For expert advice about what pet owners are looking for—and how retailers can help, NFM went to Boulder, Colo.-based Robert Silver, DVM, who has been practicing holistic veterinary medicine for more than 25 years, and Shawn Messonnier, DVM, author of The Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats (Three Rivers Press, 2001).
NFM: What are the top concerns people have about their pets right now?
RS: In my type of practice, we have a lot of people looking for wellness. They’re concerned about too many vaccinations and are really concerned with the pet food recalls. I see quite a bit of food and inhalant allergies, as well as chronic issues with bowels—like soft stools or diarrhea. I also see lots of reactions to foods and changes in foods. And pain from arthritis, whether it’s from age or sports injuries. I’ve also seen quite a bit of cancer and internal issues, like kidney disease.
NFM: Have you seen any shifts in the way people perceive their pets or how they’re taking care of them?
RS: They think of pets as their family and are looking for the same kinds of targeted products as they would buy their family as far as supplements.
NFM: What are the big issues facing the pet industry right now—after the food-safety scares of the past couple of years?
SM: Helping owners select the best food and being able to respond to the needs of pet owners who want more natural pet care products.
NFM: What do you think about the raw diet?
SM: Some vets are concerned with contamination, but from what I’ve seen, it’s rare. It’s not as risky as some vets make it out to be. I’ve seen frozen raw meals for cats produce wonderful benefits. Many of these products are great—well-researched and minimally processed.
NFM: Any advice for retailers looking to stock the highest quality pet products?
SM: Work with a holistic veterinarian to find the correct and best assortment of products. Have the veterinarian educate the staff. Education is critical in order to maximize sales.