Pet owners are spending less money and visiting the veterinarian less frequently, but they still rely on veterinarians to help them make spending choices for their pets, according to a recent survey.
Pet owners rely on veterinarians as their primary channel for pet products, including flea and tick control, heartworm prevention, joint health, pain management and therapeutic food, according to the survey, conducted in November by consulting firms Pert Group of Hartford, Conn., and Brakke Consulting of Dallas. However, respondents visited the veterinarian nearly 20 percent less in 2011 than they did in 2007, when Pert and Brakke conducted the first study. And the portion of pet owners who visit the veterinarian at all declined from 88 percent in 2007 to 77 percent in 2011.
“Dogs and cats are feeling the bite of the recession as pet owners put a leash on pet care expenses,” said Susan Spaulding, executive vice president and principal at Pert. “The recession has not only decreased what consumers spend on their own health, but what they spend at the veterinarian.”
Cat owners spent 28 percent less on heartworm prevention, 23 percent less on dental products and 20 percent less on flea and tick control in 2011 compared to 2007.
The Fairness to Pet Owners Act could change consumer behavior, as well. The act would require veterinarians to write a prescription regardless of whether it is to be filled on-site or elsewhere. A majority of respondents said they would fill those prescriptions outside of the veterinary channel, at least some of the time.
“Veterinarians could capitalize on their client relationships to compete more effectively with the growing internet and pet super store channels,” said John Volk, senior consultant at Brakke Consulting. “Online ads and in-store displays can’t compete with one-on-one interaction and expertise.”