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How pet owners can save money from rising pet care costs

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Dogs and cats are an invaluable part of many of our lives. Providing companionship, humor, and unconditional love, these pets have the ability to brighten our days and put a smile on our face. For this reason, we strive to take the best care of them, often believing that money is no object when it comes to the health of our very best friends. However, you might be surprised to learn just how much the average owner spends on their four-legged friend.

Dogs and Cats: Part of Our Families

Per the Humane Society, the number of dogs and cats in US homes increased from 67 million to around 164 million during the years between 1970 and 2010. As of 2013, 47 percent of households have a dog. Of this population, 20 percent of owners have two dogs, while 10 percent have three or more dogs. Meanwhile, 46 percent of households own at least one cat (31 percent have two cats, and 24 percent have three or more cats).

Dogs versus Cats: The Costs

To say that the pet care industry is lucrative is an understatement. According to CNN, an estimated $55.53 billion will be spent on pets in 2013 alone.

These costs aren't equal for all species: as reported by the Daily Finance, dogs are typically more expensive than cats. This is because dogs often cost more to buy and to neuter and spay. Dogs are also more expensive to feed; while the price of a can of dog food is commensurate to a can of cat food, dogs eat more than cats. Compound this with the fact that dogs can grow much larger than cats (think Great Dane versus tabby cat) and the food bill is sure to be larger. Additionally, some dog breeds are prone to certain illnesses and health conditions that can require expensive care. For instance, Maltese breeds can be prone to disc problems while Labradors can be prone to hip issues.

Finally, there are some things dogs require that cats typically do not. These include grooming, surrogate care (through dog walkers, daycares, and kennels), and equipment (such as collars, leashes, dog beds, and large traveling crates).

Basic Annual Expenses

As mentioned above, US pet owners spend billions each year on their loved ones. Per the American Pet Products Association, care is often divvied up as follows:

• $21.26 billion is spent on food.

• $13.21 billion is spent on supplies and over the counter medication.

• $14.21 billion is spent on veterinarian care.

• $2.31 billion is spent on live animal purchases.

• $4.54 billion is spent on pet services (such as boarding and grooming).

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) also reports that the average dog owner takes their pet to the veterinarian about 2.6 times per year at an average cost of $378 per trip—meaning the average dog owner spends anywhere from $756 to $1,134 on vet bills annually.

Pet Insurance: Simple (yet Often Overlooked) Protection

Two of the costs of pet ownership (the cost of medication and the cost of vet care) can be drastically reduced by the purchase of pet insurance. However, very few people take advantage of this: according to Consumer Reports, only about 3 percent of dogs and 1 percent of cats are insured.

Ultimately, this lack of insurance can end up costing pet owners in the long run. This is due, in part, to high priced vet bills, as pet healthcare appears to closely mimic human healthcare. In other words, it is not uncommon for pet owners to find themselves paying thousands of dollars for unforeseen veterinary emergencies, and costs can be surprisingly high for simple procedures or cures for minor ailments. Additionally, more expensive procedures—such as spinal surgery for a slipped disc—can cost up to $8,000. When this is coupled with the fact that vet care has become increasingly modern with the availability of MRIs, CT scans, eye surgery and chemotherapy, the cost is sure to keep on rising.

Of course, a pet doesn't need to fall victim to an accident, disease, or illness to benefit from insurance; premiums also help pay for basic annual care. This offsets the costs of insurance premiums. Luckily, pet insurance is very easy to find, making it even more surprising that more pet owners don’t purchase coverage. Pet Premium, for instance, offer a variety of plans that help owners protect themselves from unforeseen and costly vet bills.

While most pet owners will find themselves paying for care for their pet at some point, insurance can help owners ensure their pets get care that knows no bounds—just like the love of an animal.

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