Pet culture in France vs. the USA

Written by Diane on. Posted in on Dagny the dog, on life in France, pets

Dagny waiting for healthy treats

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.

Read on for info on pet culture 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

vet products in france 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. Anyone want to open a NYC-style doggie daycare place? Not sure the French would go for it. But I can dream, right?

Dog-poop-in-France

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.

Dagny at the park

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?

nose-to-tail pet insurance coverage with Embrace

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Comments (20)

    • Diane

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      Thanks Stella, I’m actually familiar w/that store and they only have kibble (croquette) which my dog doesn’t eat. ;-( Maybe one day France will have a better selection!

      Reply

  • Madeleine

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    Great post. I’m surprised dogs can go into pharmacies. I knew about the restaurants, but wasn’t sure about other places. My dog is about 70 pounds, so not sure she’d be that welcome. She is extremely sweet though and well behaved. We spent a lot of money on training! Do they have dog trainers in France? What about dog shows, agility training, etc.?

    My two cats are addicted to Fancy Feast Elegant Medleys. Ugh. I feed them good, wholesome dry food (Orijen) but they need wet food too, and Fancy Feast is all they will go for. So, do they sell it in France? I’m guessing they don’t.

    It was nice to read that the vets in France don’t mark up. I’m paying about $80 for a six-month supply of Advantage Multi now.

    By the way, do they have pet stores in France like in the US? Or do you have to go to the Monoprix?

    I’ve been to NYC and it seems like it would be tough to walk a dog on the streets there. However, I saw a lot of people strolling around with their dogs in Paris in April. I know that April isn’t peak tourist season in Paris, but it seems like dog walking in Paris might be more manageable than in NYC.

    Thanks again for the post.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hello, I think it comes down to shop owners’ individual preferences and it’s not the same across the board or in every city. In general, I’d say that smallish dogs are accepted most places though, at least where I am.

      Yup, there’s a whole dog training/showing/agility industry here and we even have a volunteer run dog school where I live. In a bigger town, I’m sure there are even more options. I don’t know about cat products, but Orijen does exist here with a bunch of other healthy kibble brands. You can check out pet stores like Maxi Zoo or zooplus.fr, or wanimo.fr online to get an idea of what pet products are offered in France. There are also smaller, privately owned stores I’ve seen as well.

      Just to clarify about vets, they do mark up their prices (have to make a living) but I don’t find it egregious like in New York City.

      Thanks again for checking out the post. Feel free to ask if you have more questions!

      Reply

  • Aude

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    They definitely have pet trainers. We had our dog trained by a great trainer and my friends goes to an “agility club” that also does training.
    As for keeping your dog on vacation, it is hard to find a nice place. We left our dog in a “pension” once and she was miserable. So after that we either left her with a friend in the country or with a “dogsitter” we had found online – our dog seemed really happy there, but it was run under the table (like a lot of things here). If you talk to people, you may find a lot of them would be happy to watch your dog for a bit in exchange for a nice bottle of wine or something.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yeah, I don’t think boarding places work for every type of dog. Mine wouldn’t last a day! I think a caring dog sitter is the way to go!

      Reply

  • Kimberly Gauthier

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    This is really interesting; especially the part about raw dog food. I thought that it was very common in other countries and something new here. I color myself lucky to have so many options available for our dogs.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Maybe in other countries but definitely not in France. I think it has something to do with import regulations (US beef is banned here, for example) so American companies would probably have an expensive road to go down to sell their products here. I guess French dogs like kibble. 😉

      Reply

  • chickenruby

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    Here in Dubai the vets are like a beauty parlour and a quick appointment take forever by the time you’ve said no to all the extras and recovered from the costs. People are paid to walk dogs here and there is dog poop everywhere. Dogs aren’t popular here amongst the locals either. In South Africa where our dog is from, dog poop was a big problem but the fault of the owners as they walked their own dogs more often than not

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh wow, I did not know that about Dubai. Interesting that dog walking is popular — is that mostly to cater to the expat community? How do the dogs do in the heat there?
      I will say that i see more and more French people using waste bags and sometimes parks even give them out for free! Thank you for checking out my post!

      Reply

    • Diane

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      Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  • kidGLloves

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    The Mother says – What an interesting article. I would love to be able to take our dog into more places in the UK but there are a few pubs with gardens that allow it. Dagny seems to have it gold with his life and it’s lovely to read about such a loved pet. #animaltales
    kidGLloves recently posted…Fun things to do in the Easter holidays……My Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thank you, yes she’s spoiled and is certainly not an accessory to my life — she is my life. 😉

      Reply

  • annabel

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    Great article – look at La Patte Verte for healthy treats – will tweet you a link.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thank you, will check out the site. All the regular sites have nothing even remotely close to the treats I buy in the US. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Reply

  • Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault

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    You are spot on there with how the French view their dogs. Our vets are lovely and with all our animals we do go there quite often but like you say, you never feel hurried and the prices are so reasonable. The only big difference I have noticed is how expensive specialist diet food is. One of our cats has kidney failure so needs special food and it is twice as expensive here as the the UK. Luckily I can get is shipped over here for minimal P+P. However medicines are so much cheaper which meant the medicine our poor Poppy had to have all her life was considerably cheaper here than in the UK.

    Many thanks for adding this post to #AnimalTales.
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault recently posted…In like a lion and out like a lambMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup, agreed! I always call the vet if I have a question and don’t second guess myself about bringing Dagny in if there’s an issue. When I call, the vet takes the time to talk to me herself and I’ve never felt rushed even if there was a waiting room full of other furry clients. And yes about the medicines (although her flea treatment isn’t cheap!). They help balance the cost of food! Thank you for hosting the link up!

      Reply

  • esme

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    can I ask how you ship food to yourself from the us? we are moving to paris with our two cats and they are such finicky eaters. they don’t sell our wet food brand there (saw it on amazon for over €100!).

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Esme, I buy online at a US site, ship the order to a family member’s address in the US and then they relabel the box and ship my pet food to me in France. It’s not the most cost-effective method but if you have family in the US willing to help, buy in bulk and take advantage of sales and promo codes, it’s worth it if your pet requires a certain diet. And if it’s a small dog or cat and not a giant breed (which would cost considerably more to feed). Shipping wet food that comes in cans will probably be a costly endeavor due to the weight though. Good luck w/the move!

      Reply

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