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Accidents are a fact of life—even for pets. That’s why it’s crucial for pet parents to always be prepared with a well-stocked pet first-aid kit on hand.

“We recommend you establish a pet first-aid kit, which is helpful in the case of natural disasters or other true emergencies, but they can also help you be prepared to deal with any scrape or scratch your pet might come up with,” says Nina Goldstein, director of marketing and project manager for Nutra Pharma Corp. “Your pet is counting on you to deliver the best care possible.” 

Since first-aid products are a must-have for pet owners, they are a must-have for pet retailers. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of potential for growth in the category.

“The pet first-aid category accounts for an estimated $458 million in annual sales and it is growing very rapidly,” says Jessika Zulic, senior brand manager for Dogswell. “According to a report published by SPINS and Goldman Sachs, sales of OTC pet medicine and first-aid products increased by 62 percent in the neighborhood pet store channel from October 2019 to October 2020.” 

One major driving force behind the growth in the category is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a renewed interest in health and disaster preparation.

“One thing I think we all have learned during this pandemic is that anything can change rapidly,” says Goldstein. “Take a look back on how many businesses were closed immediately. What if your vet’s office is closed and your pet needs immediate care? As pet owners it is more important than ever to be able to render some form of aid. The pandemic shows that we all need to be more self-reliant than before. 

“Having a first-aid kit allows you to be proactive to protect our pets as they have kept us sane and calm for the last two years,” she adds. “We are living in unprecedented times. As a pet owner, it’s one less thing to worry about if you are prepared.”


Preparation Education 

Since every pet parent is a prospective user of pet first-aid products, the category holds a lot of potential for retailers. However, to unleash this potential, retailers first need to help their customers understand the critical importance of a pet first-aid kit.

“Many pet owners are unaware that there are first-aid products formulated specifically for pets, let alone the wide variety of over-the-counter products available,” says Zulic.

Retailers should also emphasize why owners should invest in pet-specific products, rather than trying to use their human-grade ointments, bandages and wraps on their pets’ injuries.

“One reason to buy pet specific wound care products is that the PH level for dogs and human skin is different,” explains Terri Entler, president of Healers Petcare. “Human products can be harsh and cause more damage than good. Using products designed specifically for pets is recommended by veterinarians.” 

Additionally, “there are factors that make drugs possibly deadly for cats and dogs,” says Goldstein. “The consumption of drugs like NSAIDs are toxic to cats and can cause blood pressure and digestive issues. Dogs can sustain liver damage when taking acetaminophen.” 

To help steer customers in the right direction, retailers should talk to customers about common injuries and about products they should keep on hand to address them. For instance, owners need to be prepared to treat a variety of skin ailments, like cuts, scrapes, sores or bug bites. 

Entler recommends that pet parents include a wound spray, gauze and wraps in their first-aid kits. “We also suggest our medical boots designed for bandaging and wrapping a paw,” she adds. “Whether you use Healers or another brand, it’s important to have something ready to wrap a paw because this is where dogs get injured most.” 

Another key tool to keep in your emergency arsenal is an anti-itch product, like a hot spot spray. Hot spots (aka acute moist dermatitis) are localized areas of inflammation and bacterial infections often caused when pets excessively lick or scratch a wound. 

“When a dog suffers a cut or insect bite, it is important to treat the affected area right away, not only to promote healing and prevent infection but also to keep hot spots from developing,” says Zulic. “However, it is often possible to break the hot-spot cycle by immediately applying a product like Dogswell Remedy+Recovery Medicated Hot Spot Spray, which numbs and reduces pain and swelling, making the dog less likely to scratch the area.”

Beyond the skin, owners should also be prepared to treat pets’ sensitive eyes and ears, which can easily become inflamed by irritants, infections and allergens.

“Our Eye Wash and Ear Rinse are ideal as they help clean and flush those areas to provide instant relief and help manage dirt, debris, fungus and bacteria,” says Geoff Hamby, marketing director for Vetericyn Animal Wellness. “It’s also worth noting that emergency preparedness is great, but preventative maintenance is crucial as well. Eye and ear care is a perfect example. By simply cleaning or flushing your pet’s eyes and ears on a regular basis, you can greatly reduce the chances of irritation or infection.”

Aiding Sales

When determining which first-aid products to stock, retailers should take the time to research the brands behind the sprays, wraps, bandages and gels. The last thing owners want is to put their trust in products to care for their injured pet, only to be disappointed by subpar quality. 

“It’s important that retailers try to distinguish between true innovation and creative marketing tactics. In addition to what a consumer should look for to validate a product’s claims, retailers should also look at the brand’s dedication to the space,” advises Hamby. “Are they just producing me-too products or are they dedicated to the category? Do they produce content to help educate consumers and drive product purchases? Is there clinical evidence to back the product? Does the brand do store trainings or provide marketing support? Are the products well reviewed?”

When it comes to merchandising first-aid products, retailers should focus on creating a convenient shopping experience. 

“By providing convenience shopping, where people can get everything they need at one location, sales can be maximized,” explains Entler. 

For instance, consider creating a display sample of pet first-aid kits that contain a variety of products to treat common injuries and respond to emergency situations. 

“An assembled pet first-aid kit will draw the attention of shoppers and increase awareness of the products,” says Zulic. “Consumers may be encouraged to purchase some additional first-aid products they see in the kit, or even put together a complete first-aid kit for their own pet.” 

To really drive sales, though, retailers should think outside the first-aid kit to other cross-merchandising opportunities with products related to an active lifestyle or travel – in other words, activities that can potentially lead to accidents or injuries.

“A good example would be the hiking/camping/outdoor department,” says Zulic. “First-aid products that are used to treat cuts, bug bites and skin rashes can be displayed alongside backpacks, water bottles, bicycle leashes and other outdoor gear. 

“Other good spots for cross-merchandising first-aid products are with travel products and equipment for canine sports such as Agility,” she adds. “Pet parents who are planning a trip, outing or sports activity may impulsively decide to add a first-aid product to their purchase if they see it on display.”  PB