Study Finds Reasons for Surprising Annual Decline in Vet Visits

While the population of dogs and cats in the U.S. increased to 170 million in 2009, the majority of veterinarians reported fewer companion animal visits...

Maria Goodavage  |  Jan 20th 2011


While the population of dogs and cats in the U.S. increased to 170 million in 2009, the majority of veterinarians reported fewer companion animal visits from 2009 to 2010. It’s just the most recent of nine straight years where veterinary visits have been in decline.

This phenomenon has many vets scratching their heads. Is it the economy? Could advice from the internet be taking the place of one-on-one vet visits? Is it something about their practices? What’s going on?

The answer turns out to be multifaceted, according to results from the newly released Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study. Among the reasons for the decline:

The economic impact of the recession
Fragmentation of veterinary services
Consumers substituting internet research for office visits
Feline resistance (LOL — haven’t felines always been resistant to this sort of thing?)
Perception among pet owners that regular medical check-ups are unnecessary
Cost of care

By far the most important finding, from a pet health perspective, is the misperception by many pet owners that regular medical check-ups for pets are unnecessary, said Ian Spinks, president and general manager of Bayer Animal Health North America. This could be driven by the absence of professional patient care guidelines that recommend annual physicals. The unintended consequence is that many pets arent getting the care they need for healthy, long lives.

Some related interesting findings from the study:

53% of pet owners think costs are usually much higher than expected
39% of pet owners look online before consulting their veterinarian if the pet gets sick or injured
63% of dog owners and 68% of cat owners question the need for regular veterinary care
33% of dog owners and 41% of cat owners would not take their pet to the vet if vaccines were not needed
One-third of cats have not been to the veterinarian in the last year
Pet owners take their older pets to the veterinarian less often than younger pets

You can read more about the reasons — and why vets say people are making big a mistake when they don’t get their pets adequate veterinary care — in this press release.

This seems like a good topic for discussion, Dogsters. Have you decreased your dog’s visits to the vet of late? If so, why? If not, why not?

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