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Issue 75: Empty Nests & Puppy Love

They may be empty-nesters, but they’re raising a new kind of baby—one that has dog breath and a cold, wet nose. Why? Many Boomers are nearing the end of parenting their children and have switched to nurturing their pets with the same passion as they raised their kids.

It’s a love affair that’s been going on for a few years, too. In fact, the years between 2002 and 2004 indicated that household spending on pets increased 18% after inflation, while toy sales dropped 25%, expenses for daycare centers fell 15% and spending on children’s clothes went down 15%.

This puppy love shows no signs of slowing down, either. According to the “National Pet Owners Survey” (2007-2008) which was conducted by the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, 63% of U.S. households—that’s 71 million homes—are pet owners and spent over $41 billion on those pets in 2007. That’s almost twice the amount that was spent only 10 years ago.

Baby Boomers aren’t the only ones who adore their pets, though. People of all ages and walks of life have pets—and most view their pets as family members. Maybe that’s why there are similar items for pets as there are for people. For example, there are pet strollers, front-pack carriers, ergonomically correct dog dishes, designer sweaters, healthy food and even pet supplements.

But that’s not all. Did you know that there is even social networking for pets? It’s true. In fact, there are 167 networks for pugs alone. Dog birthday parties, dog weddings, doggie day spas and even doggie bakeries that make fresh-baked dog treats are also in vogue.

While pet-pampering is part of showing pets how much we care, looking out for Fido’s health is just as important. Some people even take out health insurance on their furry friends--to the tune of about $2,000 to $6,000 over the life of an average pet. The reason? Veterinarians are now equipped to offer some sophisticated treatments that didn’t even exist a few years ago—all in an attempt to keep pets around longer.

Although only 850,000 of the 72 million dog owners and the 82 million cat owners have taken out insurance on their pets, the idea is catching on. The American Kennel Club and Petco Animal Supplies have joined forces with insurers and more than 1,600 companies provide pet insurance as an option to their employee benefits.

Pet health isn’t any lightweight investment, either. Americans are expected to spend nearly $45.5 billion on their pets in 2009 and $12.2 billion of that—a full 27%--is slated to go to veterinary expenses, according to the American Pet Products Association. That’s a 10% increase from 2008.

Some are turning to pet supplements, too. Many believe that they need to go beyond just feeding run-of-the-mill foods to their beloved buddies. The Simmons Research Bureau says that about 17% of dog or cat owners give their pets supplements, with healthy joints, skin and coat health, brain, eye and liver health leading the way as reasons.

Maybe all this extra pet attention is working. The American Veterinary Medical Association says our furry friends are living longer. A full 44% of dogs are older than six, but in 1987, only 32% of dogs lived past the age of six. Likewise, 44% of cats are older than six, compared to 28% of cats in 1987. many years is that in dog years?


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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