How Do Owners Spend Money on Their Pets?

How Do Owners Spend Money on Their Pets?

Oct 25th 2018

There’s no doubt that the pet care industry is booming, but where is that money going? Each year, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) conducts a survey to estimate pet industry spending and predict future growth. Here’s what they’ve found pet owners are buying and what they predict will be trends over the rest of this year. 

The Pet Industry is Booming 

When APPA was formed in 1988, 56% of homes had a pet. In 2017, 68% of all American homes, 84.5 million in total, have pets. Since the APPA started estimating total pet spending in 1994, the industry has grown from $17 billion per year to an expected $70 billion in 2018. Last year alone saw spending go up by 7%, making this one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.

Veterinary Care

Medical care grew 7% to $17 billion last year, and is expected to do the same in 2018, breaking $18 million. Much of this growth is driven by increasing pet ownership, and in particular as a substitute for children. Young adults often get pets when they delay starting a family, while empty nesters get pets when their kids move out. In the near future, growth is expected to be driven by increased interest in the health benefits of owning a pet.

Supplies and OTC Medications

This catch-all category includes everything from cages to toys and medicines. Growth is expected to hold steady at 2.7% per year with no major trend influencing spending.

Animal Purchases

Sales of pets were flat in 2017, the first time in four years that sales didn’t shrink. This is expected to fall by 4% in 2018.

Over the past few years, there has been a big push to adopt pets instead of buying them, both to reduce the business of mills and the rate of euthanasia at shelters. Along with grass roots efforts, celebrities from Margot Robbie to Chris Pine have shown off their shelter pets, making it cool to adopt.

Meanwhile, breeders are finding creative ways to market and sell their pets. A loophole in Chicago’s ban on dogs from puppy mills allows sellers to offer pets through shell adoption agencies. This alone accounts for well over 1,000 dogs sold in the area.


Food is the largest segment of the pet care industry, accounting for $29 billion in sales last year. Sales increased 2.9% in 2017 and are predicted to increase by 2.7% this year.

Most of that growth is driven by sales of dog food and premium brands of pet food. The slight dip in growth this year is tied to buyers increasingly seeking value. They want high quality food for their pets, but they’re willing to go out of their way to get it at the lowest cost, whether that means ordering off the internet or going to big box pet stores.

Annual Expenses for Dogs and Cats

Along with their industry-wide report, the APPA also releases information on the average spending of a single pet owner. They estimate the average yearly cost of owning a dog is $1,256, while the cost of owning a cat is around $1,005. Here’s how this spending works out for major categories.


Food: $235

Treats: $72
Routine clinic visits: $257
Surgical procedures: $474
Boarding: $322
Grooming: $84
Toys: $47


Food: $235

Treats: $56
Routine clinic visits: $245
Surgical procedures: $245
Boarding: $164
Grooming: $30
Toys: $30

The differences in spending makes sense when you consider the different levels of care needed between these animals. A cat just needs food and a clean litter box while the owner is gone, while dogs need to go on walks. Likewise, cats mostly take care of their hair themselves, but dogs need to be washed and have other grooming needs like expressing glands. No cat eats as much as a large breed dog, but due to their higher nutritional requirements, cat owners end up spending more on the food they buy.

We Can Help You Bring a Premium Experience to Your Clients

Whether you focus on value care or pampering pets, Positive Impressions, LLC has the products you need to connect with your clients. We have pet-themed veterinary bags, reminder cards, calendars, prescription labels and even memorial products to help your patients and make their owners feel special. We also offer custom printing for many of our items, letting you add a personal touch. Not sure where to start? Check out our website for the latest specials and our most popular products .

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