Inflation Is Putting Undue Strain on US Pet Owners, Forcing Many To Give Them Up

Lonely and sad daughter sitting with dog stock photo
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Keeping financially safe during a sustained period of high inflation is difficult enough for a family. For those that include a furred, scaled, winged, gilled or shelled member with completely different needs and diet, it’s getting even harder to stay out of debt.

A recent Forbes study found that 63% of pet owners said inflation has made it more difficult to pay a surprise vet bill. Vet bills under $1,000 would cause 42% of pet owners to go into debt, while 28% of pet owners would go into arrears with an unexpected vet bill of under $500.

Although the beginning of the pandemic brought a new pet to 23 million American homes, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the end result has been an uptick in pet surrenders and a downturn in adoptions.

The sad reality is that pet owners are increasingly having to re-evaluate their priorities when it comes to maintaining and even keeping their beloved pets. Katy Hansen, director of marketing and communications at New York’s Animal Care Centers (ACC), told The Guardian that the ACC shelters are seeing 25% more animals surrendered this year over last.   

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“We’re packed right now. We’re putting animals in cages in the hallways,” states Hansen. “It’s really sad, people crying, it’s a part of their family. But if you’re choosing between feeding your family and feeding your pet, your choices are limited.”

Buyer’s remorse can account for a small number of surrenders, but increased costs of pet food, supplies, medications, vet visits and social activities have all put owners in a tough situation. Pet Food Industry noted that in September, pet food prices were up 14% year-over-year, outpacing overall inflation rates, according to data analyzed by Pet Business Professor’s John Gibbons.

Related: Bring Your Dog to Work Job Searches Spike as People Return to the Office

According to a survey conducted by the Special Reports Team at, American pet owners are feeling the strain of inflation as they try to provide for themselves, their families and their animal companions. Food, supplies and medical bills have all increased sharply in price over the 14 months.

In the survey of 1,000 pet parents, 50% responded that they have had to shop for cheaper pet food options and 55% have been forced to cancel pet food subscriptions at companies like Chewy and Amazon.

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Forty-six percent of pet owners surveyed have resorted to skipping non-emergency veterinary visits or delayed procedures or treatments for their pet, including dental procedures (20%), X-ray imaging (16%), spaying/neutering (14%) and treatments for ear infections (14%).

Non-medical activities have also bore the brunt of inflation. Thirty-five percent of pet owners have attempted to save money by reducing pet grooming visits, while 28%, 24% and 20% of animal owners have lessened vet visits, doggie daycare and sitting or boarding facilities, respectively.

Although 22% of pet owners have sought help for pet-related costs from the special services in their state, more (24%) have considered re-homing or surrendering their pet to a shelter as a result of inflation over the past year.

See: 8 Things To Purchase When Building an Emergency Go Bag for Pets
Find: How To Become a Dog Walker

No one knows for sure whether inflation will abate or continue to grow, but everyone knows that animals need unconditional care and basic needs.

“We need support from the community,” pleaded Hansen. “We need people to volunteer, we need people to share the profiles of our animals. If you have a neighbor who’s struggling with their pet, help them! If you have an elderly neighbor, walk their dog, offer to get pet food.”

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