Pet offerings at Kroger now include medications

Kroger is now offering prescription medications for your four-legged friends at its pharmacies nationwide, including all 14 in Lexington.

"We can provide that extra service of filling pet prescriptons, save customers an additional trip and lower their overall costs," said René Kendrick, pharmacy sales manager of Kroger's Mid-South Division.

Many pet medications are included in Kroger's $4 generic drug program, added Marla Fielder, assistant director of pharmacy in Kroger's Southwest division.

While other pharmacies offer drugs for pets that are also used by humans, such as blood pressure medicine, Kroger is among the relative few selling pet-only medications such as Baytril, a broad spectrum antibiotic for cats and dogs, and Rimadyl, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for dogs.

Once mainly restricted to veterinarians, the selling of prescription pet medications by retailers such as Kroger represents a significant change in the animal health industry, said Bob Fountain, president and CEO of Fountain Agricounsel, a management consulting firm for agribusiness and animal health industries.

The U.S. animal health industry generates about $4 billion in sales of packaged pharmaceuticals and vaccines annually, he said. Traditionally, vets have marked up their pet medication prices by as much as 100 percent, he said, but in a still less-than-robust economy, many pet owners are looking for lower prices.

There is also a growing market for animal health products via the Internet, he noted. Online companies such as PetMed Express and Drs. Foster and Smith sell prescribed pet medications once they receive copies of veterinarians' prescriptions.

Kroger's offering of vet-prescribed pet drugs "is a natural extension of what's been going on in the industry," said Fountain, who noted that many retailers, including mass market, drug and pet stores as well as grocery chains, are selling more and more over-the-counter pet medications such as flea and tick treatments. Kendrick said Kroger's move came as the company has expanded its pet offerings elsewhere in stores.

While Kroger offers a full range of medications, there are other pet drugs that consumers might be able to find only at their vets, Fielder said: "It's wise for pet owners to ask their vet if they're able to purchase the prescribed medication at a retail pharmacy."