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Study finds decline in vet visits among pet owners in recession

A survey of 1,200 dog and cat owners by the Pert Group and Brakke Consulting found veterinarians continue to be key in influencing pet product purchases and are the primary retail channel for items like medications and prescription petfood diets, yet pet owners are visiting the veterinarian less thanks to the recession.

The survey, conducted in November 2011, found that 77 percent of respondents reported taking their pet to the veterinarian, down 20 percent from 88 percent in 2007, the first year the survey was conducted.

“Dogs and cats are feeling the bite of the recession as pet owners put a leash on pet care expenses,” said Susan Spaulding, executive vice president and principal at the Pert Group. “The recession has not only decreased what consumers spend on their own health, but what they spend at the veterinarian.”

Spending by cat owners who had not taken their pet to the veterinarian within the last year was also down, with these cat owners saying they spent 28 percent less on heartworm prevention, 23 percent less on dental products, and 20 percent less on flea and tick control compared to 2007.

“Pet owners confirmed that veterinarians and their staffs are key sources of education and highly influential in product choice. Veterinarians could capitalize on their client relationships to compete more effectively with the growing internet and pet super store channels,” said John Volk, senior consultant at Brakke Consulting. “Online ads and in-store displays can’t compete with one-on-one interaction and expertise.”

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