Selling Wellness

Health care isn’t just for humans. As the number of pets increases, so do the opportunities for retailers to help them live longer and healthier lives.



Ask just about any pet owner and they’ll tell you that their pets are members of the family. And as such, we want to keep them as happy and healthy as possible. Which is probably why spending on health care for our furry and feathered friends has dramatically increased in recent years. 

Not surprisingly, many of the trends in pet health care products directly reflect those occurring in the human market. Holistic or all-natural health items, for example, are lining the shelves for both pet retailers and our own pharmacies.

“More and more pet stores are starting to offer holistic and herbal remedies to their customers,” says Tyler Thompson, founder of Koop Brand, a cat wellness company. “This is because of the public’s distaste for overly artificial and lab-produced products and their recent attraction to a more all-natural approach to wellness. People today think of their pets as family members and they want the very best for their furry friends.”

The Minneapolis-based company’s signature line of Katmint Herbal Blends use all-natural ingredients to target a lesser-known pet health problem—mental wellbeing and stimulation. 
“We’re firm believers that one of the main issues pet parents today are struggling with is the idea of leaving their pets home while they are out working and living their lives,” explains Thompson. “Our signature Katmint Herbal Blends are specifically grown and blended for this purpose. The mental stimulation our herbals deliver is extremely important to overall mental health of indoor cats in particular.”

Catnip blends like the Katmint Leaf & Flake get kitties ready to play while the Silver Vine Blend gives cats a euphoric sensation and keeps them stimulated while the owner is out of the house. The brand also offers a Hairball Relief supplement, which uses organic coconut fibers to naturally relieve hairball-causing indigestion. Plus, the formula delivers vitamins for skin and coat health. 

Addressing Achy Ears and Itchy Skin
One of the most common health problems for both cats and dogs is skin allergies. Unlike humans, pets don’t typically get itchy eyes or sniffly noses in reaction to allergens. Instead, they get irritated and inflamed skin, causing them to bite, scratch and lick, which can lead to even bigger infections if left untreated. 

“Skin allergies are so common but also challenging to manage, especially when the pet becomes itchy and uncomfortable; and if the pet begins to chew or lick an area, these hot spots can become red and infected,” explains Jeff Werner, national sales director for Illinois-based Pet King Brands.

Zymox Shampoo Rinse by Pet King Brands utilizes a three-point enzyme system to destroy infection-causing bacteria and fungi. It creates an effective and natural barrier without drying or irritating sensitive pet skin. The formula contains no harsh detergents, pesticides, dyes or residual petroleum products, which means it’s gentle enough for puppies and kittens.

Ear infections are another extremely common ailment among pets, especially dogs. Symptoms include excessive scratching around the ears, as well as redness, swelling and discharge.

“Ear infections can be caused by multiple things, but it’s estimated that 80 percent of pets with allergies also suffer from ear infections. Ear infections are very painful and often recurring,” adds Werner.

Maintaining clean and well-groomed ears is an effective way to prevent ear infections before they happen. However, there are plenty of over-the-counter treatments available as well. Zymox Ear Care products, for example, treat acute and chronic bacterial, fungal and yeast infections without the use of antibiotics. The patented LP3 Enzyme system naturally rinses and disinfects ears, and it’s safe to use on pets of all ages.

Healthy Mouth, Healthy Pet
Good oral hygiene for a pet won’t just help with bad breath; it can actually affect overall health as well.

“Dental problems have been linked to numerous other health issues, so the dental category is getting the well-deserved attention it needs,” says Erika Linden, marketing manager for Canada-based Kane Biotech.

Bacteria in the mouth causes plaque and tartar, and can lead to major problems, including gingivitis, tooth decay and periodontal disease—a serious gum infection and the leading cause of feline health insurance claims. And while we know to go to the dentist a couple times a year, oral care is often overlooked for pets.

Bluestem Oral Care Water Additive is a simple and scientifically proven way to fight plaque and tartar and freshen breath. Just add a couple capfuls to a cat or dog’s water bowl daily for healthier teeth and gums. The oral care product contains coactiv+ technology, which breaks down the biofilm where bacteria grow. 

“Our water additive for dogs and cats was our first product to market, and its simplicity of use makes it a popular choice amongst consumers,” says Linden. “However, we recently launched a toothpaste that is selling very well. Brushing is always the gold standard in oral care.”

The chicken-flavored Bluestem toothpaste allows owners to give their pet’s teeth a more thorough cleaning. It even comes with a dual-head brush designed specifically for pet teeth. 

Stocking the Wellness Aisle
With such a rapidly growing category, it seems like a no-brainer for pet retailers to put health care products on their shelves. Deciding which products to stock can be a challenge, though.

“No matter what, retailers should only carry products that they are confident in and proud to show their customers. This makes it easy to give customers a fantastic shopping experience and [ensure they walk] out the door with a great product they will be happy with,” says Thompson.

When choosing health care products, there are a few characteristics retailers should be on the lookout for, says Werner—products that provide solutions to common health problems; are veterinarian recommended; are safe, non-toxic and easy to use; and products that are proven to actually work.

Designations like Canada’s Low Risk Veterinary Health Products (LRVHP) program can help retailers understand which products and ingredients are approved for animal use, says Linden. 

“[Also] ask manufacturers for copies of their studies or clinical trials that show the product’s effectiveness,” she adds. “As more research is being done on the safety of certain ingredients, information can change rapidly. Make sure you are up to date on regulations and product information, so that you are able to offer your customers the best tips and advice.”


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