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Cross-sectional survey of pet ownership, veterinary service utilisation, and pet-related expenditures in New Zealand

Authors: Walker J, Zito S, Dale A, Gates MC
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 306-314, Nov 2019
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Animal type: Dog, Companion animal, Cat
Article class: Scientific Article

Aims: To describe the demographics of and predictors for pet ownership, reasons for visiting a veterinarian, and pet-related expenditure in pet owners in New Zealand.

Methods: A cross-sectional online survey was conducted from 18–22 June 2015 using a permission-based panel of New Zealand residents aged ≥18 years. Questions included demographics of respondents, number of pets and reasons for owning or not owning pets, number of visits and reasons for visiting a veterinarian, and pet-related expenditure.

Results: Of the 1,572 respondents who completed the survey, 1,013 (64.4%) owned ≥1 pet. Of these, 443 owned dogs, 696 cats, 32 horses, 103 birds, 55 rabbits, and 159 owned fish. Companionship was the most common reason for getting dogs, cats, and birds; horses were mostly owned as a hobby, rabbits to provide fun for children, and fish as a source of relaxation. The majority of dog, cat, and rabbit owners considered their pets to be family members; horse owners almost equally considered their horses a hobby or a family member. The odds of pet ownership increased for respondents from a rural region, having a higher household income, having children and being female. Overall, 711/1,013 (70.2%) pet-owning respondents had taken ≥1 animal to the veterinarian in the previous year, with the most common reasons being for vaccination or annual check-ups or health issues. Respondents who considered their pets trusted companions, had a higher income, and owned dogs or cats compared with other species, were most likely to have taken their pet to a veterinarian. The greatest pet-related expenditure for all species was food. The median yearly veterinary expenditure was $200–499 by dog owners, $100–199 by cat owners, and <$100 by horse, bird, rabbit, and fish owners. The best source of information for pet-related issues was considered to be veterinarians by 724/1,001 (72.3%) owners, and the internet by 509/1,001 (50.8%) owners.

Conclusions: Among survey respondents, pet ownership was common and pets filled a variety of roles in the household. Pet owners reported spending considerable amounts of money on their pets each year, but some of them may be underutilising veterinary services despite veterinarians being considered as valuable sources of information about pet-related issues.

Keywords: Dogs, cats, ownership, demographics, economics, veterinary care

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