As many women have abandoned the notion of having human children, pets have largely filled the care taking void. The market has followed suit as well. Spending on animal clinic visits in America has increased from $13.7 billion in 2012 to nearly $16 billion in 2016, as pets slowly morph into our kids.
One 42,000 square foot clinic in Hollywood has seen some of the most insane growth in pet surgeries and even stem-cell therapies. The hospital, VCA, was recently purchased by the yummy sweets company Mars for $9.1 billion. Yes, Mars. Their chocolate sales are not what they used to be. But even still, it’s a strange move… or is it?
Mars hasn’t been JUST a chocolate producer. The company is second only to Nestle in the burgeoning pet food market, but competitors are numerous. Private label selling has made it a very, very competitive market—mostly thanks to marketplaces like Amazon. Mars seems to be well on its way to cornering this industry, building off its purchase of Banfield Pet Hospital in 2007. This new VCA deal means that the brand will own 1,900 veterinary clinics in North America.
The move towards more expansive pet care isn’t just a product of more disposable income. It’s also an indication of an industry trend towards specialization. Veterinarians are no longer a one size fits all occupation. There are largely specialized to handle different animals as well as different afflictions and ailments.
Another vast improvement is medical technology on the whole. As John Mannhaupt of Brakke Consulting says, “anything you see in human medicine is likely to be applied to dogs and cats.” This ‘anything’ includes the implementation of CT scanners and on-site MRI machines. Mars might have been persuaded to buy VCA thanks to its advanced diagnostic laboratories.
This move towards pet health care has not been without controversy. Over-vaccination is an imminent concern, as accusations continue to mount that VCA and Banfield give animals unnecessary treatments. It is still illegal for corporations to own veterinary practices in many states for this reason. As the stigma of treating one’s pets like their children continues to fade away, this concern will grow. If you take your cat to the vet because it sneezed once, that might be an overreaction.
On the bright side, pets have never had a better quality of life than they do right now—just like their human counterparts. Let’s just make sure that their level of comfort never exceeds that of humans altogether.