The Czech market for veterinary equipment and services has experienced growth in recent years and despite the economic crisis, it is expected to continue this positive trend. More than half of Czech families are pet owners and the status of pets within the family is improving, as pets are increasingly seen as family members. This humanization trend is leading to higher spending for premium food, health supplements and also for entertainment and wellness. Although the agriculture sector in the Czech Republic is not as strong as in some neighboring countries, it still represents a good market for veterinary equipment suppliers. The reputation of the U.S. for quality and innovative products provides substantial opportunities for U.S. veterinary supplies firms.
In recent years, spending on veterinary services is – apart from food - one of the largest expenses for pet owners. In a survey done among pet owners, 95% of dog owners indicated using veterinary services. Clinic and hospital services for animals are quite common, and the number of clinics has been increasing given the increased demand for services. The pet humanization trend that can be tracked over the last few years, along with increased purchasing power, is responsible for this trend for increased veterinary services – even among those that previously saw it as an unnecessary cost. The veterinary equipment and supplies sector has been booming as a result. Although it is a less sophisticated market, given the changing approach of pet owners it is catching up with global trends quickly and has considerable growth potential.
The main trends influencing the pet products market, “humanization” and health and wellness, are closely related to veterinary care. While pet humanization is evident with dogs and cats – dogs being the main clients at veterinary clinics – it is not yet the case with other types of pets (although it is expected to penetrate there in the future). The Veterinary Chamber of the Czech Republic reports over 3,100 registered vets in the country, the majority of whom studied at the Brno University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences (VFU). While this number includes general vets as well as surgeons, orthopedists and vets focusing on just one kind of animal, it does not include vets that work in meat processing, education, research or government agencies, universities and private firms. It is estimated that about 45 percent of vets registered with the Veterinary Chamber operate their own small practices. A modern feature is increasing pressure to study practical skills so that the graduates from the six-year course (with the title MVDr.) will get “day-one” skills, meaning they are able to start work immediately. VFU is integrated into a CZK 5 billion ($250 million) project of the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC), which is devoted to life sciences. Cooperation with the International Clinical Research Center (ICRC) has also been started. A specialized workplace for cardiovascular diseases (under the patronage of the US-based Mayo Clinic) is to be realized by the St. Anne Teaching Hospital in Brno. ICRC has heavily invested in this unique animal center that has been running since 2008 and is planned to be expanded further.
The goal of most Czech veterinary clinics is to ensure that their professional staff members are equipped with the preventative, diagnostic and educational tools necessary to ensure top quality health care for their animal clients. Animal owners have become more caring and more educated about animal health, and veterinary equipment is becoming both more advanced and more affordable.
Fees for veterinary services are often considered high by Czech standards, and sharply contrast with the “free” medical care provided to humans in the country’s socialized healthcare (Czechs pay a health tax from their salaries and are then entitled to free or discounted health care). Dog owners in the Czech Republic spend approximately CZK1 billion ($50 million) a year for veterinary services. The cost of veterinary services, combined with the trend for wellness, is leading to increased spending on pet products that have some “health” value added e.g. pet food with vitamins and minerals or with less filler material.
Since 2008, insurance companies have offered a new product in the Czech market – health insurance for pets. Although only a few companies have introduced this product, it has attracted interest from a number pet owners (mainly dog owners). Pet health insuarance policies mostly range between $30–$130 per year. Other commorn pet insurance products include travel insurance and responsibility insurance.
Veterinary dental services are very limited in the country. Home care dental products, such as mouth hygiene products that reduce bacteria and tartar, have had some success however, and there appears to be potential for growth given the fact that 64% of dogs have teeth problems. Additionally, 80% of dogs are experiencing gums problems but only about five percent of dog owners are aware of these issues. Increased awareness of such health issues will help create the market for dental products.
In the 2000’s, vets were virtually the sole source of veterinary medicines for breeders/pet owners. In recent years, Czech legislation has reflected the practice in other European Union countries, creating the opportunity for distributors and manufacturers to sell directly to breeders/pet owners (though the sales have to be based on vet prescription.)