These youth are not only becoming keener on pet ownership but are also more willing to send them to spas for stylist grooming services, buy them nutritious food and accessories and even treat their much-loved fluffy friends with homemade snacks.

These young people and their animal buddies are always there for each other through ups and downs.

Canines and felines have become the most-owned pets and companions among Vietnamese youths, and their popularity continues to grow, a trend that has also been happening worldwide.

The global pet care market was valued at US$138 billion in 2020, up 34 percent against the previous year, according to Euromonitor – an independent provider of strategic market research, as more people spent time at home with their pets or adopted animals during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The global dog population also grew 18 percent the same year to 489 million.

The 2021 Global Pet Care Markets Report also reveals amid the COVID-19 crisis, the market for pet care, estimated at $179.4 billion in 2020, is projected to reach a size of $255.4 billion by 2027.

How pets make their owners human

Bo is the loving name Hoang Nhat Ha gave her three-year-old pooch, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi – typically a strong, athletic, and lively little herder.

The 30-year-old woman suffered frequent bouts of depression and faced a crisis when she took Bo into her life.

It is her new fluffy friend that helped her through one of her toughest times.

She began to notice changes as soon as she adopted Bo, who always gives her a big welcome home.

“Back home from work, instead of retreating to my own room and bottling up my feelings, I spent most of my free time taking care of Bo and browsing for materials on how to properly keep a pet,” Ha recalled.

According to the young woman, there were times when her pooch was in much pain and on constant medication for several illnesses, including loss of appetite, dermatitis, and digestive disorder.

“Bo seemed to be all smiles all the time despite what he was going through. His optimism, unconditional love and constant company kept me in good spirits and helped me get back on my feet,” Ha added.

Appreciative of Bo’s presence and healing power, Ha makes sure owning a dog is not just a privilege; it is a responsibility and understanding the commitment that dog ownership entails.

A pet care worker looks after a dog at a pet hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Bong Mai / Tuoi Tre
A pet care worker looks after a dog at a pet hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Bong Mai / Tuoi Tre

She spends a monthly average of VND2-3 million ($88-132) on food, accessories, medication and services such as grooming and spa for her pampered, cuddly pooch.

The spa visits range from once a month in summer to once a week in the rainy season to make sure her pet enjoys general well-being and is free from skin diseases.

Ha is willing to spend a lot on specialized tools, including three different kinds of hairbrushes, nail grinders, deodorants, feet wash and dry bath foam. 

She also takes meticulous notes of Bo’s deworming, bug treatment, rabies and Carre vaccination schedules and gives her pooch medical checkups, dental services and blood tests every six months.    

To better stimulate Bo’s appetite, Ha even makes snacks and pastries for her dog based on formulas she has learned from the Internet so that the treats are palatable not only in mouth feel but also in taste and texture.

This pet lover has turned her hobby into a business to meet local demand by running an online shop called The Barkery, where she sells snacks and birthday cakes to pets and tries to promote community awareness of animal healthcare.

She also shares pastry baking formulas on the personal page so that pet keepers can make snacks for their loved animals.

The newly found business has kept Ha running on her feet all the time.

“There are days when I make the sweets well into the wee hours after getting home from work at 7:00 pm to fulfill customer orders,” Ha shared, adding she takes Bo out for coffee and strolls at the park where her pooch can socialize with canine friends on weekends. 

According to Ha, pet lovers keep reaching out and stay connected in close-knit, expanding communities.

“We all hope to change how people see their pets and give the animals a voice so that owners can tell if their pets are happy, relaxed, anxious, angry or sad,” Ha noted, adding in return, interacting with pets reduces owners’ stress and keeps the owners emotionally balanced and motivated.

“The animals depend on us for, at minimum, food and shelter, and deserve much more.”

“I need a dog rather than a lover”

This is a joke common among local pet lovers who choose to stay single.

Two tenanted rooms in a house tucked away at a small alley on Tran Quang Dieu Street, in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3, is where seven cats and one dog call home.

The ‘pack leader’ is 30-year-old Ngoc Diem, who puts aside one of her two tenanted rooms for her pets. 

Her job is making and selling low-carb food and having the products delivered to people on a diet.

With most of her time spent at home, Diem initially adopted a dog to keep her company.

Later, she decided to keep some cats and soon found herself among such a big pack as the cats gave birth to more kittens. 

Tending to such a big pack is never a breeze.

“I can barely travel anywhere and always have to rush home to feed them,” Diem shared.

Food and healthcare for the pack also takes a big chunk off the woman’s incomes.

“My cats refuse to eat readily made food, so I buy up to 50-60 kilograms of pork and chicken at one time. Buying in bulk helps cut costs,” Diem said, adding she feeds her cats twice a day on uncooked meat, a practice that supposedly improves their digestive system.

29-year-old Nguyen Quang Dat, a resident in Cu Chi, a suburban district in Ho Chi Minh City, also cooks twice a day to serve his ‘platoon’ of seven dogs.

He spends some VND5 million ($220) each month on raw food which he cooks into tempting meals to please his pooches’ palates.

Unlike Ha, Dat cannot afford spa services for his pack, so he takes the matter into his own hands.

“I give baths to two to three dogs only each time. It takes me a whole day to give baths to the entire pack on weekends if I’m too busy on weekdays,” Dat shared.

Ho Chi Minh City home to 500 vet clinics, pet shops

With almost two decades’ experience in animal health, Ngo Quoc Hung, who serves as a chief veterinarian at New Pet, a Ho Chi Minh City-based international animal care clinic, has noticed a significant rise in animal healthcare over the past decade. 

According to his estimate, the southern metropolis is currently home to around 500 veterinarian clinics, hospitals, spas and hotels that offer a wide range of services for pets.

Among them, veterinarian hospitals account for 30 to 40.

Based on vaccination statistics from the city’s department of animal health, Hung estimated around half a million pets are being taken care of citywide.

The field has seen a shift in the canine and feline population as more city residents now choose to keep cats rather than dogs as pets and dogs with big builds are now often raised in suburban areas rather than downtown ones.

“Inhabitants at many apartment buildings are not allowed to keep dogs, so cats have emerged as their choice,” Hung explained, adding felines are also a much better fit for small-sized homes. 

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