The Truth About Cats, They Are A Hot Growth Area In Animal Health

Cats are different.

Just ask Jane Wojick, a pet lover who runs a pottery business in Westwood, Mass. Currently a rescue-dog owner, Wojick and her family have had two cats over the years. One of them had a cancerous lesion removed, as well as most of her teeth. “I don’t recall her ever showing any signs of pain,” Wojick recalls.

For that reason, diseases in cats are considered harder to diagnose than in dogs. “Cats, unlike most dogs, can tolerate severe orthopedic disease due to their small size and natural agility,” says Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

And cats don’t like taking chewable pills, an increasingly popular option for dogs.

“When a typical vet says to a cat owner that you have to give this pill once or twice a day, most people know in the back of their mind that the cat’s probably not getting that pill,” says Marc Levine, a longtime veterinarian who runs a practice in South Orange, N.J.

While few pain drugs are available for cats, “there are a slew of nonsteroid anti-inflammatories” for dogs, he says.

They include Galliprant, which Elanco Animal Health (ticker: ELAN) introduced in 2017, and Rimadyl, a Zoetis (ZTS) drug that was rolled out in 1997. A pain reliever and anti-inflammatory for cats and dogs is Elanco’s Onsior.

Cats offer a big opportunity for new products and sales. John Kreger, an analyst at William Blair, estimates that dogs account for 75% of all veterinary visits.

Because it’s harder to get cats to swallow pills, “injectables in cats is the holy grail,” says Kristin Peck, head of U.S. operations at Zoetis. Pet owners “would find a way to bring their cat in if they thought it would be something that would truly make a difference in their cat’s life.”

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Injectable drugs aren’t the only solution for cats, and there is plenty of research and development focused on the species.

Kindred Biosciences (KIN), an animal-health biotechnology company, has one product on the market, Mirataz, whose sales totaled about $2 million last year following its launch in July of 2018. It treats cats with unintended weight loss, and it’s applied topically to the cat’s inner ear.

Levine, the veterinarian, says he would like to see more medicines for cats that can be applied to the skin or injected.

One is Convenia, an anti-infective launched by Zoetis in 2006 that treats common bacterial skin infections in dogs and cats. It’s injected, and it lasts for up to two weeks.

For the industry, developing more feline drugs would be the cat’s meow.

Write to Lawrence C. Strauss at lawrence.strauss@barrons.com

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