SHAWNEE, Kan. – Bayer Animal Health, in partnership with Brakke Consulting and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI), released the details of the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study today, revealing a myriad of reasons for the yearly decline in veterinary visits for companion animals. While many perceive economic factors as a primary driver, the results of the study showed other reasons pet owners choose not to keep annual appointments with their vet.
The study included interviews with individuals and focus groups with veterinarians, focus groups with pet owners, and a national survey of over 2,000 dog and cat owners across the United States. In addition they tested propositions to encourage more vet visits.
“By far the most important finding, from a pet health perspective, is the misperception by many pet owners that regular medical check-ups for pets are unnecessary,” said Ian Spinks, president and general manager of Bayer Animal Health North America. “This could be driven by the absence of professional patient care guidelines that recommend annual physicals. The unintended consequence is that many pets aren’t getting the care they need for healthy, long lives.”
Six primary causes of this were found:
- The economic impact of the recession;
- Fragmentation of veterinary services;
- Consumers substituting Internet research for office visits;
- Feline resistance;
- Perception among pet owners that regular medical check-ups are unnecessary; and
- Cost of care.
One major influencing factor was the availability of information on the Internet, which causes pet owners to delay or avoid treatment. This often results in sicker pets when the veterinarian is finally consulted. The depth of knowledge provided by a licensed veterinarian is not duplicated on the web.
Of course the economy plays a factor, and with the costs of care steadily rising, many pet owners put off “unnecessary” visits as much as possible. Recommendations were provided to veterinarians to manage and communicate pricing more effectively to pet owners. Of highest importance was the need to communicate the need for annual checkups that can provide valuable preventive care at a practical cost.
The biggest surprise of the study was that over one-third of cat owners said they had not visited the vet in the past year, citing the stressed and aggressive behavior of their cats when forced to go to the vet. Most felt they would rather wait longer between visits rather than put their cat through the ordeal. This can be a big problem for older cats, where kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer can go undetected.
Bayer sees the study as being an important part of educating the public to the importance of regular vet visits, and informing veterinarians on more effective communication with pet owners.