The Recession’s Unexpected Victim: Pets

Pets are being abandoned, getting sicker.

The economic downturn has affected more than people, jobs and the world economy.  Pets are suffering as well.

Approximately five million to seven million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year in the U.S. alone, according to the ASPCA and approximately three million to four million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats).  These numbers have been increasing in recent years as many pet owners find they can no longer afford their animals.  Many people who have lost their homes in the foreclosure crisis are also finding that they can’t keep their pets in their new residences, apartments, and condos.

Another way pets are being victimized is that many pet owners are unable to afford proper medical are for their animals. Recent studies show that while the number of pets in America is increasing, fewer pet owners are bringing their pets in for regular checkups, and this could be causing a rise in preventable diseases.

“Despite the ever-increasing emotional bond we have with our pets, research shows pets are getting less preventive health care,” says Dr. Rene A. Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “At the same time, illnesses that are totally preventable, such as dental infections, ear infections, diabetes, intestinal worms and heartworms, are increasing.”

Troubling trends

AVMA research shows that veterinary visits for cats and dogs have been on the decline for at least a decade. The average number of annual veterinary visits dropped between 2001 and 2006 from two visits a year for dogs to 1.5 and from one visit per year for cats to 0.7 visits, according to the AVMA’s 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. And that’s all before the 2008-2010 recession.

While veterinary care appointments have been declining, incidents of pet diseases have increased. In particular, totally preventable diseases are on the increase. One study in 2011 found that since 2006 flea infestations were up in dogs by 16 percent and 12 percent in cats, diabetes increased 32 percent in dogs and 16 percent in cats, and hookworm infections in dogs were up 30 percent and 3.5 percent in cats.

Would You Visit A Doctor Once Every Seven Years?

The vast majority of pet owners care deeply about their pet’s health. In fact 59 percent of dog owners and 53 percent of cat owners say they would, in fact, take their pets to the veterinarian more often if they thought it would help their pet live longer, according to the Veterinary Care Usage Study. But, good intentions are often overtaken by economic necessity.  And, pets are not as obvious when it comes to needing help as, say, a zero balance in one’s checking account.

Veterinarians point out that pets have much shorter life spans than humans, and, as a result, diseases can develop more quickly. An annual checkup for dogs and cats is like a person going to see their doctor once every seven years. What’s more, pets with existing health problems, like obesity, are at an even greater risk of developing a chronic condition.

Experts estimate that 40 percent of dogs and cats are obese. That’s the equivalent of 54 million dogs and cats in the U.S. alone. Obesity can result in life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.

Times may be tough, but fido and kitty need some attention too.

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  1. mphsglo

    On November 8, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Very good information. It’s sad. Pets rely 100% on their owner for care.

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