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February 01, 2020

Dog ownership and veterinary visits by income bracket

Published on January 15, 2020

Analysis by the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division

What?

The chart below draws on results of the 2017 Pet Demographic Survey performed by the AVMA and shows the following:

  • Share of dog-owning households by annual income category.
  • Percentage of dog-owning households that don’t take their dog to a veterinarian at least once a year, by annual income.
  • Percentage of dog owners who said price or affordability was the main reason why they didn’t take their dog to a veterinarian, by annual income.
Chart: Annual household income

So what?

There are several takeaways from this chart:

  • The largest share of dog-owning households, about 25%, fall in the $60,000-$99,000 income category. The smallest share of dog-owning households, at about 13%, is in the lowest income category of less than $20,000.
  • According to the 2017 Pet Demographic Survey, 18% of dog owners overall say they don’t see a veterinarian once a year. However, this chart reveals a lot of variation by income category. Over 30% of dog owners in the lowest income category reported not seeing a veterinarian once a year. This percentage declines moving up the income ladder, with only 7% of dog owners in the highest income category of $100,000 or more reporting not seeing a veterinarian at least once a year.
  • Similarly, an income trend is apparent for price or affordability being the primary reason not to go to a veterinarian, with nearly 45% of respondents in the lowest income category stating that price or affordability is the primary reason they don’t see a veterinarian at least once a year. This percentage falls over the income ladder to 17% of respondents in the highest income category reporting that price or affordability was the primary reason for not seeing a veterinarian.

Now what?

Several actionable insights come from the chart:

  • With more than half of dog-owning households having an annual income of less than $59,000, addressing the needs of these dog owners is critical to the success of the veterinary profession and to the ability to deliver the best possible veterinary care to all animals.
  • A potential approach for expanding access to care is by creating models of veterinary medicine that support a spectrum of care, delivering care at levels other than just the gold standard.
  • Business models and financial instruments such as pet health insurance, short- and long-term loans, wellness plans, and other  tools that smooth spending for veterinary care for pet owners may help incentivize more interactions with dog owners and more frequent treatment of pets by veterinarians for households facing tough economic times.