We all know that pet parent—the one that spoils their dog and takes them everywhere.

That pet parent is a small sign of a larger shift in the way we view our pets and what we’re willing to spend on their care. If anything, we’re spending more on pet care than ever, especially veterinary care.

Pet Owners Want Quality Care

In 2018, Americans spent a total of $72.56 billion on pet care, with $18.11 billion spent on veterinary care. What’s most interesting is that vet spending grew faster than any other category, at a rate of 6.1%. In 2019, veterinary spending is projected to reach $18.68 billion, a 4.8% year-to-year increase.

A survey of 1,000 pet owners says that comes out to about $126.19 every month on average.

What’s behind the rise in pet costs?

Some of the cost can be attributed to the fact that more people own dogs than any other type of pet, as dog owners tend to spend more.

But the main driving point is twofold: owners are demanding more high-quality care, but they’re doing so because of the changing role of the pet in the family.

Thirty years ago was the so-called Snoopy Generation—dogs lived outside of the house and played a far smaller role in family dynamics. Children bonded with pets, but they didn’t interact with them as much.

Today, we live in the Brian generation (as in the dog Brian from the TV series Family Guy). The vast majority of pet owners not only keep their pets indoors, but they also eat meals with them, bring them on family vacations, and spoil them as if they were a human child.

This has led to a critical shift in our relationship to our pets—and what we’re willing to spend on their care and upkeep.

Economics of the Pet Industry

Part of this comes from the fact that Millennials are the primary pet-owning demographic at 35% of pet owners.

But it’s also deeper than that. Millennials aren’t just adopting more pets—many of them are opting for pet ownership instead of parenthood. Pets may not be cheap—dogs especially—but they’re still far cheaper than raising a human baby.

A USDA report found that parents raising a child in 2013 could expect to pay between $12,800 and $14,970 per year, depending on the age of the child. Dogs, on average, cost between $1,580 and $3,536 in the first year of ownership. And unlike human babies, dogs will never own cars, go to college, or require parental leave.

Take, for example, leaving for work. It is negligent and illegal (at best) to leave a child at home alone when you head off to work. Pet owners may pay for pet-sitting when they’re out of town, but pets can largely be left to their own devices during the day.

This also goes hand-in-hand with another common attraction of pets over babies: freedom. Pets limit your travel capacity and they are a responsibility, but they’re still far more flexible than a baby. Plus, pets are almost always happy to see you.

Veterinary Care Tends to a Family Member

If anything, the rising costs of veterinary care tell us something important: we’re spending more money to take care of a family member.

But it also tells us what we’re willing to pay for our pets’ care.

In that sense, it’s best to talk to your vet about the best healthcare options for your pet and what you can do to keep your pet healthy over time, preventing the need for future visits.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to encourage treatment or diagnosis of any animal medical condition. For medical advice, contact your veterinarian.

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