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Daily Chart: Pet Theories About Health-Care Spending

Daily Chart: Pet Theories About Health-Care Spending

This chart by Cato’s AEI’s Andrew Biggs has been snaking its way around the blogosphere for the past week:

Pet spending

And it’s gotten approving [update: and skeptical!] chirps from Megan McArdle, Tyler Cowen,Jim Manzi, Arnold Kling and Greg Mankiw and others, a good deal of whom parrot the old line about how this shows that “The reason that we spend more [on healthcare] than our grandparents did is not waste, fraud and abuse, but advances in medical technology and growth in incomes.” If it were waste, fraud and abuse, wouldn’t you see the difference in the animal market?

But let’s not flap about this too much. The chart is hounded by some fatal problems. John Schwenkler gently badgered me into trying to make a new version of this chart that deals with some of them, and I’ve been monkeying around with the data for the past couple of days. But, for reasons I’ll grouse about after the jump, I can’t reproduce a better version of this chart. (Scott Winship and Zubin Jelveh have ferreted out some of the missing data.) What I can do is graph the growth of pet food spending over the same period, and then list some of the reasons why the original chart doesn’t prove much at all. (And cut out the dumb animal puns.)

Pet food

1. This data is drawn from the same source (the Consumer Expenditure Survey) as the original chart. The raw slope of the pet food spending line is actually higher than the raw slope of the veterinary spending line. The normalized slope of the veterinary care line is a bit higher, but both are higher than average economic growth over the same period. Does this mean there is something unique about the two health markets, or something unique about the two animal markets? Or neither? I have no idea.

2. As Schwenkler and Manzi and others have pointed out, the original chart does not have per capita data. But of course we only care about how much is being spent on health care per person or dog. If the population grows quickly, the overall level of spending will grow with it. (Incidentally, this is why I’m having trouble reproducing Biggs’ chart exactly: I can’t find the number of total pets per person in the country between 1984 and 2006. And, to be extra cautious about it, I’d also need to know something about how the population has changed — more ponies or parakeets or whatnot.)

3. Even if the chart made the same point on a per capita basis, I’m not sure why it would be surprising. You don’t really have insurance or adverse selection in the veterinary market. But you do have large information asymmetries (the vets know more), large demand uncertainties (the need for veterinary care springs up uncertainly), large supply constraints, and a whole series of new patent-protected treatments that can lead to market failures.

4. Even if none of the problems in # 3 turn out to exist, I’m not sure why the growth of veterinary spending is a point in favor of conservative theories about the growth of health-care spending. Two of the most commonly cited conservative reasons for the rise in health-care spending are (1) The tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance; and (2) malpractice liability, which is supposed to lead to defensive medicine and higher costs. But neither of those things happen in the veterinary market! If the original chart is correct, then are these things not really problems?

My overwhelming suspicion is that the chart does not tell us much that is useful about the market for medical care. I spoke with Andrew Biggs yesterday, and he very kindly shared his data from the expediture survey (which is not publicly available). He also cautioned against taking any of this too seriously. 700 words and two charts later, I agree.

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Source:  the Atlantic – The Daily Dish

Posted:  Just One More Pet

July 17, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Harmony and Health – Creating Wellness for Your Pet

Most of us understand the basics of creating wellness. Health begins with a sound diet, exercise, and having fun with our loved ones. Our pets are important family members, like us in many ways, but with their own unique animal needs and abilities. Our pets give us so much – the unconditional love, joy and pleasure they offer us through their loving companionship enhances our lives and makes us healthier people. But it’s easy in the hectic nature of our lives to take our pets for granted and miss opportunities to nurture them for their optimal wellness. Creating wellness requires that we meet the basic needs we all share, and to honor the special needs of our pets. We Are One, but We Are Not the Same   

Pets have special nutritional needs, and are far more limited in their physical ability to deal with a poor diet and the toxins in our environment. With shorter life spans and smaller organ systems, its important to give them the best diet we can that suits their animal physiology and to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals in their food, and in so many household products we use.  Consider choosing non-toxic cleaners and cat litter. Limiting your pet’s exposure to toxic materials is to be considered.

From the holistic perspective, the foundation of good health is a good diet. Dogs and cats need different food from what we eat, and many pets, particularly cats can have trouble digesting the grain-based fare (like that found in most commercial pet foods) that humans can tolerate. When their nutritional needs are met, pets have great vitality and abundant energy, and have better digestion and can maintain their appropriate weight, which are both causes of so many health problems of pets today. 

A good diet provides energy for a healthy activity level, meaning daily exercise. It’s easy to neglect the exercise and play needs of our pets, but the consequences can be severe. Beyond the impact on their health, too little physical activity can create a host of inappropriate behaviors and creates a great deal of stress for our pets. Dogs need daily cardiovascular exercise in the form of a walk or run. 

Emotional Stress and Illness

Beyond a good diet, exercise, and reducing exposure to toxins, the single best thing we can do for our pets (and ourselves) is to minimize the stress they experience. The mind-body connection has been well researched in human health, and emotional stress has a well-documented impact on our well-being. This is no less true for our pets, though the idea is not generally taken into account from the traditional veterinary perspective. Taking steps to reduce your pet’s stress can go a long way to creating wellness.

Some pets seem to be more naturally “high-strung,” which may be a breed specific quality or may result from their life history – a common story with rescued companions. Stress comes in many forms, including major life changes, stressful situations, and daily stress in our home and relationships.

Major life events like the addition of new pets or human family members, death of loved ones, house renovations, or moving can trigger stress in many pets, and the impact can be felt for many months after the change occurs. Cats can be particularly sensitive to these changes – even getting new carpet can cause a strong stress response in cats. Dogs are often particularly sensitive to events that cause shifts in relationships. It’s important to provide the “security blankets” our pets need during these times. Make sure the cat’s favorite pillow or blanket isn’t packed in a box when you move, and be sure each pet has their favorite toys available. When introducing new family members, spend extra time with your dog to confirm their continued high status with you and to insure that they don’t feel neglected.

The Ultimate Wellness Builder – Reducing Daily Stress for Your Pet

While stressful major life changes and trips to the vet (we hope!) are few and far between, one of the most profound sources of stress for your pet is perhaps the easiest to overlook – the stress that our pets absorb from us on a daily basis. One of the greatest gifts our pets give us is the comfort they provide to us every day. People with pets are generally healthier and live longer, because our pets not only provide companionship, but they literally absorb our stress.

Our pets are quite emotionally sensitive and are highly attuned to our moods. Animal communicators tell us that part of our companions’ “spiritual mission” is to help us cope with our emotions. It’s important to recognize that our own stress level is very obvious to our pets and can impact their wellness greatly. Many pet owners report that their pets share their emotional stress, and often share the same physical symptoms that stress creates for their own health. With that in mind, making a commitment to reducing your daily stress level is one of the best things you can do for your pet’s health.

Wellness is the result of many factors, and especially for our pets, nearly every one of those factors is under our control. Making sound decisions for our pets with regard to diet, exercise, and activities creates the foundation for vibrant health. Adding the essential element of reducing stress can help you give your pet a more joyous, healthier and longer life. With everything our pets do for us and our well-being, we owe it to them to return the favor and create harmony for them in every way we can. The time we have with our animal companions is precious in so many ways, and we have it in our power to honor that special bond through our commitment to harmonious living.

Courtesy Only Natural Pet LLC. 2008 by Cynthia Holley-Connolly

 

 

 

November 19, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments