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How Much Do U.S. Pet Owners Spend On Their Animals?

Updated on September 4, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.

Pet owners spend a lot of money on their pets, but each one will admit they're worth every dime.
Pet owners spend a lot of money on their pets, but each one will admit they're worth every dime. | Source

Until the year 2011 my wife and I owned a feed and grain store in our city here in southeastern Massachusetts. It's a densely populated, mainly suburban, setting and the bulk of our business was pet supplies, lawn and garden products and wild bird supplies.

We subscribed to a publication of the American Pet Products Association (APPA), that was a terrific resource for us as business people, and for me as a newspaper columnist. I still subscribe, but only as a columnist.

The APPA National Pet Owners Survey is a treasure trove of information they gathered. The 2016 survey was released as the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, some of the results of which I share with you here.

The complete report, which is several hundred pages long, costs over $3,000 for non-members. Members pay a few hundred dollars less, I think. Your intrepid pet columnist got it on the cheap, the donut, albeit the condensed, press release version.

Works me, and should work for you, too, unless you’re developing a business plan for starting a pet supply store. In that case, I emphatically suggest you join the organization and get the full report.

Many U.S. household have multiple pets and multiple species.
Many U.S. household have multiple pets and multiple species. | Source

For openers, 68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.6 millions homes. The first such survey was conducted in 1988 and back then only 56% of American households had pets.

For this column, I’ll just use rounded off dog and cat figures, although the APPA uses decimals and further breaks the survey down by species.

In the U.S. there are 88 million dogs living in 60 million households. Cats in the U.S. are represented in greater numbers, even though they reside in fewer households. There are 94 million cats living in 42 million homes.

On average, dog owners spent $235 a year for food and $72 for edible treats, while cat owners spent $235 for food and $56 for treats. Those numbers seem awfully low to me. Here in the Northeast, things tend to be more expensive than in some other regions of the country. But even at lower food and treat prices, these numbers seem low.

A 35-50 pound bag of your typical low-end grocery brand will cost anywhere from $20 to $30 dollars in the suburbs . The high-end holistic foods typically run between $50 and $75 for a 22 to 30 pound bag . Prices are even higher in cities.

How many of you dog owners can feed Boomer for $19.58 (235 ÷12) a month? And $6.00 a month for treats? You wish, huh?

There are scores of pet food brands to choose from.
There are scores of pet food brands to choose from. | Source

Here’s another eyebrow raiser: dog owners spent an average of $84 on groomers and/or grooming supplies, while cat owners spent $30. Remember that these are annual figures. How about toys? The APPA found that dog owners spent an average of $47 while cat owners spent $30. I'll bet you spend much more than that in a year's time.

Americans spend tens of millions of dollars annually on pet grooming services.
Americans spend tens of millions of dollars annually on pet grooming services. | Source

I think this survey finding is absolutely astounding: dog owners spent an average of $58 a year on vitamins; $46 for cats. At my store, customers didn’t spend that much on vitamins in a decade! I can’t tell you how many bottles of expired vitamins I threw out. Even now, I spend 30 hours a week in various pet supply stores and I don't see many vitamins going out. I guess maybe vitamins are purchased more in other parts of the country.

You dog owners spent an average of $257 on routine veterinary care, cat owners $182. But when they needed surgery, the average cost was $474 for dogs, $245 for cats. If you went on vacation without the animals, you spent an average of $322 to board the dog, $164 for the cat.

However, just to set the record straight, 32% of you dog owners took your pets with you in the car when you were away for two or more nights.

Fewer pet stores are selling puppies and kittens now.
Fewer pet stores are selling puppies and kittens now. | Source

While they may still sell birds, reptiles and small animals, fewer and fewer pet stores are selling puppies and kittens nowadays because of “puppy mill” fears. Also, more dog and cat buyers are turning to reputable breeders, and even more are going through shelters and rescue groups to acquire their dog or cat.

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    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You're right, peachpurple, and pet suppliers are more than happy to provide many options to spend your money on. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Vaccination, accessories, food, beddings a lot of money isbeing spent

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You're not a bit excessive when it comes to your dogs, Jaye. A generation ago, maybe, but not today. A lot of folks have their pets on a high pedestal. The pet supply industry calls it "the humanization of pets" and caters to the phenomenon. And, apparently HP loves you again...your comment had the normal "Approve" or "Deny" tabs this time. :)

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Thanks, Bob, for saving my comment, and the "HP rock star" description just made my day!

      Everyone who knows me thinks I'm a big "excessive" when it comes to my dog, but I do adore her. Since there are many things I no longer spend money on these days, it's easier for me to commit to taking good care of her. Priorities....

      I love the comments reminding us that pets are members of the family with the same needs as our own, including healthcare. They depend on us to care for them, and anyone who welcomes a new four-legged family member into the group should make that commitment up front.

      Great hub!

      Jaye

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, ladyguitarpicker, nice to meet you. You beagle owners are a loyal lot, that's for sure. I see it all the time in my job. Yeah, dog food is getting more expensive, but no faster than anything else. And the quality keeps improving as well. Thanks for stopping by, Stella, and be sure to give your beagle a chin scratch for me.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi Bob, I know the pets cost a lot, but I want my beagles. Dog food is getting expensive these days. Thanks for a really informative hub. Stella

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Holy cow JayeWisdom...between you and girlgamers, you could cover the national debt! You both should try Fundme.com, or whatever that donation site is.

      And you also reaffirm my assertion that pet owners think their pets are worth any expense necessary to protect their life. There's a special place in Heaven for folks like you, who sacrifice so much for their animals, and I salute you.

      I don't know what went on, but you know how at the bottom of a comment there's a choice to either "Approve" or "Deny"...and sometimes when it's a suspicious comment, the choices will be "Not Spam" and "Delete Forever." Well, the second combo was at the bottom of your comment.

      I'm like, "HubPages, WTF, that's Jaye, of all people!! Of course, I hit the "Not Spam" tab and it changed to "Approved" and I approved it. But that's an insult to the integrity of an hp rock star! They may shrug their shoulders, Jaye, but I still luv ya!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your situation with us. I'm sure many pet owners will identify with your experience, if not quite at the same level. Thanks, too, for the votes. It's great to see you!

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, again, girlgamers! I think I replied to your second comment first because I was going by the order in which they hit my Inbox. I sure hope you have a long paper route to pay for all that! Holy cow! You confirmed my assertion that, no matter what the cost, most pet owners feel that it's worth it. You go, girl!

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, Lizzy, great to see you. Your cats don't know how lucky they are to have such dedicated fur parents. Hopefully your situation will take a turn for the better and your burden will be lightened. You should be able to get a high quality fish-based, grain-free diet for around $30 for a 12-15 pound bag, depending upon the brand. That sure beats $40 for 8 pounds. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and thanks, especially, for the votes, shares and pins.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Well, those are astounding figures, for sure! I wish I had the money to put aside for a pets-only savings account, but I don't. We barely make it for ourselves, and our 7 cats were all acquired one at a time over the years, as rescues, before our personal finances fell apart due to my husband's health issues.

      We recently had an issue with our second-eldest kitty, and it required several trips to the vet, and we capped out our private vet's willingness to allow us to make deferred payments, and had to apply to a local charity organization to complete his exams and treatments, including prescription food. Even at their cost (or so they told us), it was $40 for an 8 lb. bag!! Ouch! Though they did give us the first bag free. Now, I'll have to shop for a commercial fish-based diet for him, and those are not exactly cheap, either, but at least don't cost $40! I now have to segregate them at mealtime, as I can't afford to have the others eating his expensive food.

      Vaccines are not at issue; they got their kitten shots, but as they are all indoor-only cats, I don't get them vaccinated anymore, as they are not exposed to the outdoors or feral cats. That is a cost savings.

      As for toys; yes, they have quite a few, but any cat owner knows they would just as soon forget the toy and play with the box or paper sack! LOL

      Even though our finances fell apart when we were not expecting that to happen, I will do my best to honor the commitment I made when I adopted/rescued them, which is to say, I don't care if I have to live in a tent; my cats stay. I will not turn them over to a shelter...for I know the inside story there; it is a virtual death sentence in most cases.

      Our cats, in fact, are our last remaining link to sanity in this crazy upside-down world!

      Voted up, interesting and useful as well as shared and pinned.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, Heidi, glad you dropped by. You're right, and I think some people are susceptible to impulse adoptions or buys, and haven't really thought things through. That's why going through a breeder, shelter or rescue group is so wise...they'll do a proper screening to be sure that you're aware of the financial commitment as well as all the other reality checks. Thanks for stopping by, commenting, voting and sharing!

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi AudryHowitt, nice to see you. You, too, would probably find the survey averages to be very low. The 2 surgeries plus all the expenses probably could have been a cruise! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Nice to meet you, girlgamers, and I salute your pre-planning ethic. With 2 big dogs, you're likely to tap that emergency fund more than the average pet owner. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Perhaps you'll inspire some other folks to set up similar accounts.

    • girlgamers profile image

      girlgamers 

      3 years ago from Texas

      My husband and I keep an emergency fund just in case something happens. We put $50-$100 in a savings account every paycheck. All of the expected surgeries have already been done, spaying and the likes, but with big dogs that have the possibility of getting the breed issues, it's always best o be prepared. My mastiff is only 2, but already starting to show hip issues, and my dane is still a pup, but just in case she sits on a cat and breaks something, I want to be ready. The funds also help cover vaccines every year too.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      3 years ago from California

      It is amazing really! We have an older dog who has had 2 surgeries--add that amount to your list--ouch!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Okay, this is one of those "please don't ask me" questions! The bucks we spend on our 4-legged "kids" runs into the thousands every year. I'm hoping they'll each get a job soon and start kickin' in. :) Not!

      Agree with pstraubie that many wannabe pet owners don't realize that they are taking in a family member with needs that are similar to our own. Sadly, that's sometimes why we see people surrendering their pets to the shelter.

      A copy of this article should probably be given to all prospective pet owners. Voted up, useful, interesting and sharing!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Hi, Bob - I find all of the dollar amounts in that survey unbelievable! Unless the numbers are skewed by survey participants who do the very least for their pets as possible, the figures simply aren't realistic.

      I'm not even going to give you the cost of my dog's food monthly because you'll laugh out loud and call me crazy. Her food bill almost matches my own because I make her food at home (low-fat and without allergens, per vet's recommendation) using an organic protein and organic vegetables. The cost is worth it to me because she had pancreatitis three times when younger and eating commercial food, nearly dying once, and I'm not willing to chance that again. I also buy a senior vitamin, powdered probiotics and a powdered seaweed calcium supplement from Amazon, for the best price, but a LOT more costly than the vitamin figure in that survey. These last about three months, so they must be purchased four times per year.

      My dog's been in the animal emergency hospital for two days due to mysteriously catching HGE in 2013, a very dangerous form of bloody colitis that was "going around" this area like a virus at the time. Since she was low risk for getting it, the vet told me someone probably brought the bacteria into my house on shoes and she licked the floor. That two days cost me more than $1,000, including the meds she had to continue at home to complete her recovery, but if I'd been even an hour later getting her to the ER, she would likely have died.

      A year after she went blind, both her eyes had to be removed to prevent pain, and instead of having the surgery performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist who charged double and whose manner I didn't like anyway, the senior partner at our regular vet clinic did it. My dog had to remain in the hospital for nearly a week, and the cost took a big chunk out of $2k.

      Her regular vet visits include titers instead of the vaccine boosters that gave her a deadly reaction and left her with a compromised immune system. Titers plus the express delivery cost of sending them to a lab wreck my budget, and they're due next month.

      I have to give her Heartgard for heartworm preventive--the only toxic med she takes, and it doesn't come cheap, but I use natural products for flea protection (also not cheap).

      What else? Coats, a raincoat, and several lightweight wrap-around flannel "shirts" for when it's cold weather. I make her allergy-free treats from organic buckwheat flour, organic pumpkin, and organic applesauce for a fraction of what the same type treat sells commercially.

      I really don't have the nerve to tally or even estimate the total amount I've spent on my dog in the ten years she's been in my life. I actually do without a lot of material things that other people think they can't live without so I can afford the costs for my dog. I suppose it's a matter of priorities, and the fact that I'm not responsible for any other people at this point in my life makes this choice easier.

      If I'd known that it would cost about as much to care for my girl as it does to rear a child when I got her, would it have affected my decision? No way. I loved her at first sight and the feeling seemed mutual. She's given me so much joy that I feel privileged to be her caretaker, friend, and human "mom." Just call me another obsessed dog person....LOL.

      Voted Up and Interesting

      Jaye

    • girlgamers profile image

      girlgamers 

      3 years ago from Texas

      Great hub. I know the health aspect on the costs of owning animals, having worked in vets or years. I just spent $1500, a highly discounted rate, having a housecall to update my 8 cats and 3 dogs on their vaccines. I also just had a dental cleaning done on my foster cat, which was another $350, which included vaccines. Next item to tackle is flea care for the whole lot. Seeing as how the item I use is the Seresto collar, and price varies between sizes for dogs and cats, I expect another $700-800 for the 8 month collar, which is a steal compared to monthly topical flea medications. Animals may cost a bit, but every penny is worth the companionship they give, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, pstraubie48...you're right, not everyone who takes on a pet is aware of the financial commitment that it involves. That's why they say, "Do your homework before getting a pet."

      So I guess you'd agree with me, that some of the numbers arrived at by the survey seem pretty low. Your sister must spend 10 times what the survey says the average pet owner spends on grooming, although that service is lumped in with other services for the purpose of the survey.

      I think there are a lot of groomers who would appreciate that you groom your own cat. I don't think felines are a favorite client. And, most cats do a pretty good job of grooming themselves, too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and thanks for the angels.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, handymanbill, I just met a guy who looks like you over at one of my other hubs :) You have an interesting menagerie there and I'll bet the dogs and parrots treat you like family, but that the cat treats you like staff. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and for the votes and share.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      And sadly many who decide to become pet owners have no idea how costly having them will be.

      My sister and I were just talking yesterday about the cost of grooming. She has two pups and it costs here 1200 dollars per year just for grooming!! That is only one aspect of caring for them as you know...

      My kitty is not so expensive....I groom him as he needs no really special attention...he is brushed and nails clipped and sometimes we brush teeth (Not his favorite thing).

      Interesting article on this topic.

      Thanks for sharing the info with us.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning. ps

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 

      3 years ago from western pennsylvania

      I have 2 Dogs, 2 Big Parrots and a Cat. I can say I spend a lot on food for them. Voted up and shared. Very Informative.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, Uzochukwu Mike. You're right, that is a lot of money, but for many businesses it's a good investment that is a big help in advancing their business model. I'll stick with the free press release, thank you! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Nice to see you and your dog, Suhail, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm glad you liked the hub and I appreciate the votes and share.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Old habits die hard, Jackie, don't they. I love the business I'm in because I get to talk with pet owners every day and share information back and forth. I also talk with a lot of people who buy pet products online, or ask if my company's pet food is available online. I'm glad I'm not just starting out with a brick and mortar store...the future doesn't bode well for them. Glad you stopped by...thanks for the votes and share.

    • Uzochukwu Mike profile image

      Uzochukw Mike 

      3 years ago from Oba

      Over $3,000 is such a huge amount for non members. What we think is small is really big. Great.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Great hub and very informative indeed! Voted up and shared!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow I feel like I better stock up on cat food! I buy my vitamins for them online since they are better priced and come right along with other things I order for myself so usually if not always save the postage.

      I was in the book and collectible glassware business so that is what I always keep an interest in. Hard to ever give up our interests, huh?

      Up and shared. ^+

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