to note is education at the shelf is key," said Geoff Hamby, marketing director for Vetericyn in Rialto, Calif. "Leveraging point-of-purchase materials or educating sales associates to answer questions will definitely enhance loyalty among your customers."
Hamby said Vetericyn focuses a lot of time and energy on supporting retailers and their staff through in-store trainings, demonstrations, webinars and social media content.
"We also have a full-time staff veterinarian who provides training and support and is always available to answer questions," he said, adding that the company regularly produces blog articles, ‘Ask Our Veterinarian’-themed Facebook Live events, videos and more.
Both Cardinal Pet Care and Pet King Brands offer customized webinars for retailers.
"The webinars provide an opportunity for questions and answers, and more in-depth education," Decker said.
One subject where retailers and consumers could use more education is recovery collars, which have a bad rap as "cones of shame," de Vos said.
"An important thing about e-collars that pet parents should be made aware of is that ‘cones’ shouldn’t be viewed as strictly for post-surgical use," he said. "… The function these collars serve applies equally well to keeping dogs from licking off first aid medications and aggravating hot spots."
At Two Bostons’ multiple locations in Illinois, owner AdreAnne Tesene is noticing more interest in recovery collars.
"We are experiencing a significant increase in customers wanting more comfortable safety collars," she said. "The Comfy Cones [from All Four Paws] are a great option, since they are much more comfortable for pets to wear. It’s easier for them to eat and sleep while wearing compared to the rigid plastic varieties."
Cardinal Pet Care’s Remedy+Recovery line offers two types of collars in a full range of sizes: the lightweight, translucent plastic e-collar and the inflatable Stay Rite Xtra Strong Recovery Collar.
"Retailers should educate pet parents that e-collars can help promote faster healing of everyday cuts and irritations and that cones should be included in a pet’s first aid kit," de Vos said.