Americans loved their pets to the tune of $43 billion in 2008, which, according to the American Pet Products Association, was expected to increase to $45.4 billion in 2009.
Much of that total is spent on food, veterinary care and other necessities, but it also includes the growing category of pet spas and resorts, where dogs, cats and other animals are taken care of, if not downright pampered.
Spas are often a welcome option for owners going on vacation who don't want to worry about Spot or Whiskers while they are away.
However, spas may not be right for all pets, according to Deb Roges of California Animal Rehabilitation (http://www.CalAnimalRehab.com). Some spas and resorts require that pets undergo health evaluations to ensure that the programs offered are appropriate.
"It has become a welcome option for clients of the facility and their pets during vacations and short trips," Roges says. "And rather than run wild for five to 10 days at day care, their pets continue to receive daily exercises, stretching, massage, acupuncture and a routine that keeps them in great shape." She adds that this is especially good for senior dogs (those older than 7), as it's controlled exercise and care that will be less likely to cause injuries.
Many spas welcome several kinds of animals, but some -- such as A Country Cat House (http://www.ACountryCatHouse.com), which has several spas in Florida -- specialize in one species. Cats from the same families can be boarded together in custom-built luxury accommodations. A Country Cat House even provides pickup and delivery for its clientele. As is the case with many pet spas, special diets and feeding instructions are followed.
The staff at many pet spas and resorts includes veterinarians and physical therapists. Services can include physical therapy or exercise regimes, one-on-one -- sometimes two-on-one -- treatment, acupuncture and more.
Some pet resorts are part of the services offered to clients who come for a stay at a "people spa." Nemacolin Woodland Resorts, in Farmington, Pa., is a AAA five-diamond destination that includes the new Nemacolin Wooflands pet resort and spa (http://www.nemacolin.com). Dogs and cats have access to individually themed kennels, day care services, hydrotherapy, glass viewing windows, flat-screen television, grooming salons, outdoor exercise areas and elevated beds.
The terms "pet spa" and "resort" may conjure up images of expensive facilities for pampered pooches and felines, but there is much more to it than that, according to Sandra Blakley, owner of Dog Kidz Country Daycare & Boarding (http://www.DogKidz.com), in Vero Beach, Fla.
"There are some very high-end pet resorts built to pamper, but I believe that serves a minority wealthy population. The true trend in pet care is based on a more comprehensive understanding of the needs of pets," she says. "Our primary focus is dogs, though we care for other animals, as well. The dog care philosophy now is that dogs need exercise. Sounds simple, I know, but the truth is dogs must walk, must run, must explore, must socialize with other dogs. Not doing these things is detrimental to their physical and emotional health."