Global Trends in Pet Health

What you need to know

Click the key points below for more information on the topic

Pets are living longer than ever

Life expectancy has risen by as much as 230% for pets in some nations.

Life expectancy is rising

due to greater levels of vaccination, veterinary care, and improved awareness of the needs of pets.

Pet owners are investing more

in care than ever before, but tools such as insurance could help where cost is a barrier.

Developing markets face unique challenges

for pet care as free-roaming or ‘community’ animals may lack a formal owner.

Pet insurance is a small but growing market

for pet care as free-roaming or ‘community’ animals may lack a formal owner.

Lifespan of pets

Pets are living significantly longer, healthier lives compared to just a decade or two ago. This means ‘senior care’ and illnesses related to age are a greater priority to owners and veterinary practices.

How is the life expectancy of pets changing?

Average life expectancy of U.S. dogs increased from 10.5 years to 11.8 years between 2002 and 2016, an increase of 11.4%.1

In Japan, dogs live 50% longer today than they did in the 1980s, while cats’ average life expectancy grew by 230% in the same period.2

One estimate found that overall, ‘Dog life expectancy has doubled in the past 4 decades, and housecats now live twice as long as their feral counterpart’.3

Why are pets living longer?

Each pet is different; however, researchers have identified key factors that are driving the overall increase in life expectancy such as:

  • Owners gaining a greater understanding and awareness of pet health needs.
  • Higher levels of vaccination, better nutrition and a shift to raising more animals primarily indoors has reduced medical issues.

“What has increased is the preventative care – we have gone from treating individual conditions when they occur to preventing them in the first place.”

Dr. Wolfgang Dohne, Veterinarian and Senior Vice President, Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations

Burden of Disease

Illness and parasites remain the primary threat to the health and well-being of pets. Control relies upon early detection, proper medicine use and regular veterinary care.

Are pets receiving regular vaccinations?

Data is scarce in many markets for vaccination levels. However, a survey in the U.S. and Canada found that over 9 out of 10 veterinarians (91.5%) said they have clients who expressed concerns or refused core vaccines.4 Furthermore, the UK PAWS charity has maintained a multi-year survey of pet owner attitudes and actions towards vaccination in the country. Their results have shown:

Nearly 1 in 4 dogs (23%) are not vaccinated with regular boosters.5

39% of cats are not receiving regular booster vaccines.6

Owners stated one of the top reasons not vaccinating was “it’s not necessary.”7

What is the risk of zoonoses transfer from pets?

Although the risk of disease transfer from pets to people remains very low in most countries, diseases like rabies remain a persistent threat in developing markets.

Rabies remains responsible for around 59,000 human deaths every year, with half of these in children under the age of 15.8 Dogs account for about 99 percent of all rabies transmissions to humans, with the overall annual cost of rabies estimated at about $8.6 billion each year.9 India is the most affected country, accounting for about 20,000 rabies death each year.10 Read our section on ‘Pet Health in Developing Markets‘ to learn more.

Despite this, the incidence of infectious zoonotic diseases from pets remains very low in most developed markets. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that very few zoonotic outbreaks originate in dogs and cats.11

“Six out of 10 infectious diseases are zoonotic but fortunately, of all the zoonotic diseases, very few come from dogs and cats.”

Dr Siraya Chunekamrai, President, World Small Animal Veterinary Association

What is the risk of parasites to pets?

Fleas, ticks and worms remain a common and continual issue for many pets:

Heartworm prevalence can be as high as 28% in dog populations, while testing in cats found 19% with evidence of an active or previous infection.12

85% of dog parks visited in U.S. metropolitan cities had at least one dog test positive for intestinal parasites. Overall, 20% of tested dogs in the parks were positive.13

A UK study found 28.1% of randomly selected cats and 14.4% of dogs had fleas.14

Some of these parasites (e.g giardia) are zoonotic and can be unintentionally transferred to the owner, which is why control of parasites improves ‘household health’. Parasite prevention typically requires a regular parasiticide and consistent diagnostic testing (e.g. annually) to ensure any potential issues are detected early and minimize risk to the pet.

How does a longer lifespan affect the
overall health of a pet?

An ageing population of pets is also bringing about new, unique health needs. Much like in people, the risk of health problems such as cancer, liver disease, diabetes, senility and joint disease grow later in life. To counter these risks, veterinarians typically recommend:15

  • Increased veterinary care.
  • Focus on prevention and early intervention.
  • Specialized diet and nutrition.
  • Continued vaccination and parasite control.
  • Maintaining mobility.
  • Mental stimulation.

How is disease prevention evolving?

Monitoring tools and diagnostics are helping identify new risk factors for disease that allow veterinarians to take earlier preventative action. For instance, ‘Big Data’ tools can use aggregated diagnostic records across millions of animals to help identify subtle health changes that suggest onset of chronic illnesses. Small animal veterinarians use these insights with patients to anticipate health issues, which is helping extend a pet’s lifespan.

“We have done vaccination for many decades, but now have pet health plans, which a lot of clinics offer.”

Dr. Wolfgang Dohne, Veterinarian and Senior Vice President, Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations

Investment in Care

Consumer spending on healthcare and treatments for companion animals has increased, in recent decades particularly as the “humanisation” of pets grows.

How much are consumers spending on their pets?

The pet industry is a major global sector. In the United States alone, consumers spent an estimated $123.6 billion in 2021 on pets and pet-related products.16 Market analysts at Morgan Stanley estimate this may rise to $275 billion by 2037.17

In Australia, AUS$30.7 billion was spent on dogs and cats in 2021, with the bulk of spending going towards pet foods, veterinary services and healthcare products.18

Spending specifically on veterinary care is growing alongside the wider sector as well. In the UK, the annual expenditure on veterinary and other pet services rose from £2.6 billion in 2015 to £4 billion in 2021, a 54% increase in just six years.19

In the United States, a survey of pet owners revealed that only approximately 40% dog and cat owners visit the veterinarian once a year.20 Veterinary associations recommend all animals see a veterinarian regularly (annually or more), therefore there is an opportunity for greater investments in veterinary care in many areas.

Estimated U.S. consumer spending on pets and pet-related products

How big is the pet health market?

In the U.S. alone, pet owners $123.6 billion on their pets in 2021 with $34.3 billion going towards veterinary care and products (not including over the counter medicines).21

Over 50% of animal health products sold in 2021 were for pets, a switch from just 4 years prior (2017) when livestock products were the majority.22

In the E.U. pet owners spend close to €22 billion on pet food each year with an average annual growth rate of 2.8%.23

However, many pets – sometimes more than 50% – still do not see a veterinarian annually as indicated in owner surveys.24 Recent data from the ‘Human-Animal Bond Research Institute’ (HABRI) shows that there may be an opportunity to address this issue by better communicating with owners on the value of their pet. For instance, HABRI has found that when owners understand the human-animal-bond better, they are more likely to take better care of their pet, bring them to the veterinarian regularly, etc.25

“Money is the biggest challenge that vets face the world over. If your choice is between feeding your family and taking the dog to the vet, there’s no discussion.”

Dr Lawson Cairns, Veterinarian, South Africa

How many pet owners take out insurance?

While a few countries have achieved notable growth, uptake of pet insurance remains generally low in both developed and emerging markets.

  • Only 4.4 million pets were insured in the U.S. and Canada at the end of 2021. Although this is a 27.7% increase over 2020, it represents a fraction of the 150M+ dogs and cats in the countries.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has noted that “having pet health insurance makes it more likely that owners will follow their veterinarian’s recommendations.26

Only 4.4 million pets were insured in the U.S. and Canada in 2021

“We’re going to see the market develop to a place where 10–15% of pets are insured in [the US].”

Alex Douzet, CEO, Pumpkin Pet Insurance, U.S.

Pet Health in Developing and Emerging Markets

Pet health in developing and emerging markets faces unique challenges from different ownership patterns when compared to typical developed contexts.

What health threats do pets face in developing countries?

Free-roaming and community-owned dogs are common in some developing regions, with anecdotal evidence that only an estimated five percent of dogs have “owners” in developing nations, compared to the vast majority in developed nations.27–by-the-millions.pdf

This creates key preventable disease challenges in developing countries include rabies, leptospirosis and leishmaniasis. Lack of formal ownership can also lead to indiscriminate breeding and additional health burdens.

Income can be a key barrier to veterinary care and treatment in developing regions. Less disposable income leads to less ability to access and afford veterinary care, which in turn may stunt the growth of the veterinary sector. This means even pet owners that seek out care may struggle to find an available small animal veterinarian in their area.

“In a lot of developing and lower income countries, they have had more focus on livestock and production animal veterinary medicine, less for companion animals.”

Dr Shane Ryan, Veterinarian and Past President, World Small Animal Veterinary Association

Regulatory and trade barriers for new health products and commodities like pet foods are also common, preventing some products from entering markets where they are most needed.

Complex and differing regulatory processes in different countries, for instance, coupled with markets where regulations are currently underdeveloped, can often disincentivise companies from registering new products that would help improve pet health. A lack of expertise is another prevailing barrier, with insufficient numbers of veterinary professionals in developing markets.

“Another issue is access to veterinary pharmaceuticals. Often these markets are small – it’s not a regulatory easy thing to do to get these medicines licensed in some countries.”

Dr Shane Ryan, Veterinarian and Past President, World Small Animal Veterinary Association

Explore the other areas of the report


This report is produced by HealthforAnimals, the global animal health association, and was informed by interviews with experts in the pet world. We thank the following people for their participation: Alex Douzet, Dana Brooks, Edival Santos, Lawson Cairns, Leonardo Brandao, Marie-Jose Enders, Siraya Chunkekamrai, Shane Ryan and Wolfgang Dohne. The information in this report focuses on dogs and cats as these are the overwhelming majority of pets, although other animals such as horses, birds and fish can be pets as well.