People love their pets more than ever, so why aren’t they investing in wellness care?

IDEXX stories

People love their pets more than ever, so why aren’t they investing in wellness care?

By Kathy Turner

With more time spent at home over the past two years, families around the world suddenly bonded even more deeply with their pets. How close have they become with their furry friends? As it turns out, very.

This trend has had an important impact on wellness care. As the human-animal bond continues to grow, so does the desire to give pets the very best care; a recent study from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) found that an overwhelming 86% of pet owners globally said they would pay “whatever it takes” if their pet needed extensive veterinary care.​

Today’s pet owner sees value in “proactive” versus “reactive” care – with one missing piece

There’s no doubt that pet owners’ hearts are in the right place, yet many don’t realize there are steps they can take now to help their pets live longer and healthier lives, such as wellness care that includes annual diagnostic testing.

Research shows a clear correlation between the strength of the human-animal bond and the propensity to engage in preventive care. The same HABRI study found that strongly bonded pet owners already believe in the importance of “proactive” wellness care, evidenced by those engaging in annual check-ups (71%), vaccinations (78%), flea, tick, and worm products (76%) and even brushing their dog’s teeth (44%). But when you look at diagnostics, the number is far lower – 26%.

Pets can’t tell us how they feel. Diagnostic testing can give them a “voice” to communicate important health updates each year at their annual wellness visit.

Our study found that when dogs aged two years and older were tested with the IDEXX Preventive Care Profile, the results of one out of every four patients found abnormalities that required follow-up (this was even higher for seniors and geriatric dogs).

For both the vet and the pet owner, this study shows a strong rationale for diagnostic testing to catch conditions that require follow-up, especially with no symptoms present – at any age.

Breaking down barriers to wellness diagnostics: conveying the value

In a 2021 survey in Australia, vets told us that nearly 70% of their clients do follow their recommendations for diagnostic testing during a wellness visit.1 For the 30% of pet owners who decline, the reasons include cost, perceived invasiveness to the pet and lack of clear necessity – essentially, the pet owner does not see the value.  

So, how do we reconcile this with the data saying pet owners will pay for whatever it takes to support their pet’s health?

It’s simple: symptoms are clear when a pet is sick, so people are willing to pay for health care. When the pet appears healthy and the reason for wellness testing is not understood, the cost seems high. Would you pay for something you don’t deem necessary? Of course not!

Remember – today’s pet parent is motivated more strongly than ever to provide the best possible care for their pet and will pay what it takes to get that care. These studies show there is an opportunity to help pet owners better understand the value of wellness care for their pet.

Communication is key to conveying the value of wellness care

People want what’s best for their pets. That’s why clear communication before, during and after each visit is vital when setting expectations around wellness care and diagnostic testing.

Navigating client conversations can be difficult, but creating clarity in pet-owner communications can lead to better outcomes.

With preventive care testing, communicating the value of a pet’s diagnostic baseline can help a client understand the important insights you can gather about a pet’s health through annual testing. Sometimes it’s important to consider that a client’s reaction is unpredictable, but approaching a conversation intentionally can help establish trust. And in some instances, a client might just say no. Even understanding strategies to work through a client saying “No” can help foster trust-based client conversations in the future.

Educating pet owners now about the value of wellness care that includes diagnostics will help their furry family members receive the care they need to live longer, fuller lives for years to come.