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Millennials and Veterinary Oral Care Decisions: What DSRs Need to Know

By Pam Foster
April, 2017

When you visit the veterinary practices in your region, do you talk with them about millennials — the age group between 18 and 34?

This may seem like an odd question… but it isn’t when you see the latest data on millennial pet owners and their spending habits.

In March 2017, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey revealed that, “Gen Y/millennial pet ownership has officially surpassed baby boomer ownership by three percentage points to now account for 35 percent of all pet owners.” And in a PetFoodIndustry.com article about this news, Bob Vetere, president and CEO of APPA, stated: “This is a very passionate, active and connected group, and it’s been very exciting to see the ways in which our industry is working to meet the demands of this powerful demographic.”


Vet Advantage image: Millennial pet ownership as a big opportunity for veterinary practices.

Consider that again: Gen Y/millennial pet ownership has officially surpassed baby boomer ownership.

But that’s not all. 

Earlier this year, Packaged Facts issued a report, Millennials as Pet Market Consumers, based on the results of their National Online Consumer Survey. Here are a few highlights: 

  • “1 in 3 of U.S. pet owners are millennials (according to the survey data), responsible for 43 percent of pet owner growth between 2007 and 2015.”
  • “Millennial consumers not only have pets of their own, they are ready to coddle them using the most sustainable (and sometimes economic) ways possible.”
  • “Marketers must prepare for younger, informed consumers while also standing out."

We’ve found other interesting facts as well. For instance, the Purina article, “8 Ways Millennials Are Defining Pet Ownership,” noted, “Millennials are putting off getting married and having children until much later than older cohorts, and it seems that their four-legged companions are filling the gap.”

Jamie Renner, Senior Market Manager at MIDMARK, is excited about the recent trends in millennial pet owner attitudes and care decisions.

He said, “I see millennial pet ownership as a big opportunity for veterinary practices.” 

Jamie explained that this young demographic has an increased regard for the dignity, comfort and life experiences of their pets. They view veterinary care the same way we look at healthcare options for our family. They want and expect the best level of care. And, millennials spend more on non-essential pet items than any other group, and are the group most likely to spend on Pet Health Insurance. 

Take oral care, for instance. This is a major area where practices can focus on growth. According to the Midmark Academy website: “Veterinary dentistry represents the single largest opportunity for patient care and practice growth for today’s companion animal hospital.”

We asked Jamie if millennials seem to be embracing oral care in pets — from what he’s seen in the recent past. If so, what’s getting their attention and driving compliance?

Jamie said, “Research indicates that millennials do research to educate themselves on the best care, from food choices to safety. Information supporting the importance of Veterinary Dentistry is readily available online and this group will be more informed than any previous demographic.”

So, what would Jamie suggest for DSRs to open the conversation with veterinarians — to get them to offer today's solutions in a way millennials will embrace? 

“Encourage veterinarians to educate millennial pet owners – provide them with information,” he recommended. “80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of three have periodontal disease, which means that half of the patients veterinarians see each and every day need treatment.

The importance of Veterinary Dentistry is logical and easily understood. Imagine how human health is affected when dental care is ignored! Even with daily brushing, humans require regular professional cleanings to maintain oral health. Periodontal disease is not only painful for pets, but it can lead to serious systemic issues with the heart, liver and kidneys.”

To help practices understand how to talk with millennials and provide client education on oral care, Jamie recommends the following resources: “The AVDC (American Veterinary Dental College) website is a great place to start. AAHA also has Dental Care Guidelines for dogs and cats.” 

He also suggests that you help practices think about a marketing program specific to promoting dentistry awareness to pet owners. Some manufacturers offer training to help veterinarians educate clients. Your customers may also be interested in some of the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) resources to support their mission.

Remember, millennials are online researchers and social media fans, often using their smartphones for everything. Be sure to steer practices toward online marketing campaigns that involve web content (such as a blog post about oral care along with special oral-care promotions), social media posts, emails and perhaps even YouTube videos. 

For inspiration, check out this fun video by Annapolis Cat Hospital and Bay Ridge Animal Hospital

For further information on the opportunities with oral care solutions and how they benefit patients, clients, and practices, see our Vet-Advantage blog post: The Value of Oral Care.

Do you know any veterinary practices that are doing a great job with oral-care education or millennial campaigns? Let us know in the comments below. 

Topics: Oral Care, Dental, Millennials

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