We love our pets. We love them so much, in fact, that in the United States alone, we spend a Great Dane — size $45 billion on feeding, healing, and equipping them each year. (That's about equal to the beauty industry.) While some products designed for animalia seem silly, others involve potentially significant science that could make a difference to the master as well as the pet. All are part of a sector that, even in this recession, has had plenty of bite — especially out of our wallets: Sales are expected to rise 5% this year. Woof.
1 | Location tech
PAW SpotLight GPS Pet Locator
Your cell phone can be a tracking device with this service ($250 plus $20 a month). If your dog — who has to wear a business-card-size device — exits one of the zones you've designated, a text message is sent to your phone. Live-updating turn-by-turn directions for finding the pooch will then be available on the phone. Or you can call AKC CAR, a 24/7 recovery service that has teamed with PAW.
2 | Stem cells
This pet stem-cell therapy ($2,500+) was meant for horses, but most patients are dogs and cats. The cells, drawn from the animal's own fat in a method not yet approved for human use in the U.S., are injected at the site of an injury — usually a ligament, tendon, or joint ailment. If it works, the pet can be back to its old self in weeks. "It's the dog's own cells," says CEO Robert Harman. "The patients help themselves."
3 | Pharmaceuticals
Palladia anticancer medication
Cancer is the top cause of canine death; according to Pfizer, 1.2 million new cases are reported in the U.S. every year. The oral drug Palladia — the first FDA-approved cancer therapy for dogs — targets mast-cell tumors, the second-most-common type of malignant tumor in canines. In trials, 60% of dogs on Palladia saw their tumors disappear, shrink, or stop growing.
4 | Genetics
Wisdom Panel MX DNA test
Half of U.S. dogs are mutts. So what's yours made of? The Wisdom Panel claims it can tell you, using a blood sample taken by your vet and genetic data it has collected on some 150 breeds ($125 plus vet fees).
5 | Homeopathy
HomeoPet anti-anxiety potions
Owners of wound-up pets will try nearly anything to calm them. If you buy into homeo-pathy, then HomeoPet suggests spiking the animal's water with its anti-anxiety formula, which contains chamo-mile and valerian ($17.50 for one ounce). Other mixes target fear of noises and travel stress.
6 | Food
Purina One Vibrant Maturity 7+ Senior Formula
Think of Purina's newly remixed formula as dog food with a Geritol boost. The chow ($45 for a 34-pound bag) now includes botanical oils that the company says can increase brain function in older dogs — and could work for people too.
7 | Hygiene
Dog Gone Smart's odor-repelling bed
Let's be honest: Pets can stink. Dog Gone Smart's pet beds ($25 to $160) use Nano-Sphere, a finish that repels oils, dirt, and liquids, and inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
8 | Fitness
Yes, a treadmill. For your dog. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that nearly 40% of U.S. dogs are overweight. Keeping him on this machine from PetZen ($500 to $900) may be workout enough for both dog and master.
9 | Travel
When the world's first pet-only airline (average flight: $250) started taking bookings in April, demand was so high that its server crashed multiple times. The market is huge: 76 million pets fly each year, mostly crated in the hold. Cofounder Alysa Binder says the airline was inspired by the problems she and husband Dan had while traveling with pup Zoe. Says Binder: "I've never gotten so many God- bless-you's in my life!"
10 | Transportation
Pet Teek Pet Carrier
Poor kitty. After a full day of lounging, she's too tired to walk. Good thing Pet Teek offers this cotton wrap ($53), which forms a carrying pouch. It holds up to 25 pounds, and lets your pet stay close while you carry on with two free hands.
11 | Sanitation
Doggie Doo Drain
If you could teach Fido to do his business in this waste-disposal system ($45), you'd be set. It hooks into your sewer or septic clean-out. Drop in your pet's poop — despite the name, the gadget doesn't discriminate by species — and flush it right down the drain.
12 | Luggage
Ever wish your mala-mute were a mule? With this backpack ($50 to $80), "he can carry all of his stuff and mine now," brags one owner on EzyDog's Web site. Two messenger pouches sit on either side of the dog while a chest harness keeps them in place. Carry on, pup.
13 | Aquatics
Portage Float Coat
Most canines swim well without lessons, but in case you're worried about your doggie's paddling, this Ruffwear vest ($50) is designed to keep your best friend afloat.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.