Up until relatively recently, looking after your pet meant simply feeding them, walking them, and taking them to the vet when they experienced a health issue.
Now, however, attitudes are changing, especially among younger generations, who are more likely to see their furry friends as a member of the family and less like something to be owned.
Jump straight to the relevant section or read on for the full details on starting a holistic pet care business.
- Why start a holistic pet care business?
- Holistic pet care growth trends
- Business opportunities for holistic pet care
- Who else has started a holistic pet care business?
- Small business expert opinion
In line with a massive increase in pet ownership during the enforced isolation of the pandemic (peaking at 62 per cent of households in 2022 compared to 47 per cent in 2012) was a growing trend towards the humanisation of our pets.
From the consumer perspective, this has had two effects. Firstly, it means owners are willing to spend more on pet care.
Indeed, consumer spending on pets and related products in the UK grew by a bark-inducing 182 per cent between 2005 and 2022, when it hit £9.89 million.
Secondly, it means owners are considering a wider range of remedies, treatments, and diets for their pets, with a view to proactively improving their overall health and wellbeing, and prioritising preventative, rather than just reactive, care.
From pet massage to supplements and more, the holistic pet care space offers a goldmine of opportunities for entrepreneurs with a fondness for furry friends.
Why is starting a holistic pet care business a good business idea?
Let’s start with one of the key drivers: the humanisation of pets. It’s not a new trend, but it has accelerated recently. Why? A rise in single person households, empty nesters, and people not having kids, alongside an ageing population and growth in ownership among Millennial and Gen Z (who have a more nurturing attitude to pets), have all contributed to a shift towards seeing pets as members of the family. According to Statista research from 2022, almost 50 per cent of cat and dog owners in the UK said their pet is best described as a member of the family, with only 6 per cent perceiving them as “just a pet”.
With humanisation comes a desire to treat our pets in the same way we would any member of the family. For example, owners are becoming more interested in the provenance of the ingredients and the health indicators of the products they buy for their pets. They’re also increasingly looking beyond the boundaries of conventional veterinary care, and exploring the benefits of natural remedies, as well as complementary therapies for the mental (as well as physical) wellbeing of their beloved animals.
In response, more manufacturers are using natural and herbal ingredients, and owners are prepared to spend more on their pets, who are living longer and longer lives, and require more ongoing care. According to Mintel’s How Pets Impact Our Health, And How We Impact Theirs from September 2023, 51 per cent of pet food launches in 2022 featured a natural category claim, an all-time high. Likewise, 60 per cent of UK pet owners decide whether to purchase pet food based on how healthy it is.
Yasmin El-Saie, a London-based Canine Reiki Practioner & Holistic Dog Anxiety Expert says: “I feel that people are realising that the shift towards holistic care for us humans shouldn’t stop there – our pets can also benefit from a more in-tune with nature approach to living and caring. We are all living beings, and in our Western society, our pets are our family.”
The big focus here is on preventative healthcare. Rather than just waiting until their pets become unwell and then taking them to the vet, owners use a holistic healthcare approach to avoid having to take them in the first place, with a focus on support for digestive, immune and respiratory systems, as well as alleviating stress and anxiety. The other advantage of natural treatments is that they’re less likely to have the unpleasant side effects of synthetic medication.
Holistic pet care growth trends
In 2022, the global pet herbal supplements market size was valued at $808.5 million. Between 2023 and 2030, it’s projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.4 per cent to $1.77 billion. While multivitamins and minerals currently dominate the market (29.5 per cent in 2022), CBD is expected to experience the fastest growth (11 per cent). CBD is said to support cerebral stimulation, reduce boredom, and ease anxiety to keep pets happy and satisfied even when in environments that would normally cause them anxiety. Other key areas of growth are omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics and prebiotics, and proteins and peptides.
As well as nutrition, owners are looking to other kinds of complementary care to improve the physical health of their pets. A report from Dataintelo found that the pet massager market (that’s massage tools used by owners on their pets) is set to grow by a CAGR of 11 per cent between 2021 and 2028. A peer-reviewed 2021 study into the effect of massage therapy on pain and quality of life in dogs found significant reductions in reported pain severity scores for five indicators: gait, posture, daily activity, behaviour, performance.
What holistic pet care business idea opportunities are there?
Business opportunities in the holistic pet care space can be broken down into products and services.
As we’ve seen, product categories like multivitamins, CBD, and health supplements are booming, and could prove lucrative for new market entrants, provided you have something suitably unique. If this is a market that interests you, know that supplements administered as gummies or chewables are the best performers, with a 32 per cent revenue share in 2022. That’s because animals instinctively chew, whereas many find it hard to consume tablets or capsules. You could also explore gels, jellies and pills, which are easy to mix into pet food or drinks.
Personalisation has been a big trend in the pet nutrition and supplement sector in recent years, with things like food, vitamins, and probiotics tailored to the age, breed, and lifestyle of the animal, which is said to be more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach. Introducing an element of personalisation could be essential for keeping pace with, if not beating, the competition.
Remember that supplements fall under pet food regulations, which are overseen by the Food Standards Agency. Any supplement you manufacture or sell must not contain prohibited ingredients, must be clearly labelled, and must abide by restrictions around claims in marketing. Additionally, there are currently no CBD-based products that have been granted authorisation by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and owners must have permission from their vet before giving CBD to their pet.
If you want a less onerous regulatory environment to contend with, you could set up an ecommerce operation for pet-focused remedies, products, and supplements. While offline/store-based purchase still accounted for the majority of the market, ecommerce is a thriving channel, especially for pet supplements.
The other option in the holistic pet care sector is to start a service, such as a dog massage business. While you don’t need a qualification, we’d always advise taking a course if you want to provide professional dog massage services (cat massage seems to be practised only by vets and pet owners at home). The Canine Massage Level 3 Diploma (RQF) is an Ofqual regulated course that will give you all the skills and knowledge you need to practise. We’d also recommend joining the Association of Complementary Animal Therapies (ACAT), which will lend you credibility as a practitioner to owners.
Who else has started a holistic pet care business recently?
Yasmin El-Saie has started Chilliwawa, which offers 30-60 minute Reiki sessions for dogs and their owners. Reiki is an NHS-recognised complementary therapy that can enhance healing, wellbeing, and reduce anxiety. According to Yasmin: “I believe it’s similar to the benefit to humans: less chemical medication, more natural healing working with the body, seeing the living being as a system rather than an isolated ‘disease’ so we can balance and equilibrate the system rather than just treat symptoms.”
On the product side, OxyPet is the business helping to boost pet health via the power of oxygen. Founded in 2022, OxyPet is spring water that’s infused with 700 per cent more oxygen, in the form of oxygen nanobubbles, than tap or bottled water, which claims to improve digestion and waste removal, maintain blood health, and strengthen the immune system.
Small business expert opinion
Dr. Sara Ochoa, a professional veterinarian and contributor to Hound Games, says:
“More and more pet parents these days want natural wellness options to keep their furry friends happy and healthy. Massage, herbal remedies, acupuncture – these gentle, drug-free therapies can work wonders for reducing a pet’s anxiety, pain, and stress. I’ve seen holistic care improve countless pets’ quality of life. It warms my heart!
“For any business looking to enter this space, expertise and care are key. Do your homework to fully understand animal health and different holistic approaches. Develop services and products specifically for pets, using high-quality ingredients. Build a brand that pet lovers can trust. Stay on top of consumer trends and evolve accordingly.
“The pet industry will undoubtedly keep growing. To me, holistic pet care presents such an exciting opportunity in 2024 and beyond. There’s so much potential to care for our pets in natural, wholesome ways. I can’t wait to see companies succeed in this market and make a difference for pets.”