America’s Pet Frenzy (Infographic)

It’s always strange to realize just how much we spend on things that we don’t consider regular, heavy expenses. American pet care is a $50 billion dollar industry and growing. As infrequently as vet visits seem to come up for my family, the bill for most any procedure is at least $200. Pets are a part of the family, and I’m certainly not one to cut corners, but some of our spending is very unnecessary.

Check out my latest infographic to see where you fall on America’s spectrum of pet obsession:

Pets Infographic


  1. Since having my third child, I am starting to despise our dog. Another mouth to feed, time consuming to walk, overpowering stink, shedding hair explosions, and expensive vet bills. Every time we take a trip, it’s a hassle to find a place for her to stay. We can’t fix her because her kidneys are functioning properly, so they don’t want to put her under, which means we have a mess to contend with every time she goes in heat. AGGRAVATING!

    But it’s a commitment to have a dog and we will honor it. I will be grumbling under my breath.

    • Reading your comment, I already despise you.

      I so sorry that you have to ‘deal’ with all of your pets’ shortcomings.. since you know, they do nothing but love you unconditionally no matter what.

      Give up your dog to someone who will love them back and not have to deal with the ‘hassle’ of owning a pet.

      • That’s harsh Len.
        Some people are crazy dog lovers and some are not.
        Elle is an overworked mother and chooses to spend more time and attention on her children than on her dog. She’s not getting rid of her dog, she’s expressing her opinion about her own dog.
        How dare you be so rude to her.

        • I’m going to have to agree that Elle deserves a little more compassion. Just one new baby is a handful, let alone with two other kids and a dog.

          You never know what one’s situation is like or what their kids are like or even what their dog is like. One person with five kids may have it easier than someone with two kids, depending on the family support and the personalities of the kids. Until you walk in their shoes, you can’t really judge fairly or compassionately.

          Elle is saying that despite being under a lot of pressure herself, she recognizes that she made a commitment when they got th dog and she is going to honor it. She should be praised.

          And while it is lovely to suggest that there will be another family waiting with open arms to adopt the dog, the truth is that most people don’t want an older dog, especially one with health issues that cause odor/mess problems around the home. Shelters label these animals as “unadoptable” and guess what happens to them?

    • Sorry your dog is “making” you so miserable.

      When getting a pet the commitment is to ensure that dog is well cared for, happy, and loved for its entire life. Why don’t you contact a local rescue group and work with them to find your dog a home where it will be considered a blessing, not a burden?

      • Lily et al,

        To clarify, it’s not my dog, it’s my husband’s primarily. Mine and my children’s secondarily.

        Think beyond your limited knowledge of the situation based on a few comments I made for a moment. Just because I mentioned that the dog annoyed me, doesn’t mean that she isn’t loved or well cared for. She is spoiled from the other four members of our family and taken care of by me. Twice daily walks, a comfortable place to live, gourmet food made with boiled chicken twice a day, daily snuggles, you name it. You should see the way my husband rolls around on the ground with her. (The dog loves it and I find it annoying.)

        It’s not as if I’m like Michael Vick and putting her in dog fights or leaving her in the back yard tethered to a chain link fence starving her. Pah-lease. I don’t walk by her and kick her as I pass – I talk sweetly to her.

        There are many annoying people in our lives. Do we re-home all of them just because we have a low tolerance for it? No. If I find my husband or children annoying at times, do I go about finding them new homes, wives, mothers? No. I may joke about it, but that’s plain ridiculous. We’re not giving up our dog. She is a member of our family – all 150+ pounds of her drooling, shedding and panting self.

        Finally, this is Frugal Dad’s blog and he posted an excellent infographic. Stop hijacking his blog for this dog welfare uproar.

        • Seriously, just shut up. I am an animal rescuer and I see people like you everyday. “It’s my husbands dog, not mine!” a dog is a part of your family, to be treated as one of your children (although the life of a child is much more valuable than the life of a dog, just to clarify that). Yes, my 6 dogs get on my nerves, annoy me, drive me insane, but I would never, ever, say anything about “despising” them. Much less complain about the shedding, stink, vet bills, and such. When I got my dogs I made a commitment not only to them, but to their “faults” as well.

  2. Thanks for the visual. I find it mind-boggling that with the current state of unemployment and debt in this country that pet stores weren’t some of the first to go under.

    Never understood the whole “pet as a member of the family” thing. Seems like a luxury in hard times.

  3. Very interesting infographic. I loved the stats.

    I did find the cost per year to be much higher than my own. I keep very detailed financial records and found my average over the last 5 years is just under 500. Here is how I would estimate that breaks down.

    Initial cost adoption: 75 (immunizations included in routine vet below) + 100 supplies

    Surgical Vet Visits: 0; Routine Vet: 108; Food: 220; Flea/tick/heartworm: 60; Boarding: 44; Vitamins: 0; Travel: 0; Groomer: 3 ($12 brush over 4 years); Treats: 20; Toys: 20

    Total / year: $475
    Total / year including initial costs: $492.50
    Total / 10 years: 4,925.00

    Of course, I haven’t had any operations needed — but I would frankly have a low tolerance.

    So, $5,000 for 10, hopefully 15, years of companionship and fun.

    Pet saving tips:

    Buy food / treats in bulk
    Buy flea/tick for largest size dog and divide into monthly doses
    Buy toys from thrift store kid section (no bean fillings)
    Grooming is optional for most dog breeds – buy scissors and a brush

  4. Elle, if your dog irritates you that much, rehome her. It might take a while, but the tension and feelings will affect not only your dog, but your child.

    • Java Monster,
      The dog is my husband’s – re-homing would never be an option. (Already considered it.)

      …now feeling guilty for sounding so negative. 🙂 I’ll try harder.

      • There are pads or doggie diapers made for different sized dogs, Elle. They’re usually sold at dedicated pet stores, or online, and they’re designed for this problem in particular. (as well as dogs who have incontinence problems). Donna also has a good point that your husband needs to get more involved with her care, even if he’s off working. When he gets home–HE walks her. Before he goes to work? HE walks her and feeds her and clean up her poops in the yard so the kids can play there. If he’s home, and she leaves streaks on the floors, well, guess who gets to drag out the rug cleaner and use it?

  5. @Len, perhaps you skimmed over my first words. I have 3 young children to care for. When you have a baby, a dog’s status shifts from God status to pet status. Parenting humans is time consuming and exhausting. Despise me if you will, but I stand by what I said.

    Thanks for others’ wise words and sage advice. I heard you and will definitely implement your suggestions.

    • I just wrote a scathing reply to the woman who complained about having a dog while caring for three kids. I deleted it. I guess I’ll just say – the dog didn’t ask to be adopted into your home. Maybe it’s time to find him a better place to live. Clearly, this person needs all her attention on her kids. Sad that they’ll never experience the real joy of having a pet. I raised 3 kids and we had pets and I can’t imagine complaining the way this woman has… but, I’m not living in her house, either. So, she deserves her say… as I deserve mine. And, in the end, the dog deserves a family that actually wants him.

      • Yvonne,

        Thank you for not blasting me further, but yes we’re all entitled to our opinions. I’ve thought about what you said and posted additional information for you to consider in another comment.

        Bottom line: there is no better place for our dog to live. She’s ours to the end. She is wanted and loved by our family – even me.

  6. Elle, at least you are willing to admit you are having some issues with having an animal. I don’t see any harm in that. I would rather people be honest about their choices, than to get an animal only to abuse it because it is not wanted, and can’t bring themselves to admit they don’t want the responsibility to care for it , it is the public ridicule that holds some folks back from admitting.

  7. P.S. my mother told me on aftenoon over lunch, that when i was young, she would give me dolls and i would play with them for an hour and put them aside to forget about them, but give me a book and she lost me for the day. I have a daughter and a grand daughter…and i am satisfied (my motherly instincts were NOT strong ones)….I do have a “pound puppy” a pure bred bassett hound. I simply hate puppy mills, and animal cruelty period of any sort. So, we all have free will and get to make choices….we get to live the with consequences of those choices too….i choose to be with a critter, and less children for me…i am an animal lover. I respect the fact that you were able to step up to the podium and voice your issues , Elle. Now to work them out to the best of everyone , including the dog…i would get your husband involved with the care, since it is his dog….and he may find that his own ideals may change (no future dogs)?

  8. Thanks for the infographic! I would love to hear some stats about what percentage of Americans owned pets BEFORE the recession compared to how many do now.

    I grew up with pets, and think they’re great companions, but only if you have the budget and time to commit. When my husband and I are ready, we’ll adopting a mutt from the shelter.

  9. Interesting & attractive infographic, but I find some of the implied conclusions misleading. “More than spent on child’s dental care” – what does that tell us? That we care more about our pets than our children’s teeth? I don’t think you can draw that conclusion, yet this little fact is highlighted as if it is important for some reason. I suppose it’s kind of interesting, but I think you’re comparing apples to oranges.

    “Pet overpopulation” – again, those comparisons to households with a married couple and kids are interesting, but they don’t tell us we have a pet overpopulation problem.

    “Healthier than humans” – this one doesn’t even pass the smell test. We spend more on pet food than the National School Lunch Program – so what? Does that one program’s budget represent all money spent on school lunches in the country? Even if it did, what does this tell us about human vs. pet health? Also, I would consider it a plus in the human health column that a lower percentage of humans are medicated.

    “Ownership Cost/Benefit” – no discussion of benefits, no mention of the operating costs of the car, so apparently it’s just sitting in your driveway. Not a very useful comparison.

    I really like the “Risks of Pet Mania” info and the box with the amount of money people could save if they adopted from shelters. The infographic would be much more useful if it focused on these points instead of trying to make pet ownership sound excessive with tenuous comparisons to unrelated information. The graphic is attractive, interesting, and obviously made me think, but a lot of the info is pretty useless and leading if you don’t have a critical eye.

  10. This is absolutely AMAZING. I am going to try and squeeze this in my sidebar and Ive already shared all over the place. Im so glad to see a blog like this pointing animal welfare info out to readers…
    Thank you so much for your contribution to the education of Americans about animal welfare and the plight of our homeless animals.

  11. I take my buddy, Andy [our English Mastiff], everywhere we go [vacation, work,- everywhere]. Even with all of his slobber, shedding, poots [OMG] and the hassle of his 250lb body, I can’t imagine life with him. The only bad thing about him is that I know he will only be on this earth for 10 years or so. I find myself subtracting his life from that number a lot and worrying about losing him… Anyway, great graphic. Who had the time to create that thing…

  12. I have a free black lab and two free short haired tiger cats. My vet charges reasonable rates. The cats are spayed, and the dog is neutered, and all three were done during spay/neuter week at a reduced rate. I feed them decent food and I love them. They are worth the cost just for the entertainment value and companionship alone. My big dog sits on my lap and puts his head on my shoulder while I watch TV. The cats, while elderly now, are a joy to be around. When one of the cats developed diabetes, my vet was very helpful in getting her blood sugar under control, and I buy generic insulin at Walmart. She’s doing very well.

    I would have to be nearly homeless before I’d give them up.

  13. You should specify which Humane Society. There’s the Humane Society of the United States, which does not directly rescue cats and dogs but which does critical lobbying and education on behalf of animals. Then there’s the American Humane Society (which is probably the one you’re referencing), which works directly with animal shelters.

    The HSUS sometimes gets unfair flak for not directly rescuing animals, because people confuse it with the AHS. Since they’re both wonderful organizations that do very different work, it’s important not to perpetuate the confusion.

    Thanks for the incredible infographics!

    • Oops, nevermind. I just looked into it and it was HSUS that saved/cared for 57,000 animals this year. It would still be good to specify which “Humane Society,” though.

  14. Though I found this infographic interesting on a statistic level, I think some of the conclusions it reaches regarding ‘overpopulation’ are dodgy, at best. Mostly, there is no real pet overpopulation problem, there is just a bunch of animal shelters and pounds committed to killing pets rather than finding them home. It’s not a matter of money – for example, Saving Pets (on this blog post: ) highlighted that for every animal (cat or dog) in the centre, it received $536 someway (donations, council agreements, etc). If I had $536 for every rescue animal I rehomed, I could almost live off the income. Basically, there is a system in place where killing pets is normalised.

    Otherwise, I liked this infographic and found it informative and pretty. ^.^

  15. I know why Seattle has 1.5 dogs per child.
    Seattle is full of very young, liberal, idealistic people who say “Yes, please!” to every possible tax.

    Then, they grow up, get married and have a baby… and move out of Seattle. Also, it’s got a high gay population. Schools are constantly being closed due to a lack of kids.

    So, Seattle has more pets than kids, that doesn’t mean they have a lot of pets, it means they have nearly no kids.

  16. Very interesting info! I am a pet lover,I have my two beautiful doggies,
    Well, I just want to share my information here in Philippines, Some pets usually dogs Could (Askal) , are abandon so our City Government they want to get all dogs abandon,so that they cannot bite people walk through the high way. It`s very nice idea our City Government.

    I learn a lot of things of this Website, Thanks for sharing interesting infographic.! Keep it up!