The benefits of the human-animal bond

dvm360dvm360 January 2023
Volume 54
Issue 1
Pages: 26

Pet ownership equates to healthier humans and a stronger veterinary industry



For many, the companionship, comfort, joy, and responsibility of owning a pet are just some of the reasons why pet owners believe owning a pet is priceless. However, this enjoyment and the development of the human-pet bond is also meaningful to a person’s health and the pet industry.

At the 2022 Fetch dvm360® Conference in San Diego, California, communication specialists Carolyn Shadle, PhD, and John Meyer, PhD, shared data indicating that pet ownership results in $11.7 billion of savings in United States healthcare costs. Pet owners, numbering 132.8 million, visit their physician less often than non-pet owners. The data says it happens 0.6 times less often based on an estimated cost of $139 per physician visit.1

Owners who are active with their pets, such as walking them regularly, being present, and providing a welcoming environment, could be reciprocated with such health benefits as lower cardiovascular disease, less hypertension, lower cholesterol, reduction of stress, lower blood pressure and less psychological issues. The importance of pet ownership has been beneficial in good and, especially, in difficult times, Shadle and Meyer shared.

A Purdue University study was highlighted for a positive outcome in animal therapy for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s residing in a long-term care facility. The study found that placing an aquarium in this facility boosted patient food intake and reduced the need and cost of nutritional supplementation.2

The healthcare savings seems to be a good indicator for what pet owners are spending some of their saved money on: their pets.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2007 and 2011, pet spending hardly changed — between 0.9% and 1.1% of total spending.3 This is particularly interesting given the severe economic downturn that left many Americans out of work in 2010 and 2011. Pet care spending grew during the last two recessions, by 29% in 2001 and 17% in 2008-09. In 2007, Americans spent an average of $430 on pets and $570 in 2008.3 More than a decade later, newer figures indicate the average pet owner now spends $500-$1,500 a year on their pets.

Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic changed the spending habits of pet owners to keep their furry friends happy and both parties healthy? Given that more pet owners could stay home and spend more time with their pets, it increased awareness of their pets’ needs. Demand for pet food spiked and consumption patterns changed. Pet owners’ increased time at home resulted in more pet supply sales, such as accessories and treats. New pet owners required supplies such as beds, collars, leashes, and toys. More attention and time with pets resulted in more veterinary visits, as well as for new pets and their owners’ visits, which meant more revenue for veterinarians.

According to the American Kennel Association,4 pet industry spending isn’t expected to slow down. Morgan Stanley forecasts that spending in this area will reach $275 billion by 2030 and nearly two-thirds of 18-to-34-year-olds plan to get a pet in the next 5 years, thus a 14% increase in pet ownership.5 Pet owners will spend more, increasing their annual household spending from $980 per pet to $1,909 by 2030.4


  1. Clower, T, Neaves, T. The health care cost savings of pet ownership. Accessed December 7, 2022.
  2. Purdue Veterinary Medicine. Animals help the Alzheimer’s disease patient. Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Accessed December 7, 2022.
  3. Henderson S. Spending on pets: “Tails” from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Accessed December 7, 2022.
  4. Meyers H. Current trends in pet spending 2021-2022. American Kennel Club. Published September 28, 2021. Accessed December 8, 2022.
  5. Pets: A long-tail investment trend? Morgan Stanley. Accessed December 8, 2022.
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