Would your dog take its medicine if it tasted like bacon? Now may be the time to try.
Winn-Dixie is jumping into a growing pack of grocery stores with pharmacies that will fill prescriptions for pets, and even flavor the drugs — adding yet another perk in the blossoming pet-care economy.
"Before, what we were selling for pets were so-called crossover drugs," said Mike LeBlanc, director of pharmacy business development at Winn-Dixie. Those included drugs originally designed for humans, but veterinarians could prescribe in different doses for animals, such as basic antibiotics, or even more exotic drugs such asPhenobarbital to help control seizures.
Now Winn-Dixie is partnering with Center Pet Pharmacies to fill prescriptions for crossover medicines, plus those specifically designed or formulated for pets. For owners who struggle to push pills or fluids down their dog or cat's throats, there's help from a few new flavors, bacon, cheese and chicken, LeBlanc said.
That flavor may add somewhere between $5 and $15, depending on the drug and flavor, and depending on availability; some drugs may take a day or two to fill, though others may be in stock for same-day pickup.
Add that to the sizeable cost for some drugs, which can start as low as $10 to $20 a month, but reach $80 to $100 for more complex drugs that target heartworms and other ailments.
There's plenty of competition in drugs for animals. More than two years ago, Target jumped into the pet medicine market under a special program called PetRX. Both Sweetbay and Publix now sell crossover medications for animals. Publix specifically offers several antibiotics for free — just as the store does for people.
Officials with 1-800-PetMeds estimate that Americans spend $4 billion a year on pet medications, with veterinarians collecting a 65 percent share, brick-and-mortar stores about 25 percent and 12 percent split among others, such as online vendors. Last year, 1-800-PetMeds booked $231.6 million in revenue.
"We're seeing any number of supermarkets jump into the space," said Bruce Rosenbloom, chief financial officer of 1-800-PetMeds, who notes they can do flavored medicines, too, while also using an in-house staff to handle details, such as calling the vet to verify prescriptions and follow-up on refills.