Bought By Many's Sarah James, who is a trained veterinary nurse, looks back at issues that stood out in 2019 and suggests the things pet owners might want to think about in 2020.
Pet food and diet
Owners are paying more attention to what their pets eat. Growing concerns about food allergies among pets and the additives used in pet food saw alternative pet diets increase in popularity in 2019.
The trends for raw-meat, home-cooked, gluten-free and insect-based diets are expected to continue in 2020 as owners try to find the best diet for their pets.
“There's more awareness around pets having food allergies. Also, many owners may be eager to try out more sustainable pet diets, such as insect-based pet foods, to help with climate change,” says Sarah.
Some companies, like Paws and Tails, offer foods designed specifically for your pet's needs, activity levels, weight and age.
However, it is important to consult a vet before putting your pet on an alternative diet. Some diets can be tricky - getting the right level of nutrition in in a home-cooked or vegan diet can be difficult.
Pet travel after Brexit
The UK is set to leave the EU on 31 January 2020. Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson's withdrawal agreement passed through Parliament, the exact terms of our future relationship with the EU will be decided in the 11-month transition period ending on 31 December 2020 - when the UK will officially exit the bloc.
Under the current EU Pet Travel Scheme, UK cat and dog owners can travel with pets to and from the EU as long as pets are vaccinated against rabies, microchipped and have a passport. This is expected to remain the case until 31 December 2020.
When we leave the EU, the UK could become a 'third country' in the EU Pet Travel Scheme. There are three categories of a third country: unlisted, Part 1 listed and Part 2 listed. Pet travel requirements will change depending on what category the UK becomes after the end of the transition period.
If we are not accepted as a Part 1 or 2 listed country, the UK will become an unlisted third country. Pet owners would then have to contact their vets at least 4 months before they travel in order to ensure they meet the health and paperwork requirements for their pets.
Technology is revolutionising how people access veterinary services. While remote veterinary advice used to be given primarily over the phone by services like VetFone, pet owners can speak to a vet over video with companies such as FirstVet.
These kind of services, which people can use through their phone, are known as telemedicine.
FirstVet appointments are usually carried out through its app and can give pet owners peace of mind when they are worried about their pet's health but are not sure whether they need to go to the vet.
Some services, such as PawSquad and FirstVet, offer consultations 24/7 allowing owners to get advice when their vet practice is closed.
Video consultations allow vets to see if the pet has physical signs of illness, which can help them make more accurate diagnoses.
Some pet insurance providers have partnered with video vet consultation services to offer their customers free access.
Bought By Many customers get 24/7 access to video consultations with vets through the FirstVet app.
2020 is expected to see video vet consultations continue to grow in popularity.
Sarah says: “Telemedicine has been around for a while in the vet profession but has previously been limited to phone support and usually delivered by nurses rather than vets. But the demand is there, so I am pleased there are more options for getting advice from vets as wells nurses.”
Pet trackers are here to stay in 2020.
Pet trackers are like Fitbits for pets. They allow owners to track their pet's location and activity. They are small and attach to a pet's collar.
Some trackers can alert you if your pet leaves a pre-determined safe-zone, like your house or your garden. They can help you find your pet if it gets lost or stolen and help you monitor its health and wellbeing.
Popular pet tracker company PitPat launched its first pet fitness tracker subscription, PitPat Life, in 2019. It allows owners to win rewards when their pet pets' exercise. Although its tracker can't locate where your dog is.
While pet trackers were sold primarily by small start-up companies, bigger organisations are now getting in on the act. Vodafone has launched a device called the V Pet Tracker Kippy.
Pet theft and micro-chipping
2019 saw reports of pets being lost or stolen. Some made their way back to their owners, including Debbie Mathews's dog Fern who was reunited with her owner 6 years after being stolen when a vet scanned her microchip.
But sadly, a significant number of pets are never reunited with their owners and pet theft has increased 27% between 2014 and 2018, according to research from Direct Line.
“Making sure pets are microchipped and ensuring their details are kept up to date is more important than ever. Make sure dogs wear a collar with an I.D. tag, it is part of the control of dogs order 1992. It is recommended to not put the dog's name on the tag," says Sarah.
Awareness of the stress caused by fireworks is growing. 2019 saw Sainsbury's ban the sale of fireworks while Asda, Aldi and Morrisons stocked up on a low-noise version.
There were many reports on pets suffering because of fireworks, including a puppy dying of a heart attack caused by fright.
There were many petitions to change rules around fireworks including one on Change.org backed-up by the RSPCA that was signed by half a million people.
A petition on the Parliament website called for a complete ban on the sale of all fireworks to the general public and reached over 300,000 signatures before it was closed because of the December General Election.
Sarah says: “Perhaps 2020 will be the year when we see rules around fireworks change. In the meantime, pet owners should try to plan for firework season as early as possible to help alleviate the stress it causes pets.”
Pre-purchase services in vet practices
Many vets now offer appointments with perspective owners to educate them about being a pet owner and help them decide on the right animal for their circumstances.
“More and more practices are offering these services to help potential pet owners consider what type of breed to get before they buy or adopt a pet. This will hopefully reduce the pitfalls of not knowing what to expect before getting a pet and pets being rehomed when a family can't cope with the care demands,” says Sarah.
Considering getting a pet this year? This is an important decision and it might be that your local vet practice can help.
Pet insurance continues to be a key topic of owners. We're improving pet insurance by creating policies owners want and making it easier for them to switch, submit claims and cover ongoing conditions.
In 2019 we removed the 14-day exclusion period for claims when owners switch to us from straight from another insurer with no gap in cover.
Most of our policies have lifetime cover to help when pets develop ongoing conditions. Lifetime pet insurance comes with a yearly limit for vet fees. That limit reinstates to the fullest every year when you renew. This is different from a time-limited or a per-condition policy.
Time-limited and per-condition policies have set time or per-condition limits. Once that limit is reached you can no longer claim for a condition and that condition will from then on be considered pre-existing and won't be covered by your insurance. Lifetime pet cover, on the other hand, continues to provide cover for conditions that occur after the start of your policy so long as you renew each year.
We've also created Pre-existing - a policy for pre-existing conditions, which can cover pets for conditions they've not had treatment or advice for in the three months before the start of the policy.
Unlike most pet insurers we don't consider conditions that ended over two years ago pre-existing and will cover them as new.