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America loves its pets: Vet care a priority even in hard times

November 30, 2011 | 10:20 am

Despite the economy, pet owners spent an average $505 on vet care for their animals last year, according to a new poll
Nothing is too good for Fifi and Fido: Americans may be clawing their way out of economic turmoil, but that didn't stop pet owners from spending an average of $505 on veterinary care last year.

Those with pets who were sickly spent even more -- more than $1,000 on average.

That's according to a new Associated Press-Petside.com poll of pet owners' spending habits. The poll found that most pet owners (eight in 10) took their creatures -- be they scaly, furry, fanged or feathered -- to the vet within the last 12 months.

That's not to say the economic crisis hasn't been a barrier for some, however: About a third of those polled who did not seek veterinary care said cost was an issue.

The poll's findings speak highly about the veterinary profession. By and large, the pet owners in the survey said they trust their vets and don't believe the animal doctors "pad" the bill or take advantage of pet owners who are facing difficult choices about an extremely sick pet.

Take Thomas Klamm, 76, of Boone, Iowa, who said he and his wife, Beverly, spent $3,000 on their two Chihuahuas, sisters Kati and Keli. Kati suffers from a spinal condition, and Klamm told the Associated Press that he would have spent more on the animals if necessary, even though his annual income is under $50,000.

He added that he had absolute confidence in the vets and senior students at Iowa State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital in nearby Ames, where his four-legged companions have been going since they were puppies.

Also among the poll's findings:

-- Most pet owners in the survey, about 60%, spent below the average, or about $300. But the overall average jumped to $505 because of the approximately 13% who spent well over $1,000 on vet care.

-- Slightly over half (52%) of the pet owners polled said their vets do not often recommend excessive treatment; 26% said that happens moderately often, and 17% said it happens extremely or very often. Those with seriously ill pets were not more likely than others to say that vets suggest excessive treatments.

-- Nearly 60% of those polled said they "have a type of pet that doesn't need much veterinary care." Among the survey respondents, 52% said they have dogs, 52% cats, 10% fish, and 5% birds.

-- Respondents who made more money (households with annual incomes above $50,000) were more likely to take their pets to the vet.

-- Not surprising perhaps, the poll contributes to the dog-versus-cat divide. Dog owners in the survey were more likely to take their pets to the vet than cat owners (85% versus 79%). However, the dog owners on average spent a bit less ($537) than the cat owners ($558).

-- And then there's this: 1% of those polled said they took their pets to the vet and spent absolutely no money at all.

Unfortunately, the poll did not ask them to share their vet's contact information with the rest of us.
 
The poll of 1,118 pet owners was conducted in mid-October and included a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter/renelynch

Photo credit: Associated Press

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