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What proportion of their income do people spend on veterinary care?

Percentage of household income spent on vet care

The map above shows what proportion of annual income households spend on veterinary care per pet. Showing this expense as a function of income accounts for the fact that income levels are different in different parts of the country. Showing this expenditure as a function of the number of pets, this metric accounts for the fact that different households have different numbers of pets. 

For more background on the methodology behind this metric and its limitations, head to the bottom of this page

Mean, Median, and Distribution



The mean -- or "average" -- percentage of household income that households spend on vet care per pet each year.



50% of the counties in the country spend 0.24% of annual income per pet on vet care, and 50% spend more.

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How we got here

No, there is not a data field in the National census that says "this is how much a household spent on veterinary care this year." Like many metrics, this one is an estimate based on the best available data. The inputs for this metric were as follows:

  • Estimated number of pets per household in each state

  • Number of households in each county

  • Annual total veterinary clinic revenue for each county

  • Median household income for each county

With these data in hand, we then estimated the number of pets in each county by multiplying the number of households in each county by the estimated number of pets per household in each state.  Next we took the total annual revenue for all vet clinics in each county and divided this by the number of pets in the county.  This gave us an estimate of the total amount spent on veterinary care per pet in the county.  Finally, we divided this by the median household income for each county.

In other words .... 

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Like many metrics, this one has limitations. Here are a few to keep in mind

  • Location, location, location!  Using data on veterinary clinic revenue per county makes two big assumptions: (1) That all of the money spent at a veterinary clinic came from households in the same county as the vet clinic, and (2) That households only spend money on veterinary care.  We know from personal experience that these assumptions don't hold; people spend money on veterinary care outside of their counties.  Still, it is reasonable to assume that a good deal of revenue at a vet clinic likely does come from households in the same county.

  • How many pets? Estimating the pet population for geographic areas -- from cities to states to the whole country -- has proven difficult for those who have tried. So any metric that incorporates these data should be considered with this in mind.

  • No clinics here...  Some counties show "zero" spending on veterinary care. For the purposes of this map, areas that show no spending on veterinary care are areas that have no vet clinics. It is reasonable to assume that households in this area have to travel to other counties for vet care. 

This list is not exhaustive, but these are the major limitations to consider.

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