The market for pet food, veterinary care, products and services won’t stop growing. Here’s what experts and pet owners are seeing
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Around the world, people spend $320 billion on pets -- for food, treats, veterinary care, grooming and more -- according to a new report by Bloomberg Intelligence.
In the United States, the world’s largest pet market, sales are expected to approach $200 billion by 2030, with global spending on pets expected to rise to $493.1 billion by the end of the decade.
Driving the spending increases are a growing pet population worldwide as well as longer pet life spans, which lead to greater expenditures for veterinary care, diagnostics and pharmaceuticals. Bloomberg predicts that a larger investment in drugs such as monoclonal antibodies and treatments for pain, parasites and skin problems could create about a $25 billion pet pharmaceutical market by 2030.
Another trend is that pet owners remain reluctant to reduce the quality of their pets’ food. Food spending is consistent even through economic downturns, according to the report. Pet owners might cut back on the frequency of professional grooming or begin bathing pets at home instead, but they are less likely to change their pets’ diet, says BI consumer staples analyst Diana Rosero-Pena, who co-authored the report. “You want to give them the best you can because there’s greater awareness of the ingredients we put in our bodies,” she says.
But inflationary pressures are leading to higher prices for pet food, veterinary visits, products and services such as grooming. With my own dogs, for instance, a cardiac ultrasound for Harper that was $470 in November 2021 was $760 for Sparkles in January 2023, a 61% increase. While spending is still strong, the price increases have some pet owners groaning, some rejoicing that they have pet health insurance and some making changes in spending, like cutting back on toys and treats or performing services themselves.
Bella, a 14-year-old pit bull owned by Cristi Bennett and Steve DeTata of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, is facing a second back surgery to decompress a disc. “Emergency vet and specialty services have gone through the roof,” Bennett says. “We are into the double digits on Bella’s hospitalization, and she hasn’t even had surgery yet! Thank goodness for pet insurance coverage, which will cover up to a certain amount, but out of pocket will still be astronomical. She had a similar stay and surgery in 2019, and it seems to have doubled.” Bennett and DeTata haven’t had to cut back on their spending for Bella, at least not yet.
Cat consultant Laura Cassiday of Dundalk, Maryland, feeds four community cats who hang out in her front yard, as well as her own eight indoor cats. She has stopped giving the community cats canned food because of the high prices.
Denise Nord of Minnesota feeds her three beagles primarily dehydrated raw and human-grade food. Prices for food and veterinary visits have gone up quite a bit, she says. “One ER visit for a bad urinary tract infection was over $1,000, including $400 for an X-ray.” She’s glad she currently has only three dogs and not six like she used to have.
According to Pet Business Professor blogger John Gibbons, although “petflation” is down, it’s still strong. It was at a record 12% last November, and in May it slowed from 10.4% in April to 10.3%. “That’s still 6.4 times more than the 1.6% average rate from 2010-2021,” he wrote in a June 19 post (bit.ly/46qSgxq). In the same post, he wrote that higher veterinary prices have led to a decrease in frequency of visits.
For their pains, though, analyst Rosero-Pena believes pet lovers can eventually expect to see more services, better services and better products for their four-footed companions. Next week: How owners save money.
Q: What’s the best type of collar to get for my new dog?
A: It can be overwhelming to choose among all the different collars at your local pet supply store. Fit and function are the most important factors to consider.
A flat collar is probably what you’re most used to seeing. It can be made of leather or nylon and is fastened with a snap or buckle. Buckle collars can be adjusted for length. This is the best choice for attaching an ID tag and for using with a dog who doesn’t pull excessively.
A collar should be not too tight, not too loose. You should be able to easily slip two fingers beneath the collar, demonstrating that it’s tight enough not to slip off, but not so tight that it’s constrictive.
Dogs with large necks and smaller heads or who are able to easily back out of a collar may do better with a martingale collar made of nylon and cloth. A martingale collar has an extra loop that tightens when there’s tension on the leash. If properly fitted, it won’t choke the dog.
Both flat and martingale collars have the drawbacks of putting potentially dangerous pressure on the dog’s neck or of becoming caught on objects or entangled with another dog’s collar or paw, causing choking. If you are concerned about these possibilities, consider using a harness instead. It must fit well to prevent rubbing and irritation. A harness should be removed when the dog is not out and about, so a microchip is important to have for backup identification.
If your dog is a puller, seek assistance from a trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques so your dog can learn how to behave nicely on leash. You can find more information here: fearfreehappyhomes.com/video/choosing-and-using-dog-collars-harnesses-and-leashes-the-fear-free-way and here: fearfreehappyhomes.com/get-off-the-path-of-leash-resistance. -- Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Senior dog home
opens in Wisconsin
-- A new home for seniors -- senior dogs, that is -- has opened in Baraboo, Wisconsin, reports television station WMTV. Jane’s Journey Home is located on 36 acres, where so far seven senior dogs rescued from shelters or adoption groups are being cared for. One is Ajax, who has hearing and vision loss, plus dementia. Dogs like him have a safe space at Jane’s, where it doesn’t matter if they have a house-training accident or are a little confused. The nonprofit is named after late animal lover Jane Barton, whose vision it was. Her son, Larry Barton, co-founded it with his wife, Melanie. Volunteers are welcome and can find more information here: journeyhome4dogs.com/new-volunteer-page. The next volunteer orientation is scheduled for July 15.
-- Pet owners facing hefty veterinary bills can seek help from the following sources: pethelpfinder.org, which has information on “financially friendly” veterinary practices, nonprofit organizations, social service agencies and specialty funds; a nearby veterinary college (find one here: avma.org/education/center-for-veterinary-accreditation/accredited-veterinary-colleges), many of which offer low-cost clinics for clients with limited incomes; or waggle.org, where you can see if your pet qualifies for assistance. Last but not least, consider purchasing pet health insurance before you face an emergency -- although no pet insurance covers preexisting conditions.
-- Nearly 200 detector dogs, primarily beagles and beagle-mixes, have worked in United States airports since 1984 to seek out contraband fruits, vegetables, plants and meat products from entering the country and threatening crops or the health of livestock and other domestic animals. The banned items may carry harmful plant pests or diseases. Known as the Beagle Brigade, the friendly dogs with the powerful sniffers are key to screening passengers and cargo. They can learn to identify 75 to 85 unique scents. Training takes two to six months, then they are paired with a handler. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker.
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.