In down economy, pet owners cut veterinary spending last


75 percent would cut pet supplies, but only 50 percent of those would trim veterinary visits.

Pet owners making less money or fielding increased expenses because of the economic downturn expect the family cat, dog, or bird to cut back a little, too. But that doesn't equate to worse healthcare for the family pets. That's clear from recent surveys and advice for pet owners in the popular press.

Survey says ... pets need healthcare

In a recent survey conducted for pet food company The Goodlife Recipe, 75 percent of pet owners said in tough economic times they'd cut down on something in their pets' lifestyle. However, the cutback isn't likely to come at the local veterinarian's office. Roughly 50 percent said they wouldn't cut back on visits to the animal doctor.

When PR firm Fleishman Hillard asked pet owners in December 2007 what they'd cut back on if they had to watch their finances more closely, pet supplies was at the bottom of the list-just 32 percent said they'd cut back on these expenses. Pet owners who participated in the survey were more likely to spend less on groceries (47 percent), household goods (62 percent), and clothing (62 percent). The survey also found that pet owners considered veterinary visits, preventive medications, and name-brand pet food far less trimmable than pet toys, grooming, and doggie daycare. Veterinary care seems to be a top priority, even in a downturn.

Dr. James Young, owner of Atlantic Street Veterinary Hospital Pet Emergency Center in Roseville, Calif., has witnessed these choices firsthand as the economy worsens. Clients have been better informed and asked more questions about the benefits of his treatments and procedures, but they're not neglecting necessary care. “It's all about explaining the health value to the client,” Dr. Young says. “If something can wait, they're likely to wait. But they want to know their pets are as comfortable as possible.”

Media focus on saving pet owners money

In the past year, local and national newspapers and TV stations have been running spots from veterinarians, financial advisors, and consumer advocates on veterinary healthcare. Lots of it has encouraged pet owners to save money by doing nonmedical procedures themselves: grooming, nail trims, tooth brushing. But representatives inside and outside the profession have impressed the importance of wellness visits and veterinary care on clients, even in lean times.

In an article titled “Save Money on Pet Care” in the Sept. 14 issue of Parade magazine, Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Marty Becker told readers not to skimp on veterinary visits: “Well-pet exams can spot little problems before they become expensive ones,” Dr. Becker says. He also tells pet owners to ask about senior and multiple-pet discounts, and shop around for the cheapest prices on prescription drugs.

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