Pets and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Pets and the COVID-19 Pandemic

After an extensive search through industry-related websites and media platforms, insights regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting pets in the US do not appear to be available in the public domain. However, the research team was able to gather valuable insights about COVID-19 and the pets industry in general.

Useful Findings

  • Dogs or cats cannot be infected with COVID-19. However, the virus can be spread to pets through touch and be transmitted to another person.
  • Pet support services are required in poor and underserved communities. Families with low incomes are experiencing financial hardships due to unpaid leave. Consequently, many are experiencing difficulties providing for their pets.
  • Despite pets not being at risk of getting COVID-19, pet owners should put plans in place for animal care in the event there is an emergency. Some of the things to consider include what the pet will require in the event one is quarantined, such as supplies, indoor games, and a potty.
  • If pet owners have COVID-19, the CDC recommends that they avoid direct contact or maintain separation with their pets. Direct contact includes, sharing food, kissing, snuggling, and petting.
  • COVID-19 will impact the pet industry in various ways. For instance, pet retailers will experience increased sales as people stock up for their pets. On the other hand, pet care services such as veterinary services will be adversely affected.
  • In addition, animal shelters might need to take in more pets since there are people who have the virus and no family or friends to look after their pets.

Research Strategy

After a thorough search, we did not find any data-supported insights surrounding how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting pets in the US. We first attempted to look at media platforms and industry sites, such as San Diego Human Society, Pet Products News, and Trib Live but to no avail. Instead, these sites focused on how pet owners are adjusting during the outbreak, the fact that there is no evidence in the US that the virus can be transmitted to pets, and the different ways of setting up emergency plans for pets.

We then attempted to look at the social media pages of pet influencers, such as Loki the Wolfdog, Nala the Cat, and Marnie The Dog. We hoped that we could find insights on how COVID-19 is impacting pets from these influencers but to no avail. Instead, the influencers only made posts about their pets lacking exercise and attention due to self-quarantine. For this reason, we made the assumption that insights regarding the impact of COVID-19 on pets in the US are not available in the public domain.

Part
02
of three
Part
02

Pet Food and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Three insights surrounding how pet food buying is being affected in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic are that overall sales have increased due to panic buying, online sales are soaring due to stay-at-home orders, and shortages in pet food are expected as supply chain issues arise.

Overall Sales Have Increased

  • Even though people are beginning to lose their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still buying pet food.
  • Pet food sales grew 6.4% year-over-year for the first week in March, outpacing the 2% to 2.5% growth for January and February.
  • The biggest gains in the pet food segment were for dry dog food, dog treats, dry cat food, wet dog food, and wet cat food.
  • These numbers indicate that people stocked up on pet food just as they did their own food in preparation for quarantine.
  • According to PetProductNews, "Brick-and-mortar retailers are getting a bump: In the short-term, brick-and-mortar retailers of pet products across all sectors have gotten a bump as pet owners stock up on staples like food and litter."

Online Pet Food Sales are Soaring

  • Online pet food sales are increasing as well, as Chewy's stock prices rose 3% over the last month compared to the "30% respective crashes in the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500."
  • It is anticipated that when Chewy reports its earnings in April, it will show an increase that reflects pet food panic buying.
  • Amazon's pet food sales were up 96% week-over-week and 59% for the month (as of March 25, 2020).
  • PetProductNews observed that "Online retailers should fare well: The surge in internet sales of pet products has spurred a massive pet market investment in e-commerce logistics that should help shore up the products side of the industry in the coming months."
  • However, delivery times are running longer than normal and some consumers are finding pet food out of stock online.

Shortages Are Expected

  • As supply chain issues spring up during the COVID-19 crisis, there may be shortages in pet food products available to the public.
  • Packaged Foods found that at least one supermarket in the United States that was already out of pet food and had "an in-store sign attributing the out-of-stocks to coronavirus-related shipment delays."
  • Some Humane Society chapters are distributing pet food to communities that have experienced supply chain shortages. An example is the San Diego Humane Society, which recently distributed "70,000 pounds of pet food and supplies" to families in the area who needed it.
  • Another example of the Humane Society providing pet food during the crisis is the Humane Society's Spike's Pet Pantry in Reading, Pennsylvania, which is one of several pickup locations that will help families feed their pets.
  • As a result of potential pet food shortages, some companies are deprioritizing some products so that they can focus on producing pet food. An example of this is the J.M. Smuker Company, which is known primarily for its human food products, but will be "making proactive product cuts to focus on producing and providing pet food and treats that are in the highest demand."
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Pet Owners Attitudes on Pet Health and Immunity

Pet owners view raw meat-based diets as healthy and are thoughtful when making the decision to vaccinate their pets. In addition, pet owners consider their pets' digestive system to be extremely important. Three insights surrounding pet owners' attitudes towards pet health and immunity have been provided below.

Pet owners view raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) as a healthier and more natural alternative to commercial pet food

  • Despite the suspected health risks associated with the consumption of RMBDs, many owners have become accustomed to using uncooked ingredients, such as bones, offal and meat when preparing pet food.
  • Pet owners have noted that RMBDs have health benefits such as vitality, muscle mass gain, skin improvement, cleaner ears, and odorless breath.
  • As it stands, only a few studies have been carried out on the health impacts of RMBDs on pets and the benefits of the diet have not yet been clearly proven.
  • Due to the lack of proper research, RMBDs are said to deprive pets of important nutrients that could lead to health complications.

Pet owners consider the digestive system of the pets to be extremely important

  • About 83% of pet owners view their pet’s digestive health as very important. They understand that pet foods have an impact on gut health.
  • Approximately 58% of pet owners select foods based on whether or not they will improve their pets’ digestion. On the other hand, 9% use medication to deal with gut health issues.
  • Pet owners prefer food labels that highlight how the ingredients contribute towards a healthy, balanced digestive system.

Pet owners have become more thoughtful when giving vaccines to their animals because of possible side effects

  • Pet owners, including veterinarians, are now more thoughtful when giving vaccines while some opt to skip them entirely.
  • One of the major concerns is the over-vaccination of pets, which can result in future complications such as severe aggression.
  • Pet owners who are skeptical when it comes to vaccines believe they can cause harm and that due diligence should be done.
  • In addition to over-vaccination, pet owners are concerned that the ingredients can be harmful. Furthermore, the high costs of vaccination have discouraged them from immunizing their pets.

Research Strategy

While we found most of the requested information, we did not find any about changes in attitudes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We looked at industry sites and media platforms, such as Veterinary Practice News, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and Pet Food Industry but to no avail. Instead, these sites mentioned the various attitudes of pet owners when it comes to pet health and immunity. For this reason, we concluded that the information is not available in the public domain.


Sources
Sources