The entire pet industry shares the desire to help pets live longer, healthier lives. Moving towards natural remedies is one way of accomplishing this goal.
Herbal medicine involves the use of plants and extracts to deliver effective and safe treatments, and these days, herbal remedies are offering helpful and life-changing options for pets that are sensitive to medications. More than that, herbal remedies focuse on prevention and treating underlying problems, rather than just managing symptoms.
The natural category boon can be seen in both veterinary care as well as on retail shelves. The number of holistic veterinarians is expected to increase by 35.9 percent by 2020 as pet owners seek out nontraditional services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When herbalist Greg Tilford launched his herbal tincture line for pets in 1995 under Animals’ Apawthecary, the U.S. national animal supplement category totaled just $2 million per year. Spending on supplies and over-the-counter medicines is heading toward an estimated $14.98 billion for 2016, making it the third highest spending category behind food and narrowing the gap on veterinary care spending.
Animal Essentials, based in Victor, Montana, offers 47 products and more than 100 SKUs, including all bottle sizes. The products treat acute pet health problems, address specific issues and support bodily functions to ensure ongoing pet wellness. Tilford said that consumers today are well educated on health and often know exactly what they need for their animals.
Veterinarians are also more open to recommending herbs and supplements over medications.
“Manufacturing quality is equally as important as ingredient quality,” said Tilford, adding that all products are human-grade and meet or exceed the standards set by the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). Animal Essentials holds a Certificate of Best Manufacturing Practices from NASC based on regular audits and complies with the USDA’s National Organic Program Standards. In addition, it holds an Organic Handler Certificate from the Montana Department of Agriculture and Green Business Certification from Green America.
You don’t necessarily need a botany degree to understand the benefits of natural remedies for pets, but with the large entrant rate into the category, it’s important to work with manufacturers who understand it.
“I think that, by and large, people are looking to help their pets live longer and healthier lives,” said Elyse Horvath, founder of Natural Paws. “Removing chemical-based products and replacing them with herbal remedies not only helps the pets feel better, but it also removes that added danger of the chemical products’ long-term side effects. For instance, we use 17 different flower and root extracts and Essential Oils in Sweet Pea’s TenderPaws formula. This is special because we use three different flower extracts to deal with inflammation—even if one of those doesn’t resonate with your dog, chances are one of the other two will. It makes our effectiveness so much better for each ailment we’re treating. This diversity in each ingredient also helps to take a product which was created to help paw pad skin, and makes it great for insect repelling and hot spot healing as additional benefits.”
Consumers are seeking remedies for everything from digestive support to natural calmants, but supplements that boost the immune system remain ever-popular.
“Our number one bestseller is Vibactra Plus,” said Bill R. Bergner, sales representative for Amber Technology. “Consumers want to strengthen their pet’s immune system and Vibactra Plus is a way for them to do this naturally. Our goal is to help prevent problems and naturally build the immune system so that if any problems occur, animals can more easily recover.”
Natural remedies are also important to maintaining digestive health. Wondercide recently expanded their product line to include a number of new wellness products for pets, including Ultra-Pure Bentonite Clay and Neem Bark Powder for digestive and dental health.
“Neem Bark Powder is a natural powerhouse in supporting dental and digestive health,” said Stephanie Boone, CEO of Wondercide. “It’s been used for centuries for its antibacterial properties and high level of antioxidants and was even referenced as the ‘village pharmacy’ in ancient India.”
Neem bark is naturally anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anthelmintic (expelling of parasitic worms from the body), anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic. Neem Bark Powder provides dental and digestive support for pets. Taken internally, neem reportedly boosts immune systems and provides a concentrated source of antioxidants to combat damage caused by aging and environmental toxins.
“Bentonite clay has been used for centuries for a range of healing purposes,” Boone said. “Countless animal species instinctively ingest the clay or use it externally.”
Natural calmants is another subcategory that remains popular, as they are an effective way to relieve anxiety in pets without the side effects of prescription medication. Licks Pill-Free Solutions offers a variety of individually packaged, easy to administer remedies for dogs and cats. Their product line ranges from urinary tract health to senior pet remedies. ZEN remains one of their most popular products.
“ZEN for cats incorporates the power of organic Ashwagandha root, Eleuthero root, L-Theanine and Tryptophan to create a holistic calming remedy for anxious cats and aggressive behavior due to territorial felines living in the same home,” said Amy Paris, founder of Licks Pill-Free Solutions. “Our powerful, pill-free formula takes only 30 minutes to work and lasts for up to six hours, making it one of the strongest solutions in the pet industry.”
Education is key when selling natural products. Remedies often take longer to work, and consumers who think they want a natural solution may not understand that a natural treatment can require patience.
“Education is so important right now, because of all of the new products and homemade concoctions,” Horvath said. “For example, we use Tea Tree oil in three of our products. In the amounts we use, tea tree oil is amazingly effective and very safe. But in large amounts, it can pose a problem and cause serious medical complications. So people need to know that just because they saw tea tree oil listed in some of their favorite products, they shouldn’t start making mixes at home without the proper education and the ability to use such a tiny fraction of a percentage of it.”