The study from MORE TH>N reveals that, in spite of these high costs, the majority of pet owners - 58% of dog owners and 83% of cat owners - did no research into their prospective pet and associated costs ahead of owning it. The survey also reveals that 60% of dog owners have insurance for their canine, in comparison to a paltry 30% of cat owners, which can mean expensive repercussions for many in the event their pet does fall ill
The comprehensive new report is based on a study of 10,000 cat and dog owners which paints the fullest picture of the state of the nation’s relationship with their pets to date.
It found that British dog owners are spending an average of £240 on their pooch each month, with costs incurred including food, treats, professional grooming, pet insurance and vets fees. Cat owners meanwhile are spending £100 on similar items in comparison. This equates to a whopping £24.5 billion being spent on dogs, and £9.6 billion being spent on cats, in the UK each year.
Despite the well-documented significant cost of owning a pet however, the study also found that the majority of would-be pet owners - 58% of dog owners and 83% of cat owners - did no research in to the costs associated with their future pet prior to owning it, with one in five not even thinking there was research to be done.
The research revealed only six in ten dogs and three in ten cats are insured, which could mean expensive repercussions if their pet becomes ill or is injured and they re faced with unexpected vet bills.
On average, dog owners said they’d be willing to spend up to £1,271 on vet fees and cat owners an average of £767. While these may sound like large sums of money, the research also showed that pet owners consistently underestimated the cost of the most common medical conditions and their treatment for cats and dogs.
Dog owners, for example, estimated a cruciate (knee) rupture as costing an average of £873, when in reality the average is £2,029 - a £1,156 difference. Lameness they believed would cost £508 on average; however the real average cost was revealed to be £725 - a £217 difference.
Cat owners also underestimated the cost of some common conditions. For example, they believed if their cat was involved in a road traffic accident it would cost them an average of £807, when the actual average was £1,344 - £537 more. Hyperthyroidism was also underestimated by some £413 - £849 against the actual cost of £436.
So how do pet owners pay for unexpected treatment if they are not insured? Worryingly many would get into debt. The research showed that just over half would dip into their savings (51%) , but almost two in five would use a credit card (39%), 26% would take out a loan, while nearly a quarter (23%) would borrow from family and friends. Most shockingly however, 8% admitted they’d be forced to have their pet put down.
The study also revealed that 18% of owners admitted their pet requires regular medication – on average costing £109.19 per month – a staggering £1,310.28 per year!
Andrew Moore, director of pet claims, MORE TH>N said: “The NHS provides a free health service for humans, but there is no safety net for our pets. Since there is no frame of reference, vet bills can appear high and come as an unaffordable shock to many owners when their pet is taken sick. The average car accident repair is £1,944 and people wouldn’t dream of not being insured, but some of the claims costs we see for pets can exceed this and yet the lack of awareness of this financial risk means that many pet owners don’t think they need pet insurance’. Vets and insurers must play their part in making these costs manageable, through affordable premiums and keeping medical inflation as low as possible.
“Owners also have an important role to keep their cats and dogs as healthy as possible through diet and exercise as a way of helping limit the medical treatment they’ll need in their lifetime. New types of wearable technology for dogs can help with this, monitoring activity levels with their food intake. In our experience, when this technology is offered with incentives, real changes in behaviour begin to take place. With that in mind, we definitely see incentive based insurance rewarding owners who keep their pets fit and meet their wellbeing needs in areas such as training and socialisation, as a potential route forward.”