Do We Really Love Our Pets?

Results were released today from a new survey conducted by MSD Animal Health, with more than 5,000 pet owners from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The findings demonstrate the desire of pet owners to be more proactive in keeping their furry friends healthy with the help of their veterinarian and the use of pet technology.

Significant Survey in Europe Uncovers New Insights into Pet Health and Owner Behaviour  

LONDON, UK, February 27, 2020 – Results were released today from a new survey conducted by MSD Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA, with more than 5,000 pet owners from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The findings demonstrate the desire of pet owners to be more proactive in keeping their furry friends healthy with the help of their veterinarian and the use of pet technology.   

Key Highlights from pet owners on keeping their pets healthy 

  • About one third of cat and dog owners thought their pets were overweight, while data from veterinarians suggest that the actual proportion of overweight pets is higher.  
  • Most pet owners know their pet can be at risk of diabetes, could recognise the main signs and symptoms, and would use injectable treatments if needed. 
  • Veterinarians are still the main source of pet health information, followed by online information. 
  • Over 65% of dog and more than half of cat owners find it very important to get regular information on the health status of their pet so they can monitor their health. A majority of those surveyed do not currently use any pet health monitoring devices, 60% said they would like to use such a device.  

Connecting With the Veterinarian 

The survey showed that although the majority of pet owners recognise the importance of regular veterinary visits, 23% of cat owners and 11% of dog owners, visit less than once a year and some pets are never taken to the veterinarian.  This is in stark contrast to the top health concerns people had for their pets; they want to protect their pets from diseases and are concerned about diet and weight control. 

For example, 28% of cat owners say they have not taken their pet to the veterinarian because they didn’t think they were unwell enough, but in retrospect think they should have done so. This shows an opportunity for pet technology to track the pet’s health, with the data generated alerting the owner to potential problems resulting in an earlier vet visit.  Sometimes the reason for not going to the veterinarian is as simple as problems persuading the cat to get into the carrier, or the cat is frightened and is hiding. 

More Opportunities for Pet Technology 

The survey indicates pet owners are looking to technology to help them care for their pet’s health and wellbeing using monitoring devices, such as activity trackers, microchip-controlled feeders and pet flaps.  At the moment, only about 10% of both dog and cat owners use a device for their pet, but two out of three would welcome a device such as an activity tracker. Given that only a third of people wear an activity tracker, pet owners appear more interested in tracking their pet’s exercise than their own! Another interesting result shows the wide differential between countries when it comes to using pet health monitoring devices: 17% of cat owners in Spain use a device versus only 5% in France. 

Rachel Dean, Veterinarian and VetPartners Director of Clinical Research and Excellence in Practice gave the following perspective, “I am really pleased to see how pet owners want to be more proactive in supporting healthier lifestyles for pets including using new pet health monitoring technologies, as prevention is always best. The data these gadgets generate can be helpful when working in partnership with pet owners to help diagnose and treat their pets, the more information we are armed with the better the decisions we make – together.” 

David Hallas, DVM and Managing Director of Sure Petcare, an MSD Animal Health brand, said. “We support both pet owners and veterinarians to improve the health and wellbeing of animals in their care. An example of this would be an activity tracker for dogs, which can capture and interpret unique insights into the pet’s behaviour patterns 24 hours a day. This gives the dog owner a greater understanding of exactly what their pet gets up to during the day.  When it comes to cat owners, they can use our smart feeders, which are app-controlled and microchip-enabled, to see how much food their cat has eaten and know their feeding patterns.

These technologies support pet owners to better look after the health and wellbeing of their companion animals, by understanding changing behaviours which could be a sign of distress or discomfort. These behaviour patterns can be easily shared with the veterinarian.” 


Additional Key Findings of the Survey  

Survey Description: in order to understand the attitudes, concerns and actions pet owners take regarding the health and wellbeing of their pets, a survey of more than 5,000 cat and dog owners was undertaken in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K.  

Going To The Veterinarian 

  • Across Europe 23% of cats and 11% of dogs do not see the veterinarian at least once a year. In the U.K. 11% of cats and 5% of dogs never visit the vet, so won’t be getting regular health checks or vaccinations. French pets are least likely to visit the vet at least once a year. 
  • The proportion of dogs not seeing the veterinarian at least once a year varies between countries with 15% of dogs in the U.K. and France missing out, compared to 12% in Germany, 8% in Italy, and 6% in Spain.  
  • The proportion of cats not seeing the veterinarian at least once a year also varies with 33% of French cats missing out, compared to 24% in the UK and Germany, 18% in Italy and 17% in Spain.  
  • For both dogs and cats, the most common reasons for visiting the veterinarian were vaccinations and general check-ups, and the top pet owner health concerns were prevention of disease and parasite control.  

Overall Pet Health 

  • Weight control and diet/digestion were commonly mentioned health concerns. Over half of all pet owners mentioned diet/digestion, while over half of cat owners and a third of dog owners cited weight control.  
  • Nearly a third of dog owners think their pets are overweight, with British owners being the most likely to believe that (34%), followed by French (31%), Spanish (27%), Italian (26%) and Germans (23%).  
  • When it comes to cats, 33% are thought to be overweight by their owners, with French owners being the most likely to think so (42%) followed by Italians (36%), Spanish (33%), British (30%) and Germans (26%).  
  • Cat owners who say their pet is overweight but don’t weigh their food account for these statistics: Germany 58%; France, 53%; UK, 47%; Italy, 38%; Spain 31%.   
  • When it comes to diabetes, two-thirds of both cat and dog owners had at least heard about diabetes in cats and dogs, and would recognize the most common signs and symptoms. 
  • For treating diabetes, 6 out of 10 pet owners would feel comfortable to inject insulin using a syringe on a daily basis. When given the opportunity to use an automatic pen injection device this rate of comfort increased to 85% of dog owners and 75% of cat owners. 

Pet Health Technology 

  • When asked if they use a technology device to monitor their pet’s health, 12% of dog owners currently use a device, compared to 11% of cat owners. Device use varied between countries with 18% of German dog owners using a device compared to 17% in Spain, 11% in the UK, 10% in Italy and 7% in France. Cat owners in Spain were most likely to use a device (17%), followed by the U.K. (12%), Italy (10%), Germany (9%) and France (5%).  
  • Two out of three pet owners would welcome a device such as an automatic feeder to measure food consumption or an activity tracker for dogs, to help them monitor their pets more closely. Approximately one third of humans wear an activity tracker. 

Additional data that can potentially affect veterinarian visits 

  • Pet insurance take-up varies significantly across countries with 43% of British cats being insured compared to 30% of cats in Spain, 26% in Germany, 20% in Italy and less than 10% in France. Dogs are most likely to be insured in Germany (71%), followed by the UK (59%), Spain (48%), Italy (43%) and France (23%).  
  • About 17% of both cat and dog owners cited costs being a factor in not regularly visiting the veterinarian. France stood out with over 23% of the respondents giving this a reason for not visiting the veterinarian. 

Fun fact 

  • In France most cats have their “homes” to themselves with only 12% sharing with a dog. In Spain however, 58% of the cat households share their home with a dog.  


About MSD Animal Health 

For more than a century, MSD, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. MSD Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA, is the global animal health business unit of MSD. Through its commitment to TheScience of Healthier Animals®, MSD Animal Health offers veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments one of the widest ranges of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services as well as an extensive suite of digitally connected identification, traceability and monitoring products. MSD Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals and the people who care for them. It invests extensively in dynamic and comprehensive R&D resources and a modern, global supply chain. MSD Animal Health is present in more than 50 countries, while its products are available in some 150 markets. For more information, visit or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.  

About Sure Petcare, an MSD Animal Health Brand 

Sure Petcare, the pet technology specialist, provides pet products that empower owners to care for their pets in entirely new ways. Founded in 2007, we have developed an award-winning range of microchip-operated pet doors and feeders, which solve many problems commonly experienced by pet owners. SURE PETCARE, along with HOMEAGAIN®, is a Companion Animal portfolio of digital products within MSD Animal Health.   

In 2017, Sure Petcare expanded its product range to include connected devices designed to provide proactive pet care by giving owners data and insight into their pets’ day-to-day behaviours, activities and routines. Over time, this information will provide pet owners a greater understanding of their pet’s health and wellbeing. Sure Petcare sells direct through retail stores and veterinary practices in 35 countries.   

For more information, visit or connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.  

About the Survey 

The survey questioned over 5,000 pet owners in five European countries: U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain with over 500 cat and 500 dog owners surveyed in each country. The pet owners were recruited through a specialist market research agency’s pet owner panel.  As part of the recruitment process, pet owners were asked demographic data and their nominated cat or dog. Any pet owner working in the animal health/veterinary/market research field was excluded. 

Most questions were closed questions with yes/no answers or multiple choice answers. Some multiple questions required only one answer; some asked the pet owner to choose several answers typically 3 or 5.   

The survey was conducted using CAWI (computer assisted web interview) technology, which allows user friendly design such as drop down lists and tick boxes as well as dynamic adaptation of the survey. CAWI also minimises user error by requiring respondents to answer each question within parameters set e.g. choose three answers, before moving on. 

Pet owners were asked questions about general pet health including vet visits, insurance and information seeking, monitoring pet health, pet weight, diet and exercise, pet obesity and diabetes.