Online Exclusives

A Market Worth Drooling Over

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | November 29, 2011

Pet care is a multibillion-dollar segment that remains hot as consumers baby their dogs, cats and yes, even iguanas.

Like most mothers, Ellen Mackey loves her baby. She dotes on him, coos over him, whispers to him, sleeps with him and, of course, brings him with her wherever she goes. Nothing all that unusual in all that, except, perhaps, the fact that Ellen Mackey’s baby has four legs and a preponderance of body hair. Ellen Mackey’s baby, you see, is a dog…but you can’t tell that to Ellen!

 
A single, working woman with a salary well into the six figures, Mackey is fiercely austere about everything in her life unless it involves Ruffian, her three-year-old Yorkie. Ellen gushes when she talks about her baby, flashes pictures to anyone who is even remotely interested in her puppy tales and spends—a lot—for food, vet visits, toys and grooming products.
 
 
“I’m embarrassed to say that in his first three years, I’ve spent about $400 on jackets, shirts and outfits,” admits Mackey, which, as one might suspect, is not her real name.
 
And yet, wardrobe expenses are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taking care of Ruffian, as Mackey says she spends $800 a year on grooming, $50 a year on supplements, $170 on food and $400 on “ancillary” items that include beds, treats and travel bags.
 
Over the top? Maybe. But Mackey is not alone when it comes to caring for her pet.
 

A face only a pet owner could love?
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 62% of US households, or 72.9 million homes, own a pet. As one might suspect, a dog is the most popular household pet, with 46.3 million households owning one. Dogs are followed by a cat, 38.9 million; freshwater fish, 11.9 million; bird, 5.7 million; small animal, 5.0 million; reptile, 4.6 million; equine, 2.4 million; and saltwater fish, 700,000.

 
But when one looks at the data another way, freshwater fish are the most popular pets in the US, with the total number of reaching 151.1 million.The number of cats (86.4 million), topped dogs (78.2 million), which were followed by birds, 16.2 million; small animals, 16.0 million; reptiles, 13.0 million; saltwater fish, 8.61 million and equine, 7.9 million, according to APPA.
 
That’s a whole lotta fur, scales, claws and feathers, but what’s even more eye-popping is just how much owners will spend to pamper their pets. APPA predicts total US pet industry expenditures will rise more than 5% this year to nearly $51 billion. As one might suspect, food will account for the biggest portion of sales at more than $19.5 billion, followed by vet care, $14.1 billion; supplies/OTC medicine, $11.4 billion; pet services (grooming and boarding), $3.6 billion and animal purchases, $2.1 billion.

 
Taking a closer look at perennial favorite pets, APPA estimates that dog owners spend $73 a year on groomers and grooming aids, compared to $34 a year for the same products and services for their cats.

 
The EcoWellDog franchise includes products that promise to clean, calm and bathe dogs...naturally.
To take advantage of pet owners’ willingness to pamper their pets and keep them healthy, Candace Leak formed Cain & Able (named for her two dogs) in 2003 after she was unable to find an effective non-steroid treatment for her dogs’ skin problems. Her essential oil-based products contain ingredients such as lavender and eucalyptus, as well as peppermint and tea tree to soothe irritated skin.

“A dog’s skin pH is different from a human’s pH,” explained Leak. “Traditional shampoos remove dirt and oils.”

In contrast, Cain & Able’s essential oil-based formulas keep a dog’s skin healthy and non-irritated, insisted Leak. In fact, all EcoWellDog formulas do not contain SLS, synthetic perfumes, parabens or artificial colors.

“Most of our product lines are for skin ailments, which you don’t want to exacerbate by using harsh detergents,” explained Leak. “Plus, natural ingredients are better for the environment.”

Kiss Able! makes it easy to provide oral care for dogs.
Cain & Able’s Happytails’ line is segmented to meet a variety of specific conditions and needs such as itchy skin, matted and dull coat, and eye, ear & dental. There’s even a Nervous Dog solution that includes detangling leave-in conditioner and a Sleepytime herbal tonic to relax and calm.

Kiss Able! all-natural dental and oral hygiene products include toothpaste, oral spray, toothbrush and wipes. The Dirty & Hairy line of shampoos and conditioners is designed to clean outdoor dogs and protect them from bugs via its citronella-based formula.

 
Finally, Dogmaceuticals is a three-program line of canine cosmeceuticals that is intended to treat a variety of maladies including itching and odor.

Next year, EcoWellDog will launch a line of wellness products to keep dogs healthy inside and out. The launch underscores the growing demand for natural pet care products, observed Leak.

“When we started our business, natural products for dogs was still a new concept,” she recalled. “People didn’t understand why they should pay $3 more for a dog shampoo. But now, thanks to the popularity of organic farming, it requires less education and demand is growing.”

 
And with her single-income-one-dog (SIOD) family, Ellen Mackey and millions of pet owners just like her, are willing to shell out a few dollars more to keep their four-legged babies happy and healthy.

 

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