Dogs are America’s favorite pet, not just in pet ownership, but in the health care they receive; the gap between dogs and other pets is growing
(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) April 10, 2013—It’s good to be a dog. Not only are dogs America’s favorite pet, but dogs receive better veterinary care than their four-legged peers, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook.
The Sourcebook, a survey of Americans about their pets conducted every five years, indicates that between 2006 and 2011, veterinary visits for dogs increased by 9.2 percent, while the number of veterinary visits for cats decreased by 4.4 percent. Birds and horses also saw declines in veterinary care; the number of bird and horse owners who made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011 declined 10.8 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
“While it’s great that we’re seeing increases in veterinary care for dogs, it’s very concerning that veterinary care for virtually every other type of pet is seeing substantial declines,” says Dr. Douglas Aspros, president of the AVMA. “This trend is worrisome, not only in terms of the pet’s health but in terms of public health, because some diseases, such as intestinal parasites, can be transmitted from pets to family members. Our pets—no matter if they have fur, feathers, shells or scales—earn our love, respect
and appropriate veterinary care to keep them healthy and as comfortable as possible. A good guideline for all pet owners is to allow their pets to enjoy the very best life by taking them in for a veterinary visit at least once a year to help maintain optimal health.”
Cats second best?
There are more cats in America than dogs—74.1 million cats compared to 70 million dogs—but more people own dogs (43.3 million households) than own cats (36.1 million). The reason for this disparity is that cat owners are more likely to own more than one cat than dog owners are to own more than one dog.
Unfortunately, cats are suffering from an increasing lack of veterinary care. 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.
“We see in the latest Sourcebook that there are 1.4 million fewer cat-owning households in America in 2011 compared to 2006, but even more concerning is the declining numbers for veterinary care that our cats receive,” explains Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council, a national initiative comprised of animal health and welfare organizations working to improve the health and welfare of cats. “The AVMA survey shows us that, while we love our cats, we’re much less likely to take them into the veterinarian for regular care. Cats are wonderful, loving pets, but they are also masters at disguising any symptoms of illness. You need your veterinarian’s knowledge and skill to make sure your kitty is healthy.”
Furry Family Matters
The downturn in veterinary care for cats flies in the face of the fact that more cat owners (and pet owners in general) consider their pets to be family members. In 2006, 49.2 percent of cat owners said that they consider their pet to be a family member, which rose to 56.1 percent in 2011. The Sourcebook shows that the strength of the bond between pets and their owners impacts how much veterinary care the pet will receive. Cat owners who consider their cats members of the family went to the veterinarian 1.9 times on average in 2011, 1.2 times if they considered the cat a pet/companion, and just 0.5 times if they consider the animal to be property.
Dog owners were more likely to take their pets into the veterinarian than cat owners. Dog owners who said they consider the animal to be a family member went to the veterinarian, on average, 2.9 times in 2011, compared to 2 times for those who consider their dog a pet/companion and 1.2 times for those who consider their dog 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. For more information about the AVMA or to obtain a copy of the U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, visit www.avma.org.
The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 84,000 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities.