Emerging Market for Products for Disabled and Elderly Pets

Yesterday I interviewed Jeanie Kraft, a pet acupuncturist for my soon to be released Secrets of Pet Business Success Audio interview series. In our discussion Jeanie mentioned that she is seeing growth in her pet therapy business as owners are looking for alternative ways to relieve pain in their pets that suffer from chronic diseases and allergies.  These owners want the lives of their animals to be as comfortable as possible in their later years.

An article that I found today in the Huntington Post reminded me of this conversation and really brought home that the disabled pet market is one where many opportunities exists for new products and pet service businesses. The Post article highlights the growing willingness of pet parents to spend money on their disabled and elderly pets to ensure their quality of life. Here is an excerpt:

A growing number of pet owners are turning to custom-built wheelchairs to restore mobility to furry friends whose legs, hips or backs don’t work. The owners’ goals are simple: to reward their pets’ unconditional love with whatever it takes for the animals to live normally. The two-wheel carts support the dog’s midsection with a padded saddle, and are secured with a shoulder yoke and chest strap. Most dogs have rear-wheel carts to compensate for lame hind legs, though a growing number of front-wheel carts are being ordered for animals with front-leg problems. Donna Blain’s 7-year-old Maltese named Gizmo hopped and hobbled on his deformed front legs before she adopted him a year ago. She ordered his cart after learning the odd gait had damaged his spine and would have required surgery. Now he wheels himself around for hours on sidewalks, in parks and anywhere he can find treats and praise. “He’s into everything,” said Blain, of Woodstock, Conn. “He just wants to live, after all those years of really hobbling and not being able to get where he wanted to be.” Eddie and Leslie Grinnell, founders of Eddie’s Wheels, built their first pet wheelchair in 1989 when their 10-year-old Doberman, Buddha, lost the use of her rear legs because of disc disease and spinal problems. Their veterinarian, impressed by Buddha’s revived mobility and vitality, started referring others to the Grinnells. In 1998, they started their own business. Similar wheelchair makers can be found in Montana, Maryland, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere. Most dog carts start around $250 and can exceed $500 based on the size of the dog, while the cost of wheelchairs for other animals can vary depending on the type and size of animal. Since launching the business, Eddie’s Wheels has shipped carts worldwide _ the largest to a 220-pound Saint Bernard in Great Britain _ and has made wheelchairs for several cats, a ferret, alpacas, goats, sheep, a rabbit and a possum. They even keep a supply of tiny wheels on hand for a gerbil or hamster. Veterinarian Derek Fox, a University of Missouri professor specializing in orthopedic surgery for dogs, cats and other small animals, said pets that once would have been irreversibly crippled are benefiting from a variety of advancements: improved hip and joint replacements, better physical therapy and wheelchairs. “Even if a treatment is expensive, these are people who say they’ll do anything to keep their pet moving, to keep them happy, to keep their quality of life up,” he said.

I think that this trend is one that is here to stay and I hope that the growing consumer need will inspire the creation of many new products that will improve the lives of our pets.

How can you tailor the services that you provide in your business to disabled and elderly pets? Perhaps you can create a special package where you can combine massage, regular exercise, or other therapies into your visits or consultations and market them to pet owners. You could also offer a selection of products for disabled pets or add a page to your website giving information about the special needs of elderly pets.

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