Do We Really Love Our Pets?

Despite the UK being seen as a country of pet lovers, a new survey by MSD Animal Health has us asking:

Do We Really Love Our Pets?

Significant Survey in Europe Uncovers New Insights into Pet Health and Owner Behaviour

Results were released today from a new survey conducted by MSD Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., with more than 5,000 pet owners from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K[i]. The findings demonstrate the desire of pet owners to be more proactive in keeping their furry friends healthy with the help of their veterinarian and the use of pet technology.

Key Highlights from pet owners on keeping their pets healthy

  • About one third of cat and dog owners thought their pets were overweight, while data from veterinarians suggest that the actual proportion of overweight pets is higher.
  • Most pet owners know their pet can be at risk of diabetes, could recognise the main signs and symptoms, and would use injectable treatments if needed.
  • Veterinarians are still the main source of pet health information, followed by online information.
  • Over 65% of dog and more than half of cat owners find it very important to get regular information on the health status of their pet so they can monitor their health. A majority of those surveyed do not currently use any pet health monitoring devices, 60% said they would like to use such a device.

Connecting With the Veterinarian

The survey showed that although the majority of pet owners recognise the importance of regular veterinary visits, 23% of cat owners and 11% of dog owners, visit less than once a year and some pets are never taken to the veterinarian.  This is in stark contrast to the top health concerns people had for their pets; they want to protect their pets from diseases and are concerned about diet and weight control.

For example, 28% of cat owners say they have not taken their pet to the veterinarian because they didn’t think they were unwell enough, but in retrospect think they should have done so. This shows an opportunity for pet technology to track the pet’s health, with the data generated alerting the owner to potential problems resulting in an earlier vet visit.  Sometimes the reason for not going to the veterinarian is as simple as problems persuading the cat to get into the carrier, or the cat is frightened and is hiding.

More Opportunities for Pet Technology

The survey indicates pet owners are looking to technology to help them care for their pet’s health and wellbeing using monitoring devices, such as activity trackers, microchip-controlled feeders and pet flaps.  At the moment, only about 10% of both dog and cat owners use a device for their pet, but two out of three would welcome a device such as an activity tracker. Given that only a third of people wear an activity tracker, pet owners appear more interested in tracking their pet’s exercise than their own! Another interesting result shows the wide differential between countries when it comes to using pet health monitoring devices: 17% of cat owners in Spain use a device versus only 5% in France.

Rachel Dean, Veterinarian and VetPartners Director of Clinical Research and Excellence in Practice gave the following perspective, “I am really pleased to see how pet owners want to be more proactive in supporting healthier lifestyles for pets including using new pet health monitoring technologies, as prevention is always best. The data these gadgets generate can be helpful when working in partnership with pet owners to help diagnose and treat their pets, the more information we are armed with the better the decisions we make – together.”

David Hallas, DVM and Managing Director of Sure Petcare, an MSD Animal Health brand, said. “We support both pet owners and veterinarians to improve the health and wellbeing of animals in their care. An example of this would be an activity tracker for dogs, which can capture and interpret unique insights into the pet’s behaviour patterns 24 hours a day. This gives the dog owner a greater understanding of exactly what their pet gets up to during the day.  When it comes to cat owners, they can use our smart feeders, which are app-controlled and microchip-enabled, to see how much food their cat has eaten and know their feeding patterns.

These technologies support pet owners to better look after the health and wellbeing of their companion animals, by understanding changing behaviours which could be a sign of distress or discomfort. These behaviour patterns can be easily shared with the veterinarian.”

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