Britain's pets have come to feel the effect of the credit crunch and the rising cost of living as owners skimp on pet insurance.
More than 11million British pet owners having opted to save on insurance cover for their cats or dogs, a recent study by Sainsbury's Finance revealed and animal rescue centres have found themselves inundated with animals abandoned by those who could no longer afford to keep them.
One in ten respondents without pet insurance
considered it too expensive, and six per cent admitted they had not taken out cover because they could not afford it.
Some of the reasons given by those who failed to take out cover for their dog or cat reveal considerable misconceptions around pet insurance: 42 per cent answered they did not buy cover because they thought it was not necessary, and a further eight per cent said their pet was healthy and therefore had no need for it.
This is an attitude they might come to regret when their pet requires veterinary treatment, Steve Johnson, head of pet insurance at Sainsbury's Finance warns. "Dogs and cats are just as likely to get ill and require treatment as we are but there's no NHS for them." he said.
"Pet insurance really is essential if you don't want to get caught out by costly vet bills - the average claim for vet's fees is around £300 with one in every 26 trips to the vet costing over £1,000."
Mr Johnson advises pet owners not to take this gamble: "Waiting until the 'healthy' animal becomes ill before thinking about cover is not an option as any ailment arising before a policy is in place will be excluded".
"People with uninsured pets who later require expensive surgery and post operative care such as physiotherapy or have animals that develop chronic skin conditions which may require regular treatment could be left with crippling bills to pay."
In order to protect pet owners from soaring vet bills, providers such as Sainsbury's Pet Insurance offer a range of different cover options. Features include cover of vet's fees up to a specified amount, no time limit on claims in relation to vet's fees, help with the cost of finding lost or stolen pets at affordable premiums.