Delving into clients' minds

Delving into clients' minds

A crop of new studies offers a wealth of insight into pet owners' attitudes. The challenge? Knowing what to do with all that knowledge.
Apr 01, 2008

The bottom line
People love their pets. People also love their veterinarians. That's the good news from a batch of recent studies designed to tease out rare information on pet owners' perceptions of their veterinarians. However, the studies also show a disturbing trend. The number of visits these pet lovers make to their beloved veterinarian is declining. Love isn't supposed to be like that.

The bonds are strong

Illustration by Marci Roth
Several major studies have appeared recently that nose into a deeper understanding of two bonds—the bond between people and their pets and the bond between people and their veterinarians. Together these studies have exponentially increased collective understanding of pet owners' perceptions about the veterinary profession.

> The Perceptions and Attitudes of Pet Owners. In 2006, a major study of pet owner perceptions was undertaken by a consortium of industry leaders and veterinary organizations. BNResearch conducted the four-phase survey, looking for clues to attitudes about veterinary care. The findings: Most owners said they would pay whatever was necessary for the health of their pet.

> U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. The AVMA completed a large-scale census of pet owners in 2006, examining 48,000 households' use of veterinary care. The big news: While more dogs and cats joined families, canine veterinarian visits declined 3.7 percent between 2001 and 2006. Feline declines were more precipitous: cat visits fell 5.6 percent.

> A Focus Group Study of the Perceptions of Monetary Aspects of Veterinary Care. Also in 2006, a group of Canadian researchers used qualitative techniques to study both pet owners' and veterinarians' perceptions of the financial aspects of veterinary care. The researchers utilized focus groups to peer into this sensitive area. They found that pet owners wanted to know about cost up front and in the context of what the treatment would mean for their pets.

Figure 1
The results of all three studies provide a much richer understanding of what happens between the veterinarian and the pet owner in the exam room, and practitioners have much to be encouraged by. For one, the news about client loyalty was positive. The Perceptions and Attitudes study reported that seven in 10 pet owners said they would stay with their veterinarian even if another practice had lower prices. Two of three said they would stay with their present veterinarian even if they moved 45 minutes away.