The trend in dogs and cats eating more natural foods, taking supplements and getting regular vet visits has become commonplace, said Bob Smith, owner of Jungle Bob’s Reptile World in Centereach, N.Y.
“But in the reptile world, it’s been slower to come, although it’s evolving before our eyes,” he said. “We have long understood the need for calcium with vitamin D3 as a mandatory supplement, along with UVB lighting, particularly for diurnal herbivorous animals. Now, we are seeing species-specific supplements from quality companies.”
Reptile supplements are typically offered in a handful of key categories, including calcium (liquid or powder), vitamins, multivitamins, probiotics and enzymes.
Clint Sell, co-owner of Reptilian Paradise in Wheatridge, Colo., said the go-to supplement he continues to stock and suggest to patrons is Zoo Med’s ReptiVite, which has been a mainstay on store shelves for 30 years. ReptiVite provides a complete vitamin, mineral and amino acid complex specifically formulated for reptiles. This calcium-based powder, available with or without vitamin D3, ensures healthy bone growth with the correct two-to-one calcium to phosphorus ratio.
Many retailers continue to like Fluker’s Repta+Boost, a popular high-energy supplement specially formulated to give an extra boost of energy to bearded dragons, geckos, chameleons, boas, ball pythons, monitors, frogs, corn snakes and other insectivorous and carnivorous reptiles and amphibians.
“A lot of other manufacturers have also perfected and improved their (supplement) formulas, so the products are even better now than they used to be,” said Sell, who mentions Zoo Med’s Repti Shedding Aid spray, Repashy Super Foods’ Calcium Plus powder supplement, and Exo Terra’s Aquatize terrarium water conditioner supplement as good examples.
It’s smart for retailers to also stock necessary reptile medication products, said Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education coordinator with Zoo Med Labs, Inc. But they also need to encourage customers to minimize the need for these products by maintaining healthy environments.
“Retailers should become educated on the proper care of reptiles and the potential illnesses they can become infected with,” said Rademacher. “Seek to find the ultimate cause of health problems and correct those conditions.”
In other words, promote health supplements and other proper nutrition products so that many medications aren’t necessary.
Still, there’s a wide variety of medications and first aid/emergency products offered that retailers should consider adding to their supply. Smith cites Dr. Emmo’s Pet First Aid Wound Care as a good example. It’s a product offered in both liquid spray and topical gel that is a reasonably priced item effective in treating a variety of minor cuts, skin irritations and scrapes.
“It’s our first line of defense before calling in the vet,” Smith said of Dr. Emmo’s, which is now available in a handy travel pack that clips to a keychain, leash or belt buckle for easy access when an emergency arises. “It’s a powerful astringent, yet harmless to amphibians and reptile eyes. We have small bottles of it at our counter in a nice display, along with literature on how and why it works.”
Smith says he also continues to stock strong medications like Panacur (liquid fenbendazole) dewormer for certain reptiles, including bearded dragons.
Merchandise to Entice
When it comes to showcasing reptile supplement and medication products for maximum effect, Sell suggests placement diversity.
“These are typically lower-priced items compared to big-ticket items, so I would mix them in near cool-looking products like terrarium waterfalls, lights and foggers to increase impressions, catch the eye, and stand out as price differentiators,” said Sell. “A customer who comes in the store looking to purchase a higher-priced item would see a supplement priced at only a few dollars and perhaps be more inclined to purchase it because it stands out as relatively affordable.”
Sell further recommends bundling supplements and medications into starter kits and beginner setups so that first-time reptile owners come to associate these add-on products as essential staples that shouldn’t be forgotten about. Proactive retailers can put together a reptile first aid kit.
It’s also good idea to talk to manufacturer reps and ask for signage, posters and literature on supplement/medication products that a retailer can display and distribute at the store, experts say.
“In addition, it’s a good idea to teach your staff how to properly upsell customers on these products by encouraging them to stock up now versus waiting until a pet gets sick,” said Sell. “That means making sure your employees are very familiar with the [medication and supplement] items you carry so that they can answer any questions shoppers have about them.”