Veterinarians outselling online retailers when it comes to pet meds—but not for long

2019-8-21 iStock-95509587 Pet Meds Report - blog.jpg

The battle is on for control of the pet medications market—which recorded $9 billion in sales last year—but for the moment, it’s pretty one-sided in favor of veterinarians.

Historically, veterinary hospitals have dominated the pet medications market, and they continued to do so last year, accounting for 74% of total sales—in large part because many pet medications (such as vaccines) are administered by veterinarians.

That’s according to the 2019 report from market research firm Packaged Facts, Pet Medications in the US, Sixth Edition.

That might seem like a significant jump over their 2017 report, which concluded that veterinary hospitals account for 62% of sales, but an analyst for Packaged Facts said it’s not because veterinarians have suddenly gotten better at pushing product—rather, the new report contains “more accurate information for other [sales] channels.”

The analyst said that new and improved information includes much lower sales levels for pet-specialty stores and mass retailers: “Online sales of pet medications continue to advance at the expense of veterinarians, who also continue to face encroachment from brick-and-mortar retailers, including Walmart.”

Online sales currently account for 15% of pet medication sales, and Packaged Facts estimates that share will hit 20% by 2022.

According to the survey, the $9 billion in US retail sales in 2018 includes sales through veterinary hospitals, brick-and-mortar stores, and online retailers. That’s up from $8.55 billion in 2017 and represents a continuing upward trend—the pet medications market has had a compound annual growth rate of 8.3% over the past five years.

Although pet cats outnumber pet dogs in the US (94.2 million to 89.7 million), dogs account for the majority of pet medication sales at nearly $7 billion (77%), with sales of cat medications coming in a distant second at approximately $2 billion (23%).

Share of sales by product type

Parasiticides (which include flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, and other dewormer medications) have the largest market share with 42% of sales. Within that market segment, prescription products, sold mainly through veterinary hospitals or online, account for 73% of total sales, with over-the-counter products making up the remaining 27%.

Flea- and tick-prevention products account for about half of the market.

Despite growing pressure from online retailers in the pet medication arena, veterinarians can take comfort in this statistic: Packaged Facts surveys indicate that pet owners continue to rely primarily on veterinarians for advice about pet medications: 71% of the dog and cat owners surveyed agreed that “the most important consideration when buying pet medications is medical advice from a veterinarian.”