Americans Spending More on Pets Than Ever

Pet owners are willing to pay more than ever to safeguard their four-legged friends’ health.
A dog lounging in the sun

If it seems as if you’ve been spending more lately on food and treats for Fido, you could be right. Spending on pets reached an all-time high in 2018, a new study found, as Americans have become more willing to pay a premium to protect their furry companions’ health.

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) looked at industry-wide spending for the year on such categories as food, supplies, over-the-counter medications, live animal purchases, veterinary care and other pet-related services.

In total, Americans spent $72.56 billion on their pets in 2018 — 4% more than the $69.51 billion spent in 2017.

The bulk of the money spent on pets was for food, with spending hitting $30.32 billion in 2018, compared to $29.07 billion in 2017 — a 4.3% increase. Interestingly, the increase wasn’t the result of more pet food being sold. Rather, it was due to Americans paying more for higher-priced, higher-quality food. Premium dog food was the type of food most frequently purchased, followed by generic and natural dog foods.

After food, veterinary care was the second-highest source of spending, with pet owners shelling out $18.11 billion in 2018, up 6.1% from $17.07 billion in 2017. One reason for the increase in veterinary care spending could be that lower prices of veterinary services and the popularity of pet insurance are making veterinary care affordable to more pet owners, so they are taking their pets to the vet more frequently, according to the APPA.

The willingness of Americans to spend more money to take care of their pets’ health suggests a recognition that pets are beneficial to their own well-being.

"Scientific research from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) shows that the bond formed between people and their pets yields valid health benefits to both pets and their owners," said Bob Vetere, president and CEO of APPA, in a press release. "It’s a partnership; if you take care of your pets’ health, they’re going to take care of yours."

The amount of money spent by pet owners on other categories is as follows:

  • Americans spent more than $16.01 billion on over-the-counter medications and supplies such as clothing, toys, leashes, beds and other accessories in 2018, up 6% from $15.11 billion in 2017.
  • Americans spent $6.11 billion on services such as grooming, boarding, pet sitting, training and walking in 2018, down slightly from $6.16 billion in 2017.
  • Americans spent $2.01 billion on live animal purchases in 2018, down 4.3% from $2.1 billion in 2017.

One reason given by the APPA for the decline in spending on live animal purchases is that millennials own more pets than other demographics and are more likely to get dogs from shelters and animal rescue centers, while baby boomers and Gen Xers are more likely to buy their dogs from breeders.

If you’re a pet owner, chances are you already understand how much a pet can enhance your life, but it’s important to understand the financial implications. Make sure you track the amount of money you spend on your pet, and budget accordingly. Not only should you budget for everyday items like food and supplies, but you should also set aside money for unexpected expenses such as emergency vet visits. You may also want to consider buying pet insurance so you can better control health costs related to your pet.

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