Pet owners may tighten belts before leashes

Survey results released last month at the North American Veterinary Conference showed that pet owners are more likely to cut back on other monthly expenses before skimping on care or supplies for their pets.

The online survey of 665 pet owners (including 602 who have a dog or cat) was conducted in late December by Fleishman-Hillard International Communications, "to help give our animal care clients better insight into how changes in the economy might affect their plans for 2008," said Brian Cox, Fleishman-Hillard senior vice president, quoted in a Reuters article about the survey.

The survey found that many pet owners are willing to do without luxuries and will even cut back on essentials in order to keep Fido in kibbles, responding that they consider their pets to be members of their family. However, Fluffy should not expect that weekly salon shampoos and blow-outs will survive belt tightening. Non-essential pet goods and services, like toys and professional grooming, were deemed expendable by many survey respondents.

And while Polly may continue to count on her cracker, a third of pet owners surveyed admitted that regular veterinary visits and preventative medications might be postponed or skipped if money were tight.

Speaking from personal experience, skimping on these can prove costlier in the long run. After skipping the expensive, veterinary-supplied flea preventative for our dauttweiller during a couple of lean months last year, I wound up forking over much more than I had saved to an exterminator and the salon owner who dipped her.

Lesson learned: once bitten...
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