Veterinary Services is the 2nd largest segment in the Pet Industry. High inflation, 3.5+%, caused a reduction in Veterinary visits from 2014>2016. In 2017 inflation slowed markedly (+2.2%) and consumers responded. In 2018 prices turned upward (+2.6%) and spending plateaued. In 2019 inflation was up +4.1% and Veterinary Spending reached $21.80B – Up $0.58B (+2.7%) from 2018. However, considering inflation, “real” spending was actually down -1.4%. In this report, we’ll take a closer look at the demographics behind the 2019 numbers. (Note: All 2019 numbers in this report come from or are calculated by using data from the US BLS Consumer Expenditure Interview Survey, rather than their Diary report. The low frequency of Veterinary Visits is still generating an exceptionally high variation on the data collected by the Diary method. Interview seems to be a more logical and accurate way to track Veterinary Service Expenditures.)

Let’s get started. Veterinary Spending per CU in 2019 was $164.88, up slightly from $161.51 in 2018. (Note: A 2019 Pet CU (67%) Spent $246.09) More specifically, the increase in Veterinary spending came as a result of:

  • 0.6% more CU’s
  • Spending 0.5% less $
  • …2.6% more often

We’ll take a closer look. But first, the chart below gives an overview of recent Veterinary Spending.

The big spending drop in the first half of 2015 coincided with the upgrade to Super Premium Foods – Trading $. Then consumers began value shopping for Premium Foods. The subsequent savings freed up $ for Veterinary Services. Spending began to climb until it flattened out at the beginning of 2017. In 2017, Veterinary inflation slowed markedly in the second half. The result was that spending literally “took off”. In 2018 prices turned up again. Consumers responded by essentially “holding their ground” through 2019. There is some price sensitivity in Veterinary Services Spending.

Now, let’s look at Veterinary spending by some specific demographics. First, here is a chart by Income Group

Although not as pronounced as Pet Services, Veterinary Spending is driven by income, 2019 was “mixed”. The only decrease came from the $100>150K income group and the biggest lifts were from <$30K & $70>100K.

National: $164.88 per CU (+2.1%) – $21.8B – Up $0.58B (+2.7%)

  • Over $150K (13.3% of CUs) – $365.23/CU (-3.6%) $6.40B, Up $0.08B (+1.3%) This highest income group is the biggest driver in Veterinary Spending as 13.3% of CUs generated 29% of 2019 $. Their $ were basically flat in 2019.
  • $100>150K (13.8% of CUs) – $214.43/CU (-17.8%) $3.91B, Down $0.59B (-13.1%) This middle/upper income group reacted strongly to the slowed inflation rate in 2017 but as prices turned up, their spending slowed then fell in 2019.
  • $70K>100K (14.5% of CUs) – $217.10/CU (+12.9%) $4.15B, Up $0.48B (+13.1%) Their spending has steadily grown since 2016. In 2019, they had the 2nd biggest increase overall and largest of any over $70K group.
  • $30K>70K (31.5% of CUs) – $119.35/CU (-1.8%) $4.97B, Up $0.02B (+0.5%) This is the 2nd largest group in Veterinary $ and their spending pattern is remarkably similar to the big spending $150K+ group. Vet $ were flat in 2019.
  • Under $30K (27.0% of CUs) $66.43/CU (+39.8%) $2.37B, Up $0.58B (+32.3%) This group is very price sensitive. After an increase in all segments in 2017, they dialed back their pet spending on Food and Veterinary Services in 2018. They recovered 75% of the Veterinary drop in 2019 but are still 25% below their Veterinary Spending in 2015.

Now, here is Veterinary Spending by Age Group

The drop came from 45>64 yr olds while the younger and older groups spent more.

National: $164.88 per CU (+2.1%) – $21.8B – Up $0.58B (+2.7%)

  • <25 (5.5% of CUs) – $92.98/CU (+3.8%) – $0.68B – Up $0.002B (+0.3%) This youngest group is getting serious about the responsibilities of Pet Parenting. While spending was flat in 2019, It is up +134% since 2015. 3.4% fewer CUs spent 9.9% more $ 5.5% less often.
  • 25>34 (16.1% of CUs) – $123.75/CU (+4.6%) – $2.63B – Up $0.11B (+4.2%) The commitment of these Millennials to their pets is growing. Their Veterinary $ ticked up in 2019 after being stable for 2 years. 0.3% fewer CUs spent 0.2% less $ …but 4.8% more often.
  • 35>44 (16.9% of CUs) – $226.62/CU (+30.2%) – $5.06B – Up $1.23B (+32.2%) In 2018, these mostly Gen Xers significantly ramped up their spending on Veterinary Services. This commitment accelerated in 2019 as they moved to the top in Veterinary spending. 1.5% more CUs spent 25.9% more $ …3.4% more often
  • 45>54 (16.8% of CUs) – $186.75/CU (-20.5%) – $4.16B – Down $1.25B (-23.2%) This group has the highest income, but value is still a big driver. In 2017, the radically slowed inflation caused them to spend significantly more money and more often. In 2018, prices turned up and continued to inflate in 2019. They hit a wall as spending dropped precipitously and they fell from the top spot in Veterinary $ and even below their 2015 numbers. 3.3% fewer CUs spent 19.1% less $…1.8% less often
  • 55>64 (18.6% of CUs) – $185.24/CU (-5.2%) – $4.55B – Down -$0.23B (-4.8%) This group is all Baby Boomers and was the leader in Veterinary Spending prior to 2015. In 2015 they upgraded to Super Premium Food and Vet Spending fell. In 2016 they began to spend more again on Veterinary Services. In 2017, as inflation significantly slowed, they regained the top spot… but not for long. In 2018 Veterinary prices began to strongly inflate again. Their spending fell and continued the downward spiral into 2019. 0.3% more CUs spent 4.2% less $…1.0% less often
  • 65>74 (14.9% of CUs) – $163.32/CU (+9.1%) – $3.22B – Up $0.33B (+11.3%) This group is growing in numbers and very price sensitive. 90% are Boomers so they are committed to their pets. Despite rising prices, they significantly increased the frequency of purchase and their spending grew. 2.1% more CUs spent 3.0% less $…12.4% more often
  • 75> (11.2% of CUs) – $101.63/CU (+25.3%) – $1.50B – Up $0.39B (+35.2%) This group of oldest Pet Parents has a strong commitment to their pets – in 2015 a $1B increase in Veterinary Spending. In 2016, they upgraded their food. In 2017 they increased spending in Food, Supplies and Services. In 2018, they turned their attention back to Veterinary and in 2019 they had increases in all but Supplies. 7.9% more CUs spent 14.9% more $…9.1% more often

Now, let’s take a look at some other key demographic “movers” behind the 2019 Veterinary Spending numbers.

Veterinary spending increased by $0.58B (+2.7%) in 2019. However, considering the 4.1% inflation rate, the amount of Veterinary Services was actually down 1.4% for the year. 2019 was a “mixed positive bag”. 56 of 96 demographic segments (57.3%) spent more on Veterinary Services while 40 segments spent less. There was less turmoil than in the other segments as only 4 flipped from first to last or vice versa while 7 segments maintained their position from 2018.

There were also some of the “usual” winners and losers. On the winning side were Homeowners with mortgages, White, Not Hispanic CUs, Advance College Degrees, 2 Earners and Suburban Areas over 2500 Population.

The “usual” losers were fewer in number and included: Single Parents, African Americans and Homeowners w/o Mtges.

That means that there were also some Surprises:

  • Winners: Singles, 1 Person, 35>44 yr olds, Millennials/Gen Z, <$30K, Tech/Sls Clerical Workers
  • Losers: 2 People, Suburban <2500, 45>54 yr olds, Mgrs & Professionals, $100>149K, Boomers.

In our earlier analysis we saw evidence in spending increases by income and by age groups. This data reinforces those results. Although the lift was relatively widespread by income, the bulk of the lift was coming from lower incomes.

  • Singles/1 Person
  • Tech/Sls/Clerical
  • Millennials/Gen Z
  • Under $30K

These winners reflect the strength of lower income groups in Veterinary Spending in 2019.

The trend in age groups was a drop in the 45>64 yr olds, with a lift in the older and especially the younger groups. These winning groups tend to be younger. Those marked with an * tend to be either younger or older.

  • * Single/1 Person
  • 35>44 yr Olds
  • 2 Earners
  • Millennials/Gen Z
  • Tech/Sls/Clerical
  • * Under $30K

You can see that the Age spending trend is clearly reflected in the details.

One of the biggest trends of note is the ongoing decline in Baby Boomer Veterinary Spending. This group, which fueled the growth of the Pet Industry has now had the biggest decline in Veterinary Spending for 2 consecutive years.

The Younger groups are definitely stepping up in Pet Spending. The 35>44 yr olds took over the top spot in Veterinary spending in 2019. However, it is even more important to note that the groups born after 1964 – Gen X/Millennial/Gen Z have increased their Veterinary Spending by over $3B since 2017. The Boomers are the biggest Pet Spenders because of their numbers and will be a force in the industry for years to come, but the “torch” is slowly but surely being passed.