Rising costs continue to impact Americans, and those with the added expenses of pet care are not excluded.
The Special Reports Team at Veterinarians.org surveyed 1,000 U.S. dog owners to gauge how those with pets have fared in the difficult financial climate of the last twelve months.
- Approximately 1 in 6 dog owners gave up a dog during the past 12 months, with nearly a third (31%) citing the inability to afford dog food and/or veterinary care as a contributing reason.
- 40% of U.S. dog owners have considered adding another dog to their household in the past 12 months but have held off for the time being, with 33% of these respondents citing financial constraints as a cause.
- Over a third of dog owners (34%) say they’ve had to shop for cheaper alternatives when it comes to dog food, with another 35% indicating they’ve started using coupons in the past year to save money on food for their pet, 1 in 4 indicating they’ve started shopping at wholesale stores such as Costco or Sam’s for better pricing, and 1 in 7 making their own pet food at home to save money.
- More than a quarter of dog owners (28%) have had to put off veterinary treatment in the past year due to rising costs, with 1 in 7 of these respondents having to delay cancer-related treatments for their dog as a result of financial constraints.
- Nearly a third of dog owners (31%) have had to delay paying either pet expenses or their monthly bills (e.g. utility, rent, mortgage, etc.) in order to make ends meet.
- 28% of dog owners have charged pet expenses to a credit card in the last 12 months, while 16% have borrowed money from family members or friends to help cover pet expenses.
- In the past year, 1 in 5 dog owners have applied for: 1) a line of credit, 2) special state services, and/or 3) special pet-related nonprofit grants/emergency funds in order to afford pet expenses.
Adoptions & Surrenders
Approximately 1 in 6 dog owners gave up a dog during the past 12 months, with nearly a third (31%) citing the inability to afford dog food and/or veterinary care as a contributing reason.
Among these respondents, the majority (50%) rehomed the dog with a family member, friend, or neighbor, while 25% surrendered the dog to an animal shelter or rescue organization and an additional 25% rehomed the dog through an online listing, such as through Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
While the majority of respondents (23%) cited behavioral issues as the reason for giving up their dog, 14% indicated that a new job and the resulting lack of time had led to their decision, while 19% indicated it was the result of a change in life circumstances (e.g. pregnancy, birth of a child, caregiving for a family member, etc.).
Only 6% of the 1,000 U.S. dog owners surveyed had adopted a new dog in the past 12 months.
40% of U.S. dog owners have considered adding another dog to their household over the past year but have held off for the time being, with 33% of these respondents citing financial constraints as a cause.
The Impact of Pet Expenses on Personal Finances
In the last 12 months, nearly a third of dog owners (31%) have had to delay paying either pet expenses or their monthly bills (e.g. utility, rent, mortgage, etc.) in order to make ends meet.
Among this group of respondents, the majority (39%) have had to put off certain pet expenses (defined in the survey as dog food, dog treats, and other common pet supplies) in order to cover their utility bills.
However, in close second, 35% of respondents have acted oppositely: delaying paying their utility bills in order to cover their pet expenses.
Rent/mortgage payments take priority by far, however, with 32% delaying pet expenses to cover such payments and only half that number (16%) delaying rent/mortgage in order to provide for their pet.
Some owners are taking a different route in order to afford pet expenses: 28% of the 1,000 surveyed dog owners say they’ve charged pet expenses to a credit card in the last 12 months, while 16% have borrowed money from family members/friends to help cover pet expenses.
Meanwhile, 1 in 5 dog owners have applied for: 1) a line of credit, 2) special state services, and/or 3) special pet-related nonprofit grants/emergency funds in order to afford pet expenses.
How Rising Costs Have Impacted Shopping Behavior
Among the 1,000 surveyed U.S. dog owners, over a third (34%) say they’ve had to shop for cheaper alternatives when it comes to dog food, while 35% indicated they’ve started using coupons in the past year to save money on food for their pet
It’s no surprise then that 1 in 4 dog owners have started shopping at wholesale stores such as Costco, Sam’s, and BJ’s in order to save money on pet food. Given the rising cost of dog food, pet owners can often find comparable food at their local wholesale outlet for significantly less money. The same holds true for pet treats and supplements, for which nearly a quarter of respondents say they’ve also sought out cheaper alternatives in the last 12 months.
For 1 in 7 dog owners, cutting costs has meant going homemade with their pet’s meals, with 14% of dog owners indicating they’ve started cooking their own pet food in the last 12 months in order to save money.
Cancellations have also been a popular action in the past year for dog owners, with 1 in 5 dog owners pulling the plug on either pet food, pet medication, or specialty subscriptions through providers like Chewy, Amazon, BarkBox, 1-800-PetMeds, and others.
Finally, 9% of dog owners have turned to pet food pantries in the last 12 months for help with keeping their companion animal fed.
For some dog owners, saving money has meant needing to delay the purchase of certain pet items. For 24% of dog owners, that has looked like putting off the purchase of new dog toys for their companion animal.
More than a quarter of dog owners (27%), however, have had to delay purchasing more essential items such as flea and tick topicals and heartworm preventatives, the latter of which can prevent a potentially fatal disease in dogs.
Approximately 1 in 7 dog owners have also had to delay purchasing pet supplements such as vitamins and joint support edibles in the past year due to rising costs.
How Rising Costs Have Impacted Pet Services
It’s not just food expenses that dog owners are cutting back on. In the past year, a third of survey respondents (33%) have had to either completely cancel or reduce the frequency of pet services their companion animal normally partakes of, such as grooming, dog walking, or dog daycare/pet-sitting.
Grooming, in particular, has taken the biggest hit in the last 12 months, with 67% of impacted respondents having to reduce the frequency of their dog’s visits to the groomer’s, while 21% have opted to cancel all grooming appointments entirely.
How Rising Costs Have Impacted Veterinary Care
In the past year, 28% of dog owners have also put off veterinary treatment due to rising costs, with dental procedures being the most commonly delayed treatment among this group of respondents (39%).
Other common procedures that have been put off by respondents include spaying/neutering (25%), ear infection treatment (18%), X-ray imaging (18%), and cancer-related treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation, or tumor removal (14%).
Financial Assistance for Pet Owners
For pet owners struggling with the financial strain of inflation, there are resources and programs available that can be of assistance.
RedRover provides a comprehensive directory of state programs that provide financial assistance to pet owners, as well as national organizations that help with certain needs. Pet owners can also refer to RedRover’s directory of financial assistance programs by medical condition, by breed, and by need (including assistance with pet food, low-cost spay/neuter resources, and financial assistance). The organization also offers urgent care grants for pet owners struggling with economic hardship when pets are in life-threatening situations.
The Pet Fund is another organization that provides financial assistance to pet owners in need.
Additionally, pet owners can contact their state’s veterinary medical association to inquire into any available financial assistance programs within their area.
Pet Food Pantries
Pet food pantries have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people struggle to afford pet food for their companion animals. These pantries are designed to provide free pet food to pet owners who are experiencing financial hardship and may be unable to provide for their pets.
Pet food pantries operate in a similar way to traditional food pantries. They are usually run by animal welfare organizations, shelters, or local pet stores. These organizations collect donations of pet food from individuals and businesses and then distribute the food to pet owners in need.
One of the main benefits of pet food pantries is that they help keep pets with their families. In many cases, pets are surrendered to shelters or rescues because their owners are unable to afford to feed them. By providing free pet food, pet food pantries can help keep pets in their homes, which is better for the pets’ wellbeing and reduces the strain on shelters and rescues.
CoFund My Pet is one of many websites with a comprehensive national directory of pet food pantries, which pet owners experiencing financial hardship can use to find pet food for their companion animals.
The survey featured in this report was administered online via the survey platform Pollfish and ran on June 10, 2023, including no less than 1,000 respondents.