Saturday, August 18, 2012


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) just did a great big survey of 50,000 American households to find out what's new in the world of pet ownership.  The results of this survey turned out to be rather shocking, because they show that pet ownership is DOWN for the first time in 20 years!  The AVMA does this study every 4 or 5 years because they want to know if anybody will still be bringing their animals to the vet clinic and paying to have them taken care of.  Because if nobody is going to do this, the veterinarians might as well start looking for some other kind of job!

Anyway, here is what the most recent survey learned about pet ownership between 2006 and 2011:

-- There are 1.9% fewer households with dogs
-- There are 6.2% fewer with cats
-- There are 16.7% fewer with horses
-- There are 20.5% fewer with birds
-- 36.5% of all households have at least one dog
-- 30.4% of all households own cats
-- The total cat population is about 74.1 million
-- The total dog population is about 70 million

One thing the survey didn't ask people was the reason why they have fewer pets than they used to.  So the AVMA had to come up with some theories to explain this sad trend.  One theory is that the Bad Economy has made it harder for people to afford pets.  So when their dog or cat or hamster dies, they don't get a new one.  Or sometimes people have to give up their pets because they can't buy them food and vaccinations anymore.

Another theory is that younger people are more interested in electronic stuff like iPhones and iPads instead of in playing with dogs and cats.  Also, some people like to travel, and they don't want to worry about what to do with their pets while they are gone.  

Okay, now here's the part about how much people spend on their animals at the vet's office:

-- Veterinary visits for dogs increased by 9.2% to 130.4 million
-- Veterinary visits for cats decreased 4.4% to 60.5 million
-- Dog owners spent $19.1 billion, which was 18.6% more than in 2006
-- Cat owners spent $7.4 billion, which was only up 4.2%
-- Total veterinary spending for dogs and cats went up 14% to $26.5 billion
-- Spending in 2011 for all pets, including horses, was $28 billion

These numbers sound pretty good, but if you adjust for inflation, then spending has stayed about the same.  Also, a lot of pets didn't go see the veterinarian at all during 2011.  Nineteen percent of dog households didn't visit the vet in 2011, which was up from 17% in 2006.  For cat households, 45% said they didn't go to the vet.  In 2006 it was 36%.  Personally, I think it would be a fine idea to take a year off from going to the vet's office, but Mom totally disagrees, even after I explained that it would save her money.  Sigh.

But anyway, while all these dogs and cats were staying home from the clinic, the number of small-animal veterinarians has been going up.  By 2007, there were 44,785, which was 48% more than in 1996.  I don't know how many there are now, but probably even more than that.

So here are the biggest problems I see in this whole situation:

1.  There are way too many homeless animals already, and now there are getting to be even more of them because people are giving up their pets, and fewer people can afford to adopt.  Which means too many dogs and cats end up getting put to sleep.

2.  There are more veterinarians than there are jobs, partly because people don't have as many pets now, and partly because people aren't taking their dogs and cats to the vet's office as often.

I wish I knew how to solve these problems, but I don't, and it is making me tired just to think about them, so the only thing I know to do is go take a nap now!

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