Lots of investing companies send their research to journalists in an attempt to generate some publicity. Most of it is not worth sharing you with, but there are exceptions, such as a recent note from a U.S. firm called Baron Capital on some investing opportunities in animal health. The headline: “How the ‘humanization’ of pets has created a booming industry.”

A day or two later, the New Yorker dug into this same theme with an amusing article about why humans treat their dogs like people. Oh, great. Another social trend that is bad for personal finance.

The Baron Capital report says pet owners increasingly view their pets as irreplaceable members of their families and lives, a trend that is being driven by millennials. “This shift in attitude manifests itself in a willingness to pay for products and services that improve the health and well-being of their pets,” the report says.

In the United States, spending on veterinary services has grown at an annual average rate of 10.3 per cent from 1959 to 2017, well ahead of total personal spending on consumption. Walmart is right on this trend. The retail giant announced in May that it is launching an online pet pharmacy and expending vet clinics in its stores. “As pets continue to play an integral role in our lives, their medical, dietary, grooming and entertainment needs have come to be seen as nearly on par with the human members of the family,” the Baron Capital report says.

What kinds of things are people actually buying for their pets? This blog post helps fill in the blanks. There’s a picture of a dog named Miss Charley wearing what appears to be some sort of a windbreaker, plus rubber boots. Other equipment mentioned: A designer jar for treats at $55 or so, a dog bed at $120 to $180, a car blanket at just over $40 and a paw washer at $18.

Pets make people happy, so I’m all for them. But we have to recognize what a financial commitment they can be. Yes, we now have to budget pet ownership.

The Globe and Mail, May 30, 2019