Under the Skin
Skin and coat issues can be treated with a variety of products that tackle the problem either topically or internally. Retailers should stock an assortment that includes both to address customers' needs.
A solution-oriented approach is often the best way to sell many pet care products. When it comes to coat and skin care for dogs, most consumers are looking for solutions to one of two issues—dogs that itch, and dogs that shed all over the house. Retailers that sell the right problem-solving products to address these concerns can save the day for their customers.
Fortunately, the solutions for both itchiness and shedding are often similar or one and the same. Both issues can be addressed either internally with nutrition and supplements, externally with shampoos, conditioners and sprays, or by using both approaches. Anything that allows skin to retain its strength, moisture and elasticity will help alleviate both itchiness and excess shedding.
Itching in dogs and cats can have many causes, and some, such as parasites and disease may require a visit to the veterinarian. But some of the most common causes of itching are dry skin and contact allergies. Meanwhile, shedding is most affected by heredity, hormones, seasonal changes and nutrition. Understanding these issues and knowing which products will help alleviate them can be key to selling products in this category.
One of the first things to ask a pet owner complaining about a dogs’ skin and coat problems is what they are feeding their pet. If it isn’t a brand known for its quality, retailers may want to suggest a change. A good source of nutrition is a necessity for healthy skin and coat.
“It’s important to remember that healthy skin begins from within,” says Scott Garmon, president of NaturVet, a division of Garmon Corporation. “It’s vital to address the cause of [the] problem, which typically starts from internal issues.”
NaturVet’s Aller-911 line of skin and coat supplements contain natural ingredients that support a strong immune system, as well as omega fatty acids that help maintain skin moisture. Garmon says the natural, active ingredients in NaturVet’s products aid in easing common symptoms including hot spots, paw licking, rashes, itching, anxiety, and stress or shedding.
Lambert Kay has been providing nutritional supplements targeting itching and shedding for years. Debra Nickelson, DVM, technical service manager for PBI/Gordon—manufacturer of Lambert Kay products—says Linatone Shed Relief is beneficial for treating general dermatitis and dry flaky skin, or excessive non-seasonal shedding in dogs and cats. It contains omega-6 fatty acid, or linoleic acid, which relieves itching, dandruff and flakiness, as well as omega-3 fatty acid, or alpha linolenic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is really good for skin health.
“The better the skin health, the better the coat,” says Nickelson.
Linatone Shed Relief also contains choline, important for normal cell membrane structure and function, and vitamins A and E, which are antioxidants and helpful for normal coat and skin health. It contains vitamin D, as well, which Nickelson says is particularly helpful. People get a lot of vitamin D from the sun, but animals with coats do not, so a supplement is generally a good idea.
Externally applied remedies for itching and shedding, such as shampoos and crème rinses, are important components in a retailer’s arsenal of anti-itch and anti-shed solutions. When deciding what products to stock, retailers should look for soothing ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera and menthol, as well as emollients and humectants to moisturize. Manufacturers should be able to explain what the ingredients are and what they do.
It is also important to make sure that the products contain enough of these touted ingredients to really have an effect: customers expect results, and having just enough of an ingredient to put it on the label won’t provide them. For instance, salicylic acid relieves dry itchy skin and inflammation, and Lambert Kay’s Fresh ’n Clean MediCleen shampoo contains it in sufficient quantities to work. Zymox is a shampoo that until fairly recently was only available through veterinarians, and it works by utilizing non-irritating enzymes as an antifungal and antibacterial agent.
The Right Tools
Carrying the right brushes and shedding tools for popular breeds can also make a huge difference to the owners of shedding or itching dogs. Regular brushing stimulates circulation, removes dead skin cells, distributes natural oils and gets dead coat off the pet before it can get all over the house. Brushing-aid sprays should be offered as well, in order to reduce static and coat damage and help hydrate coat and skin.
It can’t be emphasized enough that training sales staff on the uses and benefits of each product sold is the best way to secure sales and customer satisfaction. Manufacturers are often happy to help with this, providing sell sheets or even having representatives do training sessions. “We don’t consider a sale complete until the consumer has purchased the product from the retailer,” says Garmon. “We create fun, informative educational programs and videos for both the consumer and store employees. We believe it’s important for our training programs to engage and motivate employees while building their confidence to interact with the consumer.”
Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.