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Owner Behavior Toward Veterinary Treatment After Pet Adoption

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)

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In this study, investigators surveyed pet owners at 6 different sites of a pet store chain. In order to qualify, respondents must have owned a pet within the last 3 years, be ≥18 years old, and live within specified zip codes. Total data from 529 respondents, representing 582 dogs and 402 cats, was descriptively analyzed. Respondents owned more cats than dogs; more cats were acquired from shelters or as strays. With regard to willingness to administer hypothetical treatments (eg, medication), dog owners were twice as likely to administer medications over a 30-day period than were cat owners. Owners that had acquired their cat from a shelter were more likely to feed a special diet than owners obtaining cats from other sources. Respondents who owned dogs were more likely to take their pet to a veterinarian for vaccinations and annual examination, or spend ≥$1000 for treatment of a chronic but not life-threatening condition than were cat owners. Respondents who obtained their pet from a shelter were twice as likely to take their pet to a veterinarian than those obtaining the pet from other sources regardless of species. Those respondents living in lower income areas were less likely to spend ≥$1000 on a cat or dog than respondents from higher income areas. Over 90% of all respondents expressed very high levels of attachment, except for owners of cats acquired as strays or from an “other” category (friends/family/neighbors).


One of the major take-home points of this study was that preadoption pet ownership improves care for pets. In this study, owners that adopted pets from shelters were more likely to bring their pet to a veterinary hospital for annual examinations than owners acquiring pets from other sources. In addition, owners of shelter-acquired cats were more likely to take their cat to a veterinarian for care or feed special diets. This is most likely because many shelters offer adopter education programs and compulsory interviews before pet adoption.—Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD


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