Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pet Care: Latin America Global Star

Led by the vibrant Brazilian market, sales of pet food and pet care products are surging in Latin America on the back of the emergence of a much broader middle-class.

Latin America has undoubtedly been the star performer of the global pet care market in recent years. Over 2005-2010 (the review period), value sales of pet food and pet care products rose from $4.8 billion to $8.3 billion, according to Euromonitor International data. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.9 percent. As a result, the proportion of global pet care sales accounted for by the Latin American market rose from 7.6 percent in 2005 to 10.2 percent in 2010. Brazil is by far the largest market in the region, with pet care value sales of $5.2 billion in 2010, followed by Mexico ($1 billion) and Argentina ($645 million).

SURGE IN HOUSEHOLD INCOMES: Income growth has been the driver of this increase in value sales. According to Euromonitor International data, the proportion of Brazilian households with an annual disposable income of at least $25,000 (at purchasing power parity) jumped from 21.7 percent to 30.1 percent over the review period, while in Argentina it expanded from 33.5 percent to 44.8 percent. Chile, Venezuela and Peru also saw significant increases in this regard. These increases are indicative of the emergence of a vibrant middle-class, something that had previously been conspicuous by its absence in Latin America.

It is also noteworthy that this widening prosperity was not significantly disrupted by the global economic downturn, particularly in Brazil. Here, the annual rate of real GDP growth slowed from 5.2 percent in 2008 to -0.2 percent in 2009, but rebounded strongly to 7.5 percent in 2010. In most cases, this growth was driven in large part by increases in the price of key commodities, such as oil (Venezuela), copper (Chile) and soy (Argentina). Improved monetary and fiscal policy management also played a role, along with increased spending on education and social welfare and such socio-economic trends as urbanisation and smaller family size.

However, income growth in some countries in the region, most notably Mexico and Colombia, was much less impressive. In the former case this was largely due to its high degree of dependence on the struggling U.S. economy, the 2010 outbreak of the H1N1 “swine flu” virus and instability arising from drug-related violence.

CONSUMERS SHRUG OFF PRICE INCREASES: Consumers in the region have also absorbed significant price increases. According to ANFALPET (National Association of Pet Food Manufacturers), a trade body in Brazil, the average unit price of dog food and cat food in the country saw increases of 7 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in 2009. It would appear that few consumers have responded to this by reverting to feeding table scraps to their pets.

This may be in part because these price increases have been cushioned to an extent by the fact that consumers have been able to take advantage of discounts in the supermarket/hypermarket channel. Leading supermarket/hypermarket retailers have increased the number of their outlets in the major cities across the region. However, pet shops remain the dominant retail channel in many markets, most notably Brazil, where they often provide credit to regular customers.

In particular, the economy segment has been resilient in the face of slower economic growth. According to Euromonitor International data, growth in value sales of economy dog and cat food in Latin America slowed only marginally between 2008 and 2009 (from 13.9 percent to 10.5 percent), before recovering to 14.5 percent in 2010. Growth in sales of mid-priced products was somewhat more sluggish, slowing from 15.9 percent to 8.3 percent between 2008 and 2009, before recovering to 10.6 percent in 2010.

This suggests that the main impact of the global economic downturn on the Latin American market may have been some owners trading down from mid-priced to economy dog and cat food. Nonetheless, for the moment, mid-priced products remain the mainstay of the Latin American dog and cat food markets, but they are gradually becoming more differentiated.

In some markets, such as Argentina, price differentials between mid-priced and economy products have been reduced. As a result, a substantially homogeneous group of brands has now become closely grouped across a limited pricing range.

PREMIUM SEGMENT: SMALL, BUT LUCRATIVE: In spite of a slight shift towards greater egalitarianism in recent years, income distribution in Latin America remains highly skewed by the standards of most developed economies. This limits the sales base for premium products to a relatively small group of highly affluent consumers. Nonetheless, the downturn forced many to trade down to cheap alternatives. Having dipped from 10 percent to 2.7 percent between 2007 and 2008, growth in value sales of premium dog and cat food in Latin America recovered to 4.2 percent in 2009 and surged to 12.3 percent in 2010.

Affluent Latin Americans are increasingly spending large amounts of money on healthcare for their pets. According to Dr Valter Yoshio Hato, the co-owner of a veterinary clinic in São Paulo, "People who have chosen not to have children, often they have a pet to fill the void where there's no child, and because it's just like a child, people don't spare any expense, they spend". He adds that, "Around 80 percent of the animals we see here are dogs. Another 15 percent or so are cats. The rest are various animals, like monkeys. We even had an iguana in the other day".

Simple operations start at $30, rising to $1,700 for more complex operations, such as procedures on spines or to remove cataracts from eyes. Overall, pet healthcare sales in the region (excluding prescription medications) rose from $69.4 million to $119.1 million over the review period, an increase of 71.6 percent, according to Euromonitor International data.

Meanwhile, São Paulo hosted Latin America’s first Pet Fashion week in April 2010, illustrating the region’s rising demand for other pet products, such as clothing. Value sales in this category rose by nearly 36 percent over the review period, to $334 million.

THREATS: INFLATION, COMMODITY DEPENDENCE: Euromonitor International predicts that Latin American pet care value sales will exhibit a CAGR of 5.5 percent over the 2010-2015 period, to $10.9 billion (in 2010 prices). This will represent a significant slowdown from the review period and is indicative of the gradual maturation of the region’s market.

This forecast also takes into account a number of downside risks to growth, particularly the regional economy’s overdependence on commodity exports (where pricing tends to be extremely cyclical) and the risk posed by inflation. For example, consumer price inflation in Argentina accelerated from 6.3 percent to 10.4 percent between 2009 and 2010, but some independent economists maintain that consumer prices increased by up to 30 percent during the year. While the Latin American pet food market has already demonstrated its ability to cope with inflationary pressures (during 2008), a renewed bout would hurt real income growth and inevitably take the edge off the region’s recent stellar growth performance.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Veterinarian helps homeless care for pets

For much of the past two years, on the first Tuesday of each month, veterinarian Julie Tavares has pulled into the parking lot at the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall on Southeast Seventh Street and set up shop to treat dogs and cats belonging to homeless and low-income people.

On a recent Tuesday, Tavares opened up the tailgate to her van and set up a card table on the blacktop, piling the table with paperwork, medicine and supplies. With help from veterinary technician Kyrmet Jackson and soup kitchen volunteer Donna Harold, the threesome dispensed care to about 30 animals over nearly three hours of work.

It was care that might have cost as much as $2,000 at a traditional animal clinic, but the crew took in but $32 in donations on this day. Donations from manufacturers of pet medicine help make the parking lot clinic a reality.

The people who use the service and the nearby soup kitchen have little money for pet care. Still, they love their pets. To a homeless person, a dog can be a companion, a watchdog and even a live, warming pillow.

"The human-animal bond is a strong thing," Harold said, as people lined up with their pets. "To them, these animals are family."

The effort to provide free care for pets has been dubbed the Homeless Oregon Pet Project. It's a fledging endeavor that Tavares hopes will achieve official nonprofit status. The project provides animals with vaccines, flea treatments and general health care.

"It's a good service," said Ken Isgrigg, who has been bringing his pit bull, JoJo, monthly to the clinic. "I wish there were more vets that would do what she's doing."

Angela Smith brought in her pit bull, Indaka, as she has done for about a year or more. Indaka got shots, including rabies, parvo and distemper, along with heartworm pills and a flea treatment.

One visitor explained how his dog was killing rats around camp. "If she gets bit, call and we'll vaccinate her again," Tavares told him.

On this day, the weather was unseasonably warm. People stood in line patiently, although many dogs barked and lunged. Tavares spent a few minutes, maybe five at most, on each animal. The donation jar did not fill. One lady who brought in six dogs accounted for $30 of the $32 donated that day. The care her dogs received typically would have cost her more than $100 at an animal hospital. A rough estimate showed that Tavares and her crew provided about $1,500 to $2,000 worth of services that day.

"This is a free thing, but we need donations," Harold said. Tavares gets by in part with donations from the makers of animal treatment products. Big donors include Pfizer, Schering-Plough and Merial. "The drug reps are getting tired of my begging," said Tavares, a Rogue River resident who works at the Medford Animal Hospital and Allen Creek Veterinary Hospital. It was Tavares who approached soup kitchen operators with the idea for the clinic.

"There was a need for it," she said simply. "That's why I do it."It's a public health matter, Tavares added, as she went about her work with a minimum of fuss. "You're OK sweetie," she said, trying to sooth a dog named Pillow, the animal's owner looked on. "Don't be crabby. No biting. There's your mom."Jonah Shore brought in his dog, Diogi, for an ear problem. The dog needed an anti-inflammatory medicine.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Bone up before putting pooch in day care

They feature rambunctious noise, nap times and play areas. A child care center, you say? Try dog day care centers. In many regions across the U.S., day care centers provide a place for owners to leave their canine companions with while they are away at work.

Jeffrey Lasker and Brian Howell drop off Cleo, a 17-week-old Havanese, at Metro Dog in Richmond, Calif., before going to work. They brought her into their Albany, Calif., home two months ago.

"Havanese dogs are especially human-centric and need human companionship, so it's a great place for her to go during the day. She loves going there. You ring the bell to get in, and she starts wagging her tail and just pulling me to go in. She definitely has a good time, and also the socialization with other dogs is good," said Lasker, who learned about Metro Dog from a friend's recommendation.

A recommendation from a fellow dog owner, a veterinarian or dog trainer is great starting point when it comes to choosing a day care center for your dog.

"I think the first thing you could do is talk to friends and get some recommendations. Talk to dog owners and people who are using the service," said Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, science adviser to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Per-day rates in the Bay Area range from $25 to $40. The price typically does not include the dog chow, which is either provided by the owner or by the center for an extra charge. Dog care centers also offer monthly passes or packages of 10 or 20 visits that can reduce the cost of the service for frequent users.

Lasker and Howell opt for Metro Dog's 20-visit package. The $510 cost brings down the per-day charge of $35 to $25.50, and it provides flexibility. Cleo gets taken to day care three or four days a week but does not go when Lasker is working at home.

"It gets cheaper the more you buy. It makes sense to get a package. That way you don't have to pay each day," he said.

The centers offer more than day care. Some offer grooming and training. "Get a clear understanding upfront of what's included in the price, and what falls outside of that. (Ask) if training is included. If not, what kind of training is offered," said Ingrid McKenney, spokeswoman for the East Bay SPCA.

Dog day care centers meet the needs of a dog-greet-dog world. However, don't expect to find a similar offering for other pets such as birds and cats that don't have the same social needs for interaction. Dogs go through a behavior screening process before they are accepted. Although a dog care center is a fun place to be -- what with dogs barking happily and playing -- not all dogs are the right candidate, Zawistowski said.

"Some dogs don't get along well with other dogs," he said. "Sometimes, with dogs as they getting older, they are less and less ready to be involved in boisterous playing. They want to go for a walk in the morning and curl up on a cushioned chair and spend the day sleeping."

Diane Livoti, co-owner of Metro Dog, said a dog day care center is place to bring a dog that is already socialized, as opposed to a place for a dog to become socialized. "A dog who has poor social skills, who can't play with other dogs, is not a good fit for a playing situation," she said.

One of the most important things to consider is how dogs are divided up into play groups, said Sara Scott, owner of What's Up Dog?, an Oakland, Calif.-based dog training service.

"You want to look for someone who divides dogs up by size and temperament," such as an active dog group, a puppy group and an older dogs group, she said. "You want to look for someone that does humane training techniques that is based on positive reinforcement." Dog day care is not all about play. Make sure they are rest times.

"You don't want the dog playing eight hours a day," Scott said. As with choosing a child care center, a dog owner needs to ask a lot of questions before making a commitment. What is the ratio of employees to dogs at the day care center? How many dogs are in a play group? When does the place open and close? What kind of training do employees receive? What happens if a dog get sick? The list goes on.

As far as the overall staff-to-dog ratio formula goes for a dog day care center, there should be "anywhere from one person to 10 to 15 dogs, or 20 at the outside," Zawistowski said. Play groups, however, should have six to 10 dogs.

Make sure the center has vaccination requirements, along with a policy for handling emergencies such as when dogs get sick or injured. "If something happens, it's good to know there is somebody in place that can do some basic first aid. They should have a vet on emergency call," Zawistowski said. Check to see if some of the personnel that work with the dogs are Certified Professional Dog Trainers, he said.

When visiting a center, don't bring your dog, he stressed. "If you are going by yourself, you are going to be able to see stuff instead of watching our dog," he said. In addition, don't just look to see if the dogs look happy and the place is clean and secure when taking a tour.

Make sure the staff members look happy and are engaged in what they are doing, said McKenney of the East Bay SPCA.

"It's just a good indication of how a business is run. (Employees should) enjoy what the are doing and enjoy working with animals. You could read a lot from those interactions as well," she said.

Once you select a place, bring your dog in for a half-day visit, then evaluate him afterward to see if he is good spirits when you pick him up.

"The important thing to do is when you take the dog out to find out how they do afterward," Zawistowski said. "You'll have a feeling about your dog. Are they stressed from having spent time there or do they seem relaxed?"

What to Avoid (Bad dog day care! Bad dog day care!) Overcrowding: A good rule of thumb for the optimal size of a dog day care facility is 100 square feet per large dog, and 50 to 60 square feet per small or medium dog.

Limited access: Avoid any day care that prohibits dog guardians from visiting their dog at any time, with or without advance notice, and those that do not allow you to tour the entire facility and observe play groups before signing your dog up.

Unwillingness to meet your dog's needs: A conscientious day care will accept and honor your request that your dog receive a special diet or medication. Poor customer service: Loving dogs is not enough. Staff members also should be courteous and friendly to human clients.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

World Horse Welfare hoof care experts help horses in Turkey

Hoof care experts from World Horse Welfare visited Turkey to take part in a weekend of lectures and demonstrations to vet and farriery students, on 5-6 March. Turkey is home to approximately 20,000 sport, leisure and working horses and the charity was invited to take part in the event at the University of Sanliurfa near the Syrian border by the Turkish Government.

Director of international training Ian Kelly and farriery instructor Tom Burch lectured to a selection of students at the University, including practicing vets and farriers. They found that many horses are being shod using out-dated techniques and the wrong equipment.

Mr Kelly said: "We found that some horses have shoes that are made from steel rods used to re-enforce concrete. "They had simply been cut into circles and then drilled into the hoof. "These circular drill holes then have square nails knocked into them which do not hold the shoe firmly in place and can cause major damage to the hoof wall.

"Many people there are self-taught but we found them to be genuinely interested in improving the standard of horse welfare."The pair lectured to more than 100 people, some who had travelled 1,500km to be there and the charity hopes to organise a lengthier trip in the future to help improve the standards in the non-EU country.

The invitation to visit followed the success of Project Romania, launched in 2006, which has helped to educate practitioners and students in the Eastern European country.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Care for your pet on your dog and bone

A DOGS rehoming charity is getting in on the smart phone revolution with a new game for mobile phones. The Dogs Trust, based at Wickhamford, near Evesham, has launched an interactive game called iMutt. The game sees users take on the role of a canine carer at one of the trust’s rehoming centres.

Over five days the user must care for a new doggy resident and carry out various tasks, with the ultimate aim of making the dog ready to be rehomed. Jacqui O’Beirne, of Dogs Trust, said: “Although fun, we hope iMutt will help to spread the serious message of responsible dog ownership.

Tasks include walking and feeding the dog, taking it to the vet where it is neutered and micro-chipped and caring for it when it is ill. Each game lasts about a week, with pop-up messages alerting users to each new task they must complete to find their iMutt a home.

iMutt has been designed by twentysix Mobile, which also developed the hugely successful iHobo app with the homelessness charity Depaul UK. The app is free and compatible with the iPhone and iPod through iTunes. iPad and Android compatible versions will also be available shortly.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Health care funds are going to the dogs -- and vets

Monique McAlister`s English bulldog, Izabelle, was just 8 months old when veterinarians said she would need a hip replacement to resolve a genetic disorder called hip dysplasia. McAlister said she was told the surgery would need to be done by a specialist in Colorado Springs and would cost $5,000.

"I almost fell over when I heard that," McAlister said. She eventually found a cheaper surgery method, but she is now going through the same decision process for the dog`s other hip. A hip replacement now costs closer to $10,000, she said.

Over the last decade, veterinary care has become more specialized, more advanced and more expensive. Local veterinarians and pet owners said the trend has hit Durango as well. Nationally, the total spent on veterinary care for dogs increased 38 percent between 2001 and 2006, according to the most recent data collected by the American Veterinary Medical Association. In the last three years, the number of veterinary specialists has increased more than 15 percent, according to the association.

Local vets said the driving force behind these trends, especially in a pet-loving town like Durango, is an increase in customers` expectations about health care for their furry friends. To meet the new standard for care, more veterinarians are going into specialty practices, using more sophisticated equipment and providing more complicated procedures.

"The technology is available now, and the expectation of care goes up, which is great," said Brian Marshall, owner of Baker`s Bridge Veterinary Clinic. "But if you want advanced care, cost is going to go up."Digital X-rays, ultrasounds and blood chemistry machines are a few new technologies that have become standard in many veterinary clinics.

"Those machines are expensive, so in order to offer those services, we have to charge more," said Claire Lodahl, owner of Kindness Animal Hospital. Drug costs are higher as well, and new drugs constantly cycle into the market, said Greta Varien, a technician at Aspen Tree Animal Caring Center.

To provide more advanced care, Varien said general practice clinics use the services of traveling specialists. A surgical specialist, an eye specialist and an ultrasound specialist visit Aspen Tree periodically to do certain procedures, she said.

The rising cost of veterinary schooling has become another factor forcing clinics to charge more for their services, Marshall said. "It`s approaching what human medical physicians` debt load is, but vets make a lot less," he said.

But the rising cost of care isn`t the only factor at play in the equation. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, increased spending on veterinary care may also be attributed to pet owners choosing to pay for procedures. Varien said people want to spend more money on their pets because they have much closer relationships than past generations.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dog daycare faces animal care charges

An inspector said the dogs at a doggie daycare center in Virginia Beach were not being cared for properly. Daniel Stallings is the owner of Three Dog House, and with more than 100 dogs put in his care, he was very surprised when Virginia Beach Animal Control payed him a visit because of a complaint. "We received a citizen complaint about animal cruelty violation at Three Dog House," said Wayne Gilbert with Virginia Beach Animal Control.

Right now, Stalling faces 20 charges. The repeated charges deal with the dogs not having enough water or enough shelter space, and that the shelter was not properly cleaned. The charges turned out not to be animal cruelty charges but animal care charges. Stallings told WAVY.com the charges aren't what they seem.

"Well, it depends on how you define it. If not having water out in the field where dogs can bloat, I like to bring them in, let them cool down, and then give them water, then yes, I am guilty of that. Safety is more important than just the letter of the law," said Stallings.

He also added that during the inspection, many of the water bowls were in the process of being cleaned, and the issue of space has already been fixed. "We have since put them in larger crates too," said Stallings.

Inspectors also claimed of being overwhelmed by the smell of urine. Stallings said, "She actually called the fire department to check the air quality. The fireman upon walking in here did not make three steps into this building, he keyed his mic, and said cancel Hazmat, yes Hazmat. He said it smelled like dog in here, just like it smells now I imagine."

Animal Control has followed up and said the needed improvements have been made. Stallings just wants things to get back to normal. The owner also said he thinks the person who made the complaint against him is an ex-employee looking for retaliation for being fired. Regardless, Stallings was cited 20 times and will go to court later this month.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Did South Carolina Animal Shelter Shoot Dogs?

The Chesterfield County, South Carolina animal shelter has been shut down and its four animal control officers have been placed on leave, after allegations emerged that they may have shot dogs to death and dumped them in a landfill.WSOC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina broke the story over the weekend. It reported that a volunteer at the shelter, Debbie Farhi, contacted the station last Friday after she said she learned that shelter employees shot 22 dogs and buried them in a landfill.

Farhi said she went to the landfill and started digging, finding the bodies of two dogs. That's when she contacted the station. "Knowing and not doing (anything) about it really would've bothered me for the rest of my life," she said.

WSOC reported on Monday that the remains of six dogs have so far been found. Three of them will be autopsied to determine how they died, if they were sick, and possibly who shot them.

Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker told the station that he thought the shelter was using lethal injection to euthanize dogs and cats. "(Shooting them) is not proper. That is not by policy."

Parker said if the investigation turns up evidence that shooting the dogs was a criminal act, his office will not investigate any further because of a conflict of interest."I'll have to call in an outside agency. It wouldn't be fair to us, or the public. But we're going to do the right thing," he said.

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