Natural Wellness and Healthcare

Pet health is a major concern, and the more retailers understand what pet parents are looking for, the more products they will sell.




Wellness continues to be a catchphrase when talking about human and pet products alike. But what does it actually mean? It’s important to comprehend this concept because these defining words, and the ideas behind them, are encouraging customers to purchase specific products to best care for their pet’s health. The better retailers understand what motivates pet owners, the more likely they can predict what will sell.


Wellness means a state of good health, but particularly one achieved on purpose—a lifestyle that helps prevent illness instead of treating it only once it occurs. People are avoiding foods and habits thought to be bad and working hard to maximize the effects of good food, exercise and healthy supplements. This mindset overflows to the four-legged members of their family.


Kyla Sternlieb, founder and president of Under the Weather, based in South Burlington, Vt., has a handle on why customers are seeking out more natural products for their pets.


“Consumers are becoming more educated about the healing value of natural products and nutrition. At the same time, these consumers are looking to get off their prescription medications and avoid any chemically derived products,” says Sternlieb. “They are seeking out products that don’t introduce chemicals into their daily living.”


Retailers can provide pet owners with just what they are looking for. Under the Weather provides a line of freeze-dried bland diets for dogs to be used when a dog’s digestive system is upset. When a dog is having diarrhea or is vomiting, the veterinarian usually recommends feeding them a bland diet until healthy digestion is restored.


Under the Weather products are made from whole muscle meats that have been cooked and freeze-dried in a human-grade USDA inspected facility. USA sourced cage-free chicken and turkey, grass-fed bison and beef, and wild-caught salmon are combined with rice or oatmeal and electrolytes to help maintain a healthy hydration level at a time when dogs can easily become dehydrated. Canned or processed bland diets require preservatives and chemicals, which are harder on a dog’s sensitive stomach. Under the Weather’s bland diets require no chemicals or preservatives because the ingredients are freeze-dried.


In addition to the bland diets, Under the Weather provides pet parents with nutritional supplements for both dogs and cats, including a line of hemp-based soft chews for dogs in formulas targeting some of the most common issues of concern to pet owners: joints, immune system, anxiety in stressful situations, cognitive functions, and overall health and well being. The hemp products used are GMO- and pesticide-free, and are processed using no solvents. The company also offers a fast-acting probiotic gel and a high-calorie food supplement for pets that aren't eating properly. Its products contain many natural ingredients including live bacteria for the probiotic products, chamomile flower powder and ginger in the calming products, and psyllium seed husk and Alaskan salmon oil for the hairball support product.


Consumer Confidence

One company that’s long been aware of the importance of reassuring pet owners that products are as natural as possible is Bio-Derm Laboratories in Longview, TX. Founded in 1971 to make a gentle, yet thorough, shampoo that would kill fleas and ticks, the company also wanted a shampoo that was safe for pets and the Earth.


“All Bio-Groom shampoos are manufactured with naturally-derived ingredients from regrowable resources,” says Peggy Smith, media and marketing expert for Bio-Groom. “To complement the shampoo base, we have chosen other natural additives such as aloe vera, protein, chamomile and lanolin. These beneficial additives will not only moisturize and condition the skin and coat, but will also enhance the beauty.”


Manufactured in Texas from the highest grade of ingredients available, Bio-Groom wellness and first-aid products are Earth- and pet-friendly. The company’s popular all natural, tearless Herbal Groom shampoo conditions and cleans without stripping natural oils, leaving no residue.


“Our secret is in using the purest natural ingredients available, and not using soaps, gums, thickeners, dyes or any ingredient harsh to the pet or our world,” says Smith. “Herbal Groom contains protein, lanolin, natural cleansers, aloe vera, chamomile, rosemary, lemongrass, hops, yarrow, matricaria and balm mint. It is pH balanced and safe for puppies and kittens.”


Although well-known for its line of shampoos, Bio-Derm also produces other pet products made with quality ingredients, including Ear Care, Ear Fresh, Ear Care Pads, Lido-Med Gel, Lido Med Spray and Sure Clot, created to be mild yet exceptionally effective.


Earth Animal has been paying attention to what consumers are looking for since the 1970s. Dr. Bob and Susan Goldstein worked together using his veterinary knowledge and her natural health pet store to create a holistic approach to pet care. Offering products ranging from human-grade herbal remedies and all-natural flea and tick defense, to a popular natural alternative chew—No-Hide—and their air-dried Wisdom line of food launching this fall, Earth Animal’s main mission is to preserve and enhance an animal’s quality of life.


“Pet parents are fed up with side effects. Our first objective should be to cause no harm,” says Susan Goldstein, co-founder of the Westport, Conn.-based company.


The company believes pet owners are looking for natural wellness and healthcare for their pets to support their own bodies as well as protect the Earth.


“Consumers today have become savvier, nutritionally focused and socially conscious. They are very aware of what they put into their bodies and their family’s bodies,” says Stephanie Volo, vice president of marketing and sustainability for Earth Animal. “They have personally experienced the positive changes in their health and in the health of their animals when they are consuming and using fresh, clean, pure and organic ingredients found naturally from our Earth. These same consumers also have personal experiences with the adverse effects synthetic chemicals, insecticides and pesticides have on themselves and their beloved animals.”


Earth Animal is in a good position to know what consumers think about natural wellness products, since the founders also have a retail pet store selling products for dogs, cats and birds including foods, treats, supplements, hard goods, beds, toys, leashes, collars and more.


“Education is critically important with these types of products and the right questions needs to be asked,” says Volo.


Sales staff should be able to explain what benefit a product’s ingredients have for the pet. Earth Animal can help with that, providing sell sheets and signage available at no charge, as well as displays for their various lines. The company will even set up webinars to help train staff on products.


Newcomers on the market

A huge entry into the natural pet field is flea and tick prevention. Pet owners don’t want to use toxic chemicals on their pets, but they do want something that is sure to work. Sometimes, a conversation is needed about risk versus benefit.


Earth Animal has a defense system for fleas and ticks that works both internally and externally. Internally, powder supplements are ingested year-round to enhance the immune system with naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and nutrients, which changes their internal odor to be potent, causing fleas and ticks to flee from the animal. The topical products should be used in conjunction with these internal products for additional protection.


Traditional chemical products are absorbed through the dogs or cats skin and into their blood stream in order to kill fleas. When the insect bites, the bugs take in these chemicals and die. Earth Animal’s Nature’s Protection collars and Spot-On are not absorbed into the blood stream. The scent of the combined oils of cedarwood, peppermint and almond smell pleasant to humans but are loathed by fleas and ticks. Therefore, the bugs do not stay on the dog or cat long enough to bite the skin.


Another hugely popular part of the natural/herbal trend is hemp products and CBD oils. Lynn Honderd, CEO and co-founder of Mary’s Whole Pet, a provider of full-spectrum, hemp-infused products for pets, believes that the trend towards more natural products follows human choices.


“People are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of hemp-derived CBD products as a natural relief alternative for many ailments, such as inflammation and muscle discomfort. So it’s not that surprising that they are beginning to seek similar solutions for their pets,” says Honderd. “Many are gravitating toward these natural wellness options because they’re concerned about the side effects of conventional supplements and believe in the healing powers of CBD and other whole-plant nutrients, like those provided by Mary’s Whole Pet.”


Mary’s Whole Pet uses cannabinoid-rich hemp cultivars grown on the farm of their partner, Elite Botanicals, in Loveland, Colo., creating a farm-to-table product. The company’s products, including drops, a balm, capsules and a gel, all provide ways to increase pet wellness with quality hemp extract.


When it comes to sales, Sternlieb advises retailers to use care in merchandising and promoting this category. Despite the increasing popularity of natural products in pet wellness, the terms organic and natural are words that do not have a firm and constant definition. Usually an organic product is one that is grown without the use of pesticides and synthetic materials. Natural is even less well-defined, although most people expect it to mean something that is not manmade but rather occurs in nature—with no added chemicals or substances.


“There are many products out in the market that say ‘natural’ but aren't,” says Sternlieb. Today’s savvy pet parents expect pet specialty retailers to do the research to make sure that only truly natural products are displayed in their ‘natural’ section. Before bringing in new products, buyers need to dig deep regarding ingredient sourcing, manufacturing practices, quality standards and guarantees.”


Learning just what’s in a product labeled natural, organic or holistic, and being able to advise clients on what will best suit their needs, while explaining ingredients and their effects, will gain a customer’s trust like nothing else. After all, what’s more important than the health and wellness of our four-legged friends? PB


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