Second only to the market for technology, the pet market is booming in ways the rest of the US market for goods and services could only dream of in such an economy as ours lingers at present. Perhaps it’s not the best time, then, to invest in a powerhouse niche others are doubtless already informed of—but I prefer to take the long view on these things.

Though I have no funds available for playing the market, much less the stomach for picking individual winners and losers day trader-style, I have lots of opinions on the trends, issues and companies involved in the world of pet industry dynamics (…and dreams of where I’ll invest my future earnings if I’m ever so fortunate as to amass any wealth).

Bored though you may be by my treatment of this seemingly pet-remote issue, you, too, would do well to pay attention to the details of an industry with the power to impact your pets’ health and well-being (and your pocketbook’s).

Perhaps the more well-heeled among you can even learn to turn an interest/obsession with pets and animal health into a worthy investment opportunity—a pursuit I heartily recommend, as it may well yield dividends in your knowledge base as well as your bank account. 

To that end, I’ll detail my favorite companies, large and small, in the pet/veterinary marketplace. It may be just a small sampling but it’ll hopefully whet your appetite for undertaking your own personal investigations. (And maybe you can offer us your own picks in your comments if you have ‘em.)

Biopure: This biotech NASDAQ player was flying to the moon when its Hemopure artificial blood product (for humans) developed a few glitches. At present, we vets still rely on this company for its pet-equivalent product, Oxyglobin. Will they survive on an animal product alone? Don’t think so. But I like their R&D pipeline and their now-low stock price ($0.62 anyone?).

Vetri-Science: No one seems to have a handle on what pet owners and vets really want in their nutritional supplements like Vetri-Science. This booming sector in the “pet pharma” industry knows no bounds, with do-no-harm vitamins and supplements aimed at those of us who would spend reasonable (and sometimes, unreasonable) amounts of our discretionary income for disease prevention and wellness.

Vetri-Science, most famous as the makers of Glycoflex joint supplements, also manufacture a wide range of other supplements. The combination of quality ingredients, packaging and palatability are unparalleled in their industry, IMO.

Nutramax: Also a fave of mine for nutraceuticals (my big growth area in case you couldn’t tell), Nutramax makes excellent products with a great reputation for quality. Cosequin and Denosyl are the ones I use most.

Nutramax boasts a big share of the market which means a whole lot to vets who are loath to switch allegiances, but I do worry that their lack of attention to customer details (like safe and secure packaging) and patient needs (palatability and dosing) might see their market share eroded by the likes of Vetri-Science.

Virbac: Love Virbac products. The way they tailor their shampoos to specific skin conditions makes it easy for me to recommend their well-packaged stuff to almost any patient’s needs. My own dogs couldn’t live without their Ketochlor baths and their dental line has the only highly digestible chlorhexidine impregnated chews they’ll tolerate. Wish they would pull the Xylitol from their oral rinse, though!!

Pfizer: If I had to pick a biggie, this would be it, though Lilly runs a close second. I can't offer you my complete rationale when it comes to the big conglomerates (their human pieplines count for far more than their animal health divisions), but I can discuss it by email if you're interested. For the moment, their product lines are pretty indicative of why I would invest in these companies:

Pfizer's Serenia anti-nausea product is a godsend and their Convenia two week duration injectable antibiotic promises amazing things for small animal vet medicine. Add to that the fact that I can’t get enough of Rimadyl (and discount the Slentrol weight loss fiasco) and I’m still a big Pfizer product fan. For the most part, they “get” what we vets and our pets need.

Lilly: Love their Comfortis and their Reconcile. Never has it been easier to control fleas and administer Prozac, respectively. Their consistency in turning out products I can use to push my patients’ health forward makes them a winner.

Boehringer-Ingelheim: Again, here’s a company that’s been producing good solid products since they hit the vet scene big with their easily-dosed NSAID, Metacam. The fact that they have the only NSAID labeled for cats in the biz makes them a standout (sadly, too few companies will invest in labeling for cats). Their Vetmedin, now touted as a congestive heart failure “miracle drug” has indeed made a big splash. If they can keep it up, I’ll be buying them, too, with any luck and a little savings…

Now it’s your turn…what do you buy? (or would you buy?…and why?)