Like Americans, the French love their pets. There’s no doubt about that! Dagny has a very good life here and I’m so pleased with the level of care animals receive in France. But there are some differences between American and French vet care that I’d like to share with you today.
Maybe you have a pet and are thinking of moving to France, maybe you’re like me and are already here or maybe you just want to see how pet culture differs in France.
Pet culture in France
I’ve grown up with animals and have seen my fair share of vets either with my own pets or helping the pets of friends and family. So when I moved to France, I was interested in how the pet care industry differs from what I know in the U.S. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. First, let’s quickly point out a few similarities:
- The French and Americans LOVE their pets. Both countries are ranked in the top 10 countries with the highest number of pet dogs and cats.
- You’ll find all types of breeds of dogs and cats in France just like the U.S.
- Pets are microchipped in France and insurance is widely available.
- Veterinarians are readily available and their offices are full service and modern.
But I’d like to focus on the differences with the pet culture in France!
Here are some differences I’ve noticed about the pet culture in France:
Vets aren’t big business
Vets in France obviously have to make a living, but they’re not in business to nickel and dime you like I’ve sometimes experienced in the U.S. The prices are reasonable and that was a welcome change for me.
Medicines don’t have a huge markup (you buy them at the regular pharmacy like human medicine), regular vet consults are reasonably priced (25 euros in my area for a small dog) and vets don’t charge extra (in my experience) to clip nails, express anal glands, clean ears or any other routine things at a checkup. It’s all included.
Maybe we’re just spoiled, but Dagny’s vet is patient, kind and always makes time for us. Never once have I felt rushed. I thought we were just lucky, but after seeing a few emergency vets in the past year (scratched cornea and facial swelling after an insect sting at midnight), I realized it’s NOT just my vet.
They all seem to be, on average, more into caring for the animals than into the profit side of veterinary care. I feel like in France, it’s not all about the money all the time. There are wonderful vets in the U.S. as well — let me make that clear — but I feel that vets here are less rushed and less into bankrupting you. Just like human doctors, the health industry here for pets also gets two paws up in my book!
Treat/raw food selection in stores is lacking
I take my pet’s nutrition seriously and don’t want her eating preservative laden food full of corn, chicken meal and other byproducts that shouldn’t be in a dog’s diet. In France, there aren’t very many healthy treats, specialty products or raw food options at all. Freeze-dried raw food isn’t available here like Stella & Chewy’s in the U.S. — and it isn’t just that the brand isn’t here, there’s no equivalent!
There are treats in stores like Maxi Zoo but they’re like candy for dogs and I’ve yet to find healthy treats (so that’s why I buy Dagny’s food and treats in the U.S. and ship it to myself. Good thing she’s small or I’d go broke). For example, finding grain-free treats that are 100% organic or other specialty treats is nearly impossible.
Brands like I And Love And You and Zuke’s don’t exist here. French people aren’t THAT different from Americans, so I feel like if these products existed in France, French people would buy them. But they don’t even have the option.
No pet sitters and dog walkers
In the U.S., sites like DogVacay and private dog walking and pet sitting companies do really well. Pet sitting and dog walking are huge industries (I used to do both on the side and loved it!) but in France, it seems that people just kind of deal with these things on their own. The industry just doesn’t seem to be part of the pet culture in France.
We all have to travel from time to time without our dog or cat, so what do the French do? It seems they either privately arrange for neighbors or friends to stop in or take their pet to a boarding facility (although they don’t seem to be widespread and luxury facilities like Morris Animal Inn where we used to take my family dog don’t exist either, outside the big cities anyway, to my knowledge.)
Most French people don’t pay $200+/month to have a professional come in to walk Fido every afternoon while at work or splurge on doggy daycare (my fave was Biscuits & Bath which opened up next door to my old apartment in NY!). In Paris, I have seen some companies that do provide doggie daycare and dog walking, but it’s not widely available anywhere else.
Why not? I have no idea, but there’s no shortage of pets — that’s for sure. French people tend to work close to home and have real lunch breaks, so in smaller towns at least, people go home to eat lunch for an hour.
Anyone want to open a NYC-style doggie daycare place? Not sure the French would go for it. But I can dream, right?
Poop is everywhere
We all know the stereotype that French streets are covered with dog poop. It’s not entirely true, but on average, there is more dog poop that gets left on the ground in France than the U.S. I do see waste bags for sale in stores, but the concept of picking up after your dog hasn’t caught on here. Even when bags are distributed for free at garbage cans in the park.
Yes, I’m the one who offers an extra bag to a random stranger on the street without exchanging a word. They all LOOOOOVE me, I’m sure. French or American, whether it’s the pet culture in France or not, I think we’d all agree that poop on the bottom of your shoe is not a pleasant experience, SO PICK IT UP!
Dogs are welcome all over!
In the U.S., dogs aren’t really allowed in most public places. Aside from an outdoor cafe and the pet store, Americans know to leave their dog at home. But in France? Well, dog lovers, prepare to smile because this difference about the pet culture in France is one of my favorites!
Walking into the pharmacy with your dog might get a few stares back in suburbia USA or maybe you’d even be asked to leave, but in France? Dogs are welcome in places like the pharmacy, restaurants and even small shops. But a small, well-behaved dog that goes largely unnoticed is what I’m talking about here.
An overly friendly, barking Rottweiler that weighs more than you do would not be welcome in a little boutique. And if there’s a place with food such as a supermarket, dogs usually are not welcome there. But in general, if your dog is small and well-behaved, he won’t get any nasty looks for accompanying you on your errands.
The French just let dogs be
I’ve written about loose dogs before and how I’m the one who will always check a “lost” dog’s tag if he’s wandering around in the street without the owner in sight when everyone else just walks on by. I’m also the one who would pull my car over in suburban New Jersey if a random dog was in the street, obviously lost.
Why? Because in the U.S., it’s probably someone’s pet who got loose and needed help getting home. In France? Just someone who let their dog out for a walk and assumes he’ll find his way home. I probably see one loose dog a week and I hate it. The streets aren’t safe, people! Cars are BIG AND HEAVY. Does this mean the French don’t care? I think it’s a cultural difference and obviously not ALL French people let their dogs wander.
Any other points you’d like to add about pet culture in France? Anything surprise you?
UPDATE: Dagny sadly passed away March 5, 2022.
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