Walmart puts its best paw forward

Walmart launches its first-ever online pet pharmacy,

Walmart is looking to get a bigger share of the estimated $75 billion that U.S. consumers are expected to spend on their pets this year.

The discount giant will give PetSmart’s and other rivals competition with the launch of its first-ever online pet pharmacy,

The retailer is also adding more in-store veterinary clinics. Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, which currently operates 21 vet clinics in its stores across six states, plans to expand the total to 100 during the next 12 months. The in-store clinics offer vaccines, exams and treatment for minor illnesses, with savings as much as 40% to 60%, the retailer said.

“With 68% of US households owning a pet and 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart store, we’re expanding in-store retail veterinary clinics, starting with nine new clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in late May and June,” Kieran Shanahan, senior VP retail – food, consumables, health & wellness, Walmart U.S. eCommerce, said in a blog on the company’s website.

Walmart’s new online pet pharmacy will carry medications from over 300 brands for dogs, cats, horses and livestock. Orders costing more than $35 will qualify for Walmart’s free, two-day shipping. For those that prefer to fill their pet’s Rx in a store, Walmart’s pharmacies will, by the end of May, stock the top 30 most requested pet meds, allowing customers to get the prescription the same-day.

A record $72.5 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. last year, according to the American Pet Products Association, which projects that spending will top $75.3 billion this year. The biggest chunk — $30.3 billion — goes to food, with organic, grain-free and “premium” options gaining in popularity. Walmart has been expanding its assortment in both areas, adding such premium and health-conscious brands as Blue Buffalo, Greenies, and Hill’s Science Diet. It has also been developing more “premium” food options through its exclusive in-house brands.

The top online destination for pet supplies is, whose sales rose to $3.5 billion in fiscal 2018 from $2.1 billion the previous year, and which is readying to go public.