How ‘going green’ impacts veterinarians

Many people are expressing a desire to use more sustainable and environmentally friendly pet products

Pets are increasingly considered members of the family. Many people are expressing a desire to use more sustainable and environmentally pet products.
Pets are increasingly considered members of the family. Many people are expressing a desire to use more sustainable and environmentally friendly pet products.

Over the years, we have seen many of our clients opting for an eco-conscience lifestyle, both for humans and their animals. From nutrition and supplies to pharmacologic treatments and sustainability practices, we are all continuing to learn and educate each other on how we impact the environment.

It is evident the demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable products is not a trend and continues to rise. Integrating this philosophy into your practice is another way to provide care for patients.

“Looking at natural options aligns with our desire to treat animals in the best way possible,” says Craig Clifford, DVM, MS, DACVIM (oncology).

Naturally growing demand

Since the COVID-19 lockdown, there has been a surge in pet ownership. In fact, there are more pet-owning households than there are those with children. According to a 2022 Forbes article,1 generation Z and millennials make up approximately 62 percent of pet households2 (with the majority owning canines) and are driving the demand for natural products for their pets. They are so dedicated to the health of their pets they are willing to set aside funds to care for them—approximately $1,480 annually—and even accumulate debt to do so.

A recent article from the American Kennel Club3 shows the pet products market has increased 35 percent in recent years, with 7.6 percent growth anticipated by 2027.4 Spending on plant-based and sustainable products will be part of that growth. Not only will knowledge of this philosophy increase your ability to discuss natural options for your patient, implementing them into your practice can positively impact your bottom line.

Since the idea of “going green” can vary from person to person and practice to practice, it is good to know the terms and definitions that are important to your clients. Some of the most popular eco-based terms and their definitions are:

Environmentally or eco-friendly: Not environmentally harmful

Sustainability: A method of harvesting, or using a resource so the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged

Social sustainability: A lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods; also working with local communities on the preservation of plant products that then provide financial benefits

Plant-based: Consists of all minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, and spices, and excludes all animal products, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products

Biodegradable: Capable of being broken down especially into innocuous products by the action of living things (such as microorganisms)

Natural: Naturally occurring compounds that are end products of secondary metabolisms; they are often unique compounds
for particular organisms or classes of organisms

Holistic: Relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts

Organic: Avoiding chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides

Nontoxic: Materials free of substances that may render the product injurious to health or may adversely affect the flavor, odor, composition or bacteriological quality of the product, and meet the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFD&CA) as amended

Working with your representatives can also help you learn more about natural product options. Understanding the terms and definitions important to sustainability will make it easier to approach your vendor with insightful questions, shortening your time with them and freeing up your valuable schedule

Green revenue builder

With demand on the rise, veterinary practices presenting viable natural options to their patients are more likely to see more clients than those who do not. Your clients will be looking for holistic options for treatment regimens, natural diets, and pharmaceuticals, so a veterinarian who can be an expert on these options is likely to be sought out.

An AVMA journal on Awareness and Evaluation of Natural Pet Food Products in the United States5 cites incorporating eco-friendly options into your practice can attract clients who share the same belief. If natural products and sustainability are important to your client, they will look for a veterinary clinic that reflects their lifestyle, increasing your client base and generating additional revenue.

A member of the family

For many Americans, humanizing pets has become the norm. More of your clients see their pets as part of the family and want to provide their pets with human-like products, experiences and care. A recent report from SPINS in PetPedia6 shows that approximately 50 percent of canine clients and about a third of cat clients celebrate a pet’s birthday with a treat, gift or party, while 40 percent of canine clients and 25 percent of feline clients bought clothing for their pets in 2020.

Natural dietary considerations

Your clients want to make sure their pets are happy and healthy, and focusing on their pets’ nutrition is very important. For example, in dog food and supplement purchases alone, Americans spent approximately $42 billion in 2021. In a 2020 DSM survey,7 69 percent were more likely to purchase pet food offering optimal levels of vitamins and nutrients to help boost pets’ immunity and keep them protected.

For many, good nutrition means high-quality foods with no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, added hormones, or antibiotics. This quality can come in plant-based, eco-friendly products.

In fact, a 2022 article in PetKeen8 says more than half of your clients are willing to pay more for eco-friendly pet care products because they do not want to fill their dogs with fillers and other by-products offering no nutritional value.

As veterinarians see clients inquiring more about natural foods and products, they realize offering botanical options for health, wellness, and treatments are important.

Pharmaceuticals

The most recent natural product demand is in pet pharmaceuticals. Just as plant-based, environmentally friendly and sustainably-harvested foods are important to many of your clients, they are similarly demanding botanical ingredients in pet medications.

They want medicines without toxic chemicals, synthetic ingredients, or chemical preservatives, as well as complementary natural treatments and therapy options. When plant-based pharmaceuticals and holistic options can work better than their chemical or artificially created counterparts, it is especially desired.

Some products containing artificial ingredients can cause odd side effects that are often worse than the condition the product was intended to treat. Oftentimes, synthetic medication can be too harsh for the pet, which adversely impacts compliance.

Plant-based and environmentally friendly options can contribute to natural relief, allowing continued treatment, a shorter recovery time, reduced cost, and improved quality of life for canine patients and your clients.

“The option to integrate natural products that are sustainably harvested in our practice gives us more flexibility when treating our patients. Especially as clients become increasingly educated on the importance of these aspects, and their demand grows,” adds Dr. Clifford. 

Plant-based medicine alternatives

An example of a plant-based, sustainably harvested pet pharmaceutical is a new FDA conditionally approved product for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced diarrhea (CID) in canines. This new product contains crofelemer, a natural ingredient derived from the Croton lechleri tree in South America.

Its antidiarrheal properties and minimal absorption in the bloodstream give patients a plant-based, nontoxic, nonopioid option for treating CID. It is typically well-tolerated, allowing continued treatment and providing a better quality of life for the dog.

To date, two botanical products have been approved by the FDA as a botanical drug product (crofelemer and sinecatechins). Both botanical drug products have been approved for marketing as prescription drugs.

Accessories

Plant-based and sustainable products, such as those containing hemp, that are not ingested or used topically are also gaining traction. Clients have expressed a desire to use more sustainable pet accessories safe for the environment as well as the pets. Items like leashes and “poop bags” are now made of natural and sustainable material.

Hemp’s strength and durability make it a great product for leashes and collars. Eco-friendly cleaning products are effective and safe for pets. Plant-based toys remove the unnecessary exposure to harsh chemicals. The popularity of these types of products is increasing because they are chemical-free, nontoxic, sustainable, and biodegradable. 

Big picture shows big impact

According to a recent survey,10 clients desire responsible, environmentally friendly products supporting their natural lifestyle, as well as local communities and cultures around the world.

A sustainable-harvesting plan develops an organized, methodical way of planting, harvesting and replacing harvested items, like trees, with one or more of the same kinds of tree. This routine ensures a particular species of tree will not die out, allowing it to maintain the beauty of the environment, as well as any medicinal properties it provides.

Because these communities are thriving, they can continue to share and teach important history and rituals about their community to the children, breathing life into their culture. Many indigenous communities continue to seek sustainable forms of income to support their family’s health and well-being.

A natural way of looking at treatment

Biocultural diversity, plant-based products and sustainability provide a holistic view for practitioners and their clients via the cultures and ecosystems around the world.

Veterinarians who become experts in this philosophy can educate a growing demographic who are eager for natural options. A veterinary clinic that incorporates this ideology into its practice can expect a growing client base that wants to support green businesses.  

Michael K. Guy, DVM, MS, PhD, works on the research and development of plant-based medicines for Jaguar Animal Health.

References

  1. Kestenbaum, R. (2021, December 10). The Biggest Trends In The Pet Industry. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardkestenbaum/2018/11/27/
    the-biggest-trends-in-the-pet-industry/?sh=23d3ef2cf099
  2. Sprinkle, D. (2016, March 23). How millennial pet owners are changing
    the industry. PetfoodIndustry.com. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/5689-how-millennial-pet-owners-are-changing-the-industry?v=preview
  3. Meyers, H. (2021, September 29). Current Trends in Pet Spending 2021–2022. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/current-trends-pet-spending-2021-2022/
  4. Pet Accessories Market Size 2022-Application, Trends, Growth, Opportunities. (2022, March 29). MarketWatch. https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/pet-accessories-market-size-2022-application-trends-growth-opportunities-2022-03-29?tesla=y
  5. Carter, R. A., Bauer, J. E., Kersey, J. H., Buff, P. R. (2014). Awareness and evaluation of natural pet food products in the United States. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 245(11), 1241–1248. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.245.11.1241
  6. Puac, S. (2022, February 18). 22 Fascinating Pet Industry Statistics & Facts (2022 UPDATE). Petpedia. https://petpedia.co/pet-industry-statistics/
  7. DSM surveys 500 dog and cat owners on importance of pet nutrition. (2020, August 25). PetfoodIndustry.Com. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/9522-dsm-surveys-500-dog-and-cat-owners-on-importance-of-pet-nutrition
  8. Eby, D. (2022, April 21). Pet Industry Statistics 2022: Facts & Trends on the $180 Billion Pet Market. Pet Keen. https://petkeen.com/pet-industry-statistics-trends/
  9. Sheehy, O., Santos, F., Ferreira, E., Bérard, A. (2015). The Use of Metronidazole During Pregnancy: A Review of Evidence. Current Drug Safety, 10(2), 170–179. https://doi.org/10.2174/157488631002150515124548
  10. Rubio, D. P. (2022, February 11). How sustainably-conscious are pet parents? Global Pets. https://globalpetindustry.com/article/survey-results-how-sustainability-conscious-are-pet-parents

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