Report: U.S. Pet Product and Service Sales Up 4.8%

U.S. sales of pet products and services increased 4.8 percent to $54 billion in 2009, according to a report released Jan. 19 by market research publisher Packaged Facts.

“True to the market’s ‘recession resistant’ claim to fame, sales of all pet products and services rose 4.8 percent in 2009 to reach $53 billion, meaning that the market added $2.5 billion in the midst of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” states the report, “Pet Supplies and Pet Care Products in the U.S., 8th Edition: Pet Health and Pampering: The New Value Equation.”

Sales of veterinarian services increased the most at nearly 10 percent, followed by pet food at 5 percent, other pet services at 4 percent and non-food pet supplies (which includes grooming products and bedding) at 3 percent, according to Packaged Facts.

The human-animal bond played a particularly important role in insulating the industry from recessionary cutbacks, according to Packaged Facts. The company pointed to an informal survey in which the majority of U.S. pet owners indicated that they value the comfort and security their pets offer more than ever. Packaged Facts suggested that this means pet owners are willing to invest in goods directly beneficial to their pets’ health, such as natural and organic pet supplements, heated pet beds and dog toys.

Premium demographics are also significant contributors insulating the market, because wealthier households are less likely to feel the financial pinch of a downturn as quickly or intensely, according to Packaged Facts. In addition, the company noted that wealthier consumers are more likely to read labels and pay attention to health claims. As a result, this group is said to consider higher priced products as worth the extra money.

Packaged Facts cited the growing clout of premium demographics as an indication of the success pet supply marketers have had in tapping into pet owners’ willingness and desire to pamper their pets with the healthiest products available.

Chow Chow

A powerful, sturdy dog of Arctic type, medium in size and muscular with heavy bone, the Chow Chow is an ancient breed of northern Chinese origin. While the breed was originally a working dog, he primarily serves as a companion today and is seen in show rings across the country. This lion-like, regal breed comes in five colors – red, black, blue, cinnamon and cream – and is known for its blue/black tongue and stilted gait. Their coats can also be either rough or smooth.

The true origin of the Chow is unknown, but the breed as it is known today is easily recognizable in pottery and sculptures of the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 22 A.D.). An all-purpose dog used for hunting, herding, pulling and protection of the home, some scholars claim the Chow was the original ancestor of the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Pomeranian and Keeshond.

Affectionate and devoted to family, the Chow is reserved and discerning with strangers. Their cat-like personalities make them independent, stubborn and less eager to please than other breeds. They require early socialization and training, and some kind of exercise daily. Regular grooming and bathing is a must to maintain their double coats.

  • Non-Sporting Group; AKC recognized in 1903.
  • Ranging in size from 17 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder.
  • Hunter; guard dog.
  • Size: 40-70 pounds
  • Coats & Colors: Coats: rough or smooth
  • Colors: black, blue, cinnamon, cream, red

Ways To Make Vet Visits Affordable

Cutting down on your pet’s health expenses without compromising its health is possible, veterinarians say. Pet owners can forgo some procedures and even discard inoculations from their pet’s protocol without risking their animal’s lives. But the process of choosing which ones to keep, and which ones to drop, depends a lot on the pet’s habits. Here are some factors to consider in seeking more affordable care options.

Pet Care by the Numbers

American pet owners spent an estimated $12.2 billion on veterinary bills in 2009, according to the American Pet Products Association. Nevertheless, some veterinarians have seen a severe downturn in income from non-medical procedures and services, such as boarding. To cut expenses, many are cutting their employees’ hours. But, unfortunately, most are not cutting their fees.

Tips for Lowering Costs

Cost cutting can begin with evaluating your pet’s annual inoculations. Not all inoculations need to be administered yearly, as many vaccines stay in the bloodstream longer than was previously thought.

“People who have been getting vaccines for their pets every year, probably could slide on some of them,” says Dr. Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian at the Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Hills, CA.

If there is any doubt how much of last year’s inoculation is still potent in the pet’s bloodstream, the vet can conduct what’s called a titer. Talk to your vet about whether the fee for a specific titer is less than the potential savings from skipping the inoculation.

In evaluating which vaccines to drop and which to keep, a pet’s location and lifestyle are also important factors to consider.

“An out-and-about pet needs more vaccines more than a couch-potato kitty or dog who takes it easy,” Dr. Cruz said. An indoor cat may simply not require a leukemia vaccine booster. A pooch romping through a deer-tick ridden field in Connecticut needs a vaccine for Lyme Disease; but a city dog strolling a Southern California sidewalk may not.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners issues protocols of what vaccines are needed at each life stage. Though the AAFP “highly recommends” the FeLV vaccination for all kittens, booster inoculation is recommended only in cats considered to be at risk of exposure.

There are just some procedures pet owners can’t stint on, however.

“Hard times are not an excuse to skip your pet’s annual shots,” said Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, ASPCA’s Executive Vice President, National Programs and Science Advisor, “but it does make sense to talk to your vet about personalizing your pet’s vaccine protocol. Some vaccines are optional, while others are essential in preventing serious diseases.”

But skipping on the pet’s annual exam altogether is not an option. “It’s much more expensive—and risky—to treat illnesses than to protect against them,” Zawistowski said.

Evaluating Other Types of Pet Care

Owners can also cut economic corners in other modes of preventative care, such as for periodontal disease. Dental care—vital for keeping bacteria in the gums from leaching into the bloodstream and ultimately into an animal’s kidneys, liver, or joints—does not have to be conducted under anesthesia in every case, not even for cats.

Although not all veterinarians conduct dental work on conscious animals, the difference in price could well be worth seeking out a veterinarian with that expertise. Gas anesthesia can cost from $94 to $112 for a 60-pound dog, plus $27 for anesthesia monitoring, according to a 2009 study by EC Veterinary Economics & Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates. Though tooth cleaning can be less effective when not done under anesthesia, this option is preferable to not cleaning the teeth at all.

As with all types of care, because every individual pet is different, be sure to talk your veterinarian about the best protocol that will work for your pet.