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
The bottom line
The bonds are strong
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.
Illustration by Marci Roth
> 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.
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.