For the ordinary pet owner, the reality may not be a $23,000 dog house for Spot or a $100 spa treatment for Fifi. The big money goes to veterinary care and medical bills for serious illnesses or accidents.
Erika Maschmeyer experienced that first hand when her French bulldog suddenly ruptured a disk, a complication from a preexisting condition. She and her husband forked over $5,000 for surgery for her “surrogate baby.”
More than half of the $40.8 billion Americans will spend on pets this year will go to health care, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association. Doctor bills alone accounted for more than $9.4 billion in 2006, up 8% from the previous year.
Not only are people spending more on their pets, but “pets are living longer, people are being more proactive with vet care and the vet business has become more sophisticated,” said Maschmeyer, who also happens to track the pet industry as an equity research associate for Robert W. Baird & Co.’s consumer retail unit.
Technological advancements and more investment in pet medicine have led to a boon in the animal health business, making it the fastest growing segment of the industry. More human services are being applied to pets, from expensive prodecudes like brain surgery and dialysis to high-end diagnostics, such as MRIs and CAT scans, to alternative therapies like acupuncture. Eli Lilly in January launched a new business group dedicated to producing medicines for dogs and cats, joining rivals Pfizer, Bayer and Novartis as a player in the field.
“We look forward to meeting the significant, unmet needs in this health care arena applying new molecules and give pets a higher quality of life and longer lives,” said Eric Graves, director of Lilly’s new animal health unit.