Dogs reign supreme as members of the family compared to other pets, but more love doesn’t always translate into enough veterinary care
(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) February 12, 2013—A recent American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) survey shows that, more than ever, pet owners consider their pets as members of the family, but our growing love for our pets hasn’t translated into providing the veterinary care necessary to keep them healthy.
According to AVMA’s U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, dogs are still man’s best friend, as 66.7 percent of dog owners say they view their beloved pooch as a member of the family. And that puppy love is on the rise. In 2006, the last time the AVMA conducted the survey, only 53.5 percent of dog owners said that they considered their dog a member of the family.
“What this survey makes clear is that the wonderful, magical, emotional bond between humans and their companion animals is getting stronger, and that’s really good news,” says Dr. Douglas Aspros, president of the AVMA. “We know that pets offer unique emotional, psychological and physical health benefits to their owners. Unfortunately, despite these positive trends, people aren’t providing for their pet's medical care by bringing their pets into the veterinarian as often as they should. That trend is worrisome, not only in terms of the pet’s health but in terms of public health.”
The report indicates that, between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of dog owning households that made no trips at all to the veterinarian increased by 8 percent. Overall, about 81 percent of dog-owning households made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 1.7 percent from 2006.
Feline Family Members
In the latest AVMA survey, 56.1 percent of cat owners said that they consider their felines to be a family member. While the percentage is lower than dog owners, cat owners are growing more attached to their pets. In 2006, only 49.2 percent of cat owners said they considered their cats to be members of the family.
“We’re happy to see that people are growing more attached to cats, because cats are great pets that add so much to our lives,” explains Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council, a national initiative comprised of animal health and welfare organizations working on behalf of cats. “Unfortunately, the affection that we feel for our cats, and the affection that they give us back, isn’t being reflected in the amount of veterinary care that cats receive. The AVMA survey shows us that while we love our cats more, we’re growing much less likely to take them into the veterinarian for regular care. Cat owners across the country need to remember to bring their pets into the veterinarian – at least once a year – to maintain optimal health.”
The downturn in veterinary visits for cat owners was more extreme than for dogs. The number of cat owning households that made no trips at all to the veterinarian in 2011 increased by a staggering 24 percent from 2006. Only 55.1 percent of cat owners made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, which is down 13.5 percent from 2006.
Horses and Birds
While pets, in general, were more likely to be considered family members in the latest survey—63.2 percent on the 2011 survey, up from 49.7 percent in 2006—some pets are actually getting less love. In the 2011 survey, for example, 41 percent of bird owners said their feathered companions are members of the family, down from 51.3 percent in 2006. In 2011, 35.4 percent of horse owners said they consider their horses to be family members, which is down slightly from 2006 when 38.4 percent of horse owners said they consider their horses to be members of the family.
While pet owners were less likely to take their pets to the veterinarian in 2011 than in previous years, the survey also showed that the strength of the love between human and pet does impact the amount of veterinary care a pet receives. For example, dog owners who replied that they consider their pooch a member of the family brought their pet into the veterinarian more than twice as many times, on average, as those who describe their dog as property. Similarly, cat owners brought their felines into the veterinarian three times as often if they saw their pet as a family member instead of property.
AVMA’s U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook offers a wealth of information on pet ownership, pet owner profiles, trends, veterinary medical use and expenditures and is for sale on the AVMA website.