The natural remedies category has seen some of the fastest growth in the pet industry as consumers seek out new and more efficient ways to help their pets overcome health-related issues. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, holistic veterinarians are expected to increase 35.9 percent by 2020 as pet owners continue to seek out nontraditional services.
“I’m seeing more of an acceptance of allowing traditional doctors like myself to recommend a more holistic approach to medicine,” said Dr. Jeff Werber, owner of Century Veterinary Group.
Topical wound care is one area that is seeing rapid growth.
For example, there is the ASAP Pet Shield wound dressing gel from American BioTech Labs. Like the company’s other products, ASAP Pet Shield was engineered with patented SilverSol Technology. This technology, with its unique construction, creates multiple modes of action that are not available from traditional silver products.
Herbal care is another growing segment. You don’t necessarily need a degree in botany to understand the benefits of herbs for pets. Commonly used herbs such as catnip and valerian root can be helpful as more than just toys. Catnip can both stimulate and a calm cats.
“Catnip can help improve a cat’s digestion and even stimulate appetite in cats who eat it,” said Mark Teixeira, president of Bell Rock Growers, makers of Pet Greens.
Herbsmith Inc. is a company that offers herbal blends that help address health concerns of cats, dogs and horses. The company’s formulas include Bladder Care, Soothe Joints, Clear AllerQi and others. According to the Herbsmith website, each batch of herbs is tested in the U.S. “to ensure purity, authenticity and safety.”
Natural joint care is one area that is seeing huge growth in both pet foods and supplements. Pet food manufacturers are adding specific supplements to their diets and treats, and specialty remedies are found throughout the marketplace.
“Joint Ease is a unique product because it contains adaptogenic plant and marine compounds, which seek out damage to joints and cartilage and work to accelerate DNA repair, help to limit pain and inflammation (which is) potentially stimulating the animal body to heal from the inside out, without synthetic additives,” said Heidi Nevala, president of Natura Petz.
Other natural joint care supplements include Ark Naturals’ Joint Rescue, Pet Naturals of Vermont’s Hip & Joint formula and Natural Pet’s Muscle, Joint & Arthritis Reliever.
As consumers become more savvy about natural remedies, they learn that prevention a problem is just as important as treating it.
“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.”
Pest Free Naturally
Other companies are demonstrating their innovation with natural pesticides.
“I prefer natural botanicals over pesticides for treating fleas and ticks, and there are a number of good natural products that work without harsh side effects,” said veterinarian Nancy Scanlan, executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and past president of the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association. “Herbal flea and tick products tend to be safer than pharmaceutical or pesticide flea and tick products, but all products that are formulated to rid pets of fleas and ticks pose some percentage of risk.”
Using a natural approach is especially popular for the care of sensitive animals, like reptiles, birds and cats.
“Cats are very sensitive to any type of natural (or commercial) solution,” said Dr. Adelia Ritchie, founder of DERMagic. “We strongly recommend using our gentle Flea Dust, which immediately kills insects, but is completely safe for all animals, including cats and even fish or birds. It is made from certified organic, food-grade diatomaceous earth, which kills fleas and lice by dehydration not poison.”
DERMagic also offers a new Flea Bar for dogs, which kills fleas and lice while leaving your pet’s coat shiny and healthy.
EarthHeart, Inc. is another popular addition to the market that utilizes a natural blend of neem seed oil with citronella, fir, geranium, rosewood, basil and myrrh essential oils. Made in the USA, its products utilize BPA-free, recyclable containers to continue its earth-first philosophy.
“The main ingredient, our proprietary steam-distilled cedarwood oil is scientifically combined with natural oils,” said Stephanie Boone of Wondericide. “This technology is highly effective at repelling and eliminating fleas, ticks and mosquitos (including their eggs and larvae). Traditional non-natural methods work by interrupting the biological function of pests to kill them, which also interrupts the biological function of pets and humans—and can cause toxic reactions. We treat the source, not the symptom, with ingredients that are safe for the whole family.”
Selling Natural Remedies
When seeking out a natural remedy, it’s important to find a manufacturer you can trust.
“It’s best to focus on names and products that are known in the industry,” said Greg Tilford, president of Animal Essentials. “Companies should have experienced herbalists standing behind their products. Look for products that are made specifically for cats, by respectable companies that stand behind their products and are willing to pick up the phone to answer questions.”
Education is key when selling natural products. For some consumers, retailers should note that—contrary to popular belief—there are regulations regarding the claims natural pet supplement manufacturers can make.
“People think that animal supplement industry is an unregulated industry, but that is not true,” said Bill Bookout, president of the National Animal Supplement Council. “It’s regulated at the federal level from the FDA and at the state level by the Department of Agriculture or other regulatory authority responsible for those products. There are very specific things that a manufacturer cannot say.”
Another point is that natural remedies can often take longer to work than typical medicines and consumers who think they want a natural solution may not understand that they require patience.
“Natural remedies take time to work,” Scanlan said. “Some clients think they want herbs or supplements, but they want them to work in an hour. The really committed pet owner knows that results will not be immediate so it’s a patience game.”