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From vaccines to spas: Spotting stories in the business of pets

This Walgreens sign in Phoenix advertises that the drug store offers dog shots.

Dog vaccines at your neighborhood Walgreen’s? Yep.

Even as health care for humans is debated in the nation’s highest court, pets in the United States are enjoying unprecedented access to medical care, spa treatments, medications and other aids to well-being.

According to a recent report by the American Pet Products Association, the 62 percent of U.S. households that claim pet ownership spent a whopping $51 billion on their animals in 2011, with that number expected to grow by another billion or so this year.

About half the annual spending is on vet care and a category of non-food supplies and OTC medication.  With more pets taking everything from Valium to joint-pain relief meds – my little Chihuahua recently received Celebrex for a pulled muscle – pet pharma appears to be a lucrative and growing field.

Reynolds Center Executive Director Linda Austin spotted “We now sell dog shots!” on the lighted marquee at her local Walgreens; it’s not clear whether the drug store chain merely hosts low-cost immunization clinics or if it actually stocks rabies shots and more at the pharmacy, but the notion of pet-care conveience is certainly worth a few calls to local stores and veterinarians. In fact this recent IBISWorld report, “Pet parents power related industries through the recession,” mentions convenience as fueling online sales.  I also notice a lot of daily deals for pet health care, grooming and food.

Check out this MaineBiz profile of a cluster of pet-related companies that has emerged in its region from IT to pharma.  The article is rich with details about the market and the business models of the players.  You can nose around business incubators, veterinary schools, biomed corridors and even veterinary practices for leads to similar companies in your area.  Also, the huge annual Global Pet Expo just took place last month; check with organizers for pointers to exhibitors from your area, as well as trade groups like the Pet Industry Distributors Association.  Serious medical devices and therapies are big business in animal care, too.

Veterinarian

Photo by iStock

Here’s a neat entry at Veterinary Practice News about therapeutic diets for pets; much as humans are drinking vitamin-infused water and other products, pets can now enjoy foods aimed at helping kidney trouble, obesity and other ailments.  Even treats aim to do double duty; browse the snack aisle in any pet store for hip helpers, upset-tummy treats and bad-breath bones.  I notice gluten-free and vegan treats are burgeoning, too.  It would be interesting to look into holistic veterinary practices and non-traditional diets for animals, and the businesses that market them.

Pet day spas are also popping up – check out Premier Pet Resort and Day Spa in Cedar Park, Texas - we should be so pampered!  Also popular are concierge style kennels; when forced to board my little pups, we eschewed cages and went with an animal hospital that offered on-site staff 24 hours a day, a private luxury suite with toddler bed and a glass door to keep out the barking of other dogs along with other amenities — including a la carte services like one-on-one playtime and a midnight snack.  (Banana “ice cream;” they didn’t like it.)  Cage-free facilities, web-cam equipped playrooms and other features aimed at mom or dad’s peace of mind seem to be growing, too.

 

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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