Packaging for Pets

Packaging that focuses on flexibility and convenience can help caregivers administer animal health products with precision and ease.

by Kassandra Kania, Managing Editor

In many households, animals are treated as well as—or in some cases better than—humans. It only seems fitting, then, that owners address their pets' health problems with a variety of products that reflect their status in the home. Animal healthcare products have become increasingly sophisticated, treating not only common physical ailments but also mental health. Even pet nutrition is growing in popularity—companies that manufacture nutritional supplements for humans are starting to expand their offerings to other species.

Efforts are being made to offer these products in convenient, flexible packages that help the caregiver apply them successfully to patients that are sometimes difficult to control.

Less is More

Gone are the days of using vast amounts of chemicals to treat common pet problems such as flea infestations. "When it comes to flea and tick products, we've come a long way," says Chris Jacobi, segment leader of parasiticides marketing for Bayer (Pittsburgh). "Ten years ago, it used to be flea collars and a lot of sprays and dips and shampoos, where you used a lot of product to bathe or powder these animals. But all of these products did not have long-lasting effects." Today, pet owners can effectively treat fleas and ticks with the application of a topical product such as Bayer's Kiltix, a tick control treatment for dogs that was launched in January 2001. The low product volume and unit-dose packaging make it easy for the pet owner to apply the product correctly while reducing his or her risk of exposure, explains Jacobi.

Sonic Packaging Industries designed the packaging for Bayer's Kiltix tick control treatment for dogs.

The plastic originally chosen for Kiltix's packaging was not compatible with the product, so Bayer approached Sonic Packaging Industries Inc. (Westwood, NJ) in mid-2000 for help. The company needed a unit-dose package that would allow the veterinarian the flexibility to tailor the course of treatment to the individual patient. Each ampule is packaged in its own blister, with its own patient insert. "We had to put a full package insert with each ampule because the package is designed to be potentially dispensed one ampule at a time," explains Jacobi. The blister cards are then packaged in cartons of 12 with each card containing four blisters. Perforations between each blister allow the veterinarian to separate the ampules, giving the patient only the amount of product needed. "One client may require only one or two months' worth, and the next person might need three or four," says Jacobi, "so it's very flexible packaging."

Instead of using different sized ampules for dogs of different weights, two ampules can be applied instead of one for dogs weighing more than 33 lb. This helps address another important consideration in the veterinary clinic: that of limited storage space. "It makes it easy for the vet from an inventory standpoint," says Jacobi. "They just have to order one box that fits all needs in terms of the size of dog and also duration of use."

Bayer also wanted a package that would provide good directional control when dispensing the product. "The unit-dose ampule packs are becoming more and more popular for pets because you're challenged to control the pet while you're applying the treatment," says Howard Thau, Sonic Packaging's president. "Anything you can do to make it easier to apply with one hand is beneficial." The tip of the ampule is perforated for easy opening, allowing the product to be easily dispensed down the dog's back. "The ampule has a tapered spout, and it's very narrow and flat, so it has a controlled directional flow," explains Thau.

Compliant Pets

Sonic Packaging Industries designed the packaging for Bayer’s Kiltix tick control treatment for dogs.

In most cases, animal health products are dispensed at a veterinary clinic and administered by pet owners in their homes rather than by the vet in a clinic. As a result, packaging that encourages compliance is common in the industry. "Compliance is important in animal health packaging," says Dick Nelson, account executive for Sharp (Conshohocken, PA), "and the carded blister provides that function."

Don Huggins, senior vice president of sales and marketing for PCI Services (Philadelphia), agrees that blister packaging is predominant in the industry. "There has been a trend in the animal health industry to design packaging that will be more user-friendly and help enforce drug therapy compliance," he says. PCI packages animal health products for a variety of companies, including Novartis (Greensboro, NC), the maker of Interceptor and Sentinel tablets for the prevention of heartworms. Each blister card contains six tablets in a carton or a wallet pack. A sheet of stickers is included with the product so the person administering the tablet can place a sticker on a calendar as a reminder for the next treatment.

Sharp provides a similar carded blister pack for Fort Dodge Animal Health's (Overland Park, KS) heartworm treatment product, ProHeart. "The month is printed on the blisters," explains Nelson, "and the blisters are placed into a wallet and sealed. In addition, we have a number of inserts—a patient insert and a reminder sheet with calendar stickers—and on the card itself there is an adhesive sticker with lot and expiration date, which the vet removes and sticks in his book as a record of treatment."

In addition to designing packages that promote compliance and are easy to use, customers want packages that appeal to consumers. "The vet serves as the pharmacy for these products," says Nelson. "Like any package, customers are looking for product protection as well as an upscale presentation that stands out in the vet's office against the competition."

Conclusion

Although there is a large domestic market for packaging animal health products for livestock, Nelson points out that the growth of the animal health market is focused on domestic animals because people are willing to pay more for the treatment and well-being of their pets. "People have very close emotional attachments to their animals, and they treat them like a member of the family," he says, "so we are seeing products such as antianxiety and antiinflammatory drugs to treat joint discomfort in aging dogs."

The packaging for these products continues to focus on making it easier for the owner to administer the drug to the pet by promoting compliance as well as offering products in convenient unit-dose packages. John Snedden, president of Unicep (Sandpoint, ID) concurs: "In the last two or three years, we've seen an increased interest in packaging primarily products for cats and dogs. The packaging for flea and tick products and a variety of animal ailments has exploded, and if you read about how much people are now spending on their dogs and the kinds of elective procedures that vets are performing, it looks like unit-dose and specialty packaging for vets is going to be a good market in the next four or five years."

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