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Economic Benefits of Pets

National health surveys from both Germany and Australia have shown that pet owners may use less medication105 and make about 15% fewer visits to doctors per year than non-owners, and that those who own pets the longest are the healthiest106. These reductions in healthcare usage mean that pet ownership potentially saves billions of dollars/Euros in government and private healthcare expenditure annually107.

Results from a German national health survey indicate that, for the year 2000, the health benefits conferred by pet ownership potentially saved 5.59 billion Euros in national health expenditure. Looking at these figures another way, every 1 percent drop in pet ownership may result in an increase of 262 million Euros in national health expenditure (based on figures from 2000)107.

Results from an Australian national health survey indicate that, for the period 1999-2000, the health benefits conferred by pet ownership potentially saved $3.86 billion in national health expenditure. Looking at these figures another way, the 7.3 percent decline in pet ownership that occurred between 1996-2001 may have cost approximately $495 million in increased health expenditure107.

A report in the US suggested that companion animal ownership may save healthcare services around $12 billion a year108 but that estimate was challenged because health care costs related to injuries from animals were not included109. A different report written in the UK detailed the economic impact of companion animals in that country and estimates the health care savings related to the benefits of pet ownership to be approximately £2.45 billion110.

Pets were banned in urban areas of China until 1992, but, since the ban was lifted, dog ownership has grown quite rapidly in urban areas, especially among young women. Because exposure to pet ownership is ‘new,’ if pets confer health benefits, researchers would expect to see statistically stronger effects than in countries where pet ownership has been common for centuries, and this is precisely what was found. The link between dog ownership and better health outcomes is stronger in China, where dog owners make fewer than half the number of doctor visits made by non-owners (an average of 2.92 fewer visits per year), and also have fewer days missed from work due to illness111. This result is certainly noteworthy, but it is possible that it is driven by the fact that younger people, who are potentially among the most healthy group in China, are the population most likely to acquire a pet. While economic estimates have not been made of the potential healthcare cost savings of pet ownership in China, the stronger effects reported suggest that the savings would be even more substantial than in Western countries where these estimates are available.