How Much is Your Dog Worth to You?

How Much is Your Dog Worth to You?

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A $14 squeaky toy. Frivolous.

A $850 trip to the vet. Dear.

The joy of living with a dog. Priceless!

Thanks to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) annual National Pet Owners Survey, we can put a price tag on our commitments to our canine companions.

The 72.9 million American households that own pets are expected to spend $50.84 billion on their pets in 2011-12. Yes, you read it right: $50,840,000,000. Not exactly chicken feed.

Here’s what spending on pets looks like since 1994.

Source: American Pet Products Association

And here’s how those pet dollars have been spent over the past two years.

But what does that add up to for the average dog owner — on a basic level — for a single year?

Take a look at this comparison of spending over the past two years:

One aspect of this breakdown that has the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) concerned is the drop in spending for vet care (both surgical and routine care). In 2011-12, Americans are expected to spend an average of $407 for surgical vet visits and $248 for routine vet visits. Many dog care takers, hard hit by the economy, job losses, income losses and poor interest rates and investment returns, appear to be going to the vet less often for routine care.  The AVMA fears that this may mean that pets are coming in needing a higher level of care or emergency services.

Spending on food is up — averaging $254 a year — reflecting a concern about cheaper imported dog food and treat that may be tainted. While kennel boarding crept up slightly, spending on grooming and vitamins is expected to increase in 2011-12. The average American dog owner spent about $274 boarding the dog and $95 for vitamins and $73 for grooming or grooming aids.

Where is all this heading?

The willingness of pet owners to spend money on their dogs — even in a bad economy — is attracting big name newcomers to the marketplace.  Brands like Paul Mitchell, Omaha Steaks, Origins and Old Navy are seeking to scoop up some of the gold with high end products for pets.

Pet owners themselves are taking dog care to new levels. The quick dip and occasional brush is giving way to routines like electric tooth brushes and mouthwashes, massages, pedicures complete with nail polish and pet spas and a variety of products to keep houses with pets cleaner and more odor-free.

A Return to Sanity

One dog’s delight is another’s demon. Joey would be pushed over the edge by a spa that painted his toenails.  In the end, he’d come home looking just like he did when he left except for an overpriced kerchief. He loves one kind of toy — and only that kind of toy — so anything else, no matter how adorable, will be ignored. I don’t think an electric toothbrush will enhance our relationship.  More frequent trips for teeth cleaning, however, might make his life healthier and longer.

The biggest take-home message from this annual survey is: Are you aware of what you’re spending? Is your spending where your dog’s needs and your priorities are?

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