America's millions of pet lovers apparently aren't too worried about the threat of a double-dip recession.
The American Pet Products Association estimates pet owners will spend $50 billion this year, with the biggest single expense veterinarian bills, which are expected to top $13 billion.
Kiplinger's Personal Finance found dog owners pay $310 to $7,100 a year on their dogs -- that's $4,070 to $101,070 for an average dog's life.
Cats cost $490 to $940 a year -- $7,760 to $15,260 in their lifetimes -- not counting any expenses from an emergency like a cat or dog being hit by a car or mangled by a hungry coyote.
Emergency care expenses can be off the chart.
The American Veterinary Medical Association advises animal owners not to skimp on preventive healthcare for their pets.
"Despite the ever-increasing emotional bond we have with our pets, research shows pets are getting less preventive healthcare," said Dr. Rene A. Carlson, president of the association based in Schaumburg, Ill. "Consequently, illnesses that are totally preventable, such as dental infections, intestinal worms and heartworms, ear infections and diabetes, are on the increase. Every October, we encourage pet owners to bring their pets into their veterinarian for regular checkups."
The annual checkup for my 9-year-old Fox Terrier at a private veterinary hospital cost $128 and included a nose-to-tail wellness check, a heartworm test and two vaccinations.
My mom paid more than $300 for a similar checkup for her 4-year-old cocker spaniel at a national chain pet hospital, but in all fairness, the visit included three shots, medicine for an early detected ear infection and $100 a biopsy of a small lump on the dog's back.
The dog was fine.
Fortunately our dogs are not overweight -- a serious problem that affects some 40 percent of dogs and cats in the United States.
"Once you determine your pet has a weight problem, the next thing you should do is speak with your veterinarian," said Ohio State University veterinarian and pet nutrition expert Dr. C.A. Tony Buffington. "Having a conversation with your veterinarian about your pet, its eating habits, activity, lifestyle and general health allow you to develop a specific and workable plan to keep your pet healthy."
The vet who checked my mom's cocker advised her to switch the dog's diet to a healthier formulation of dog food. Mom complained about the extra cost but as she looked down at the dog wagging its tail grabbed a bag of the higher-priced, presumably more nutritious, food.
Lost pets get ride home
Animal control officers in Fort Wayne, Ind., are using 11 old laptop computers from the police department to get lost pets back to their homes without a stop at a shelter.
The program -- called "Home Again" -- seeks to reunite pets and owners as quickly and efficiently as possible. The pet's registration can be accessed on the computers and pet owners pay $10 the first time a pet is returned, The Journal Gazette reported.
The fee goes up to $30 the second time a pet is returned and is $75 the third time a pet is picked up and returned by Animal Care & Control. Lost animals previously were taken to a shelter and owners had to go there to get them back.
"It really gets an animal home within minutes," animal control supervisor Randy Thornton told the Journal Gazette. "It saves time, money, energy, resources and fuel."
About 66 pets have been directly returned to their homes since the program began in August. A city ordinance requires registration of all dogs and cats and that information includes the pet's veterinarian.
Mandatory microchip law vetoed in California
California Gov. Jerry Brown this month vetoed legislation that would have required all dogs and cats reclaimed from animal shelters to have ID microchips.
In his veto message, Brown said while he supports mircochipping of pets that there was no need for a new law.
"Under current law, local agencies and shelters can -- and should -- require animals be microchipped before being released. There is no need for state law to mandate the procedure, which would then require that state to pay for it."
Legislation backer state Sen. Ted Lieu said the law would have saved taxpayers millions by reducing the number of unclaimed cats and dogs euthanized annually. California animal shelters impound more than 1 million dogs each year -- and about 500,000 are put to death, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"This process costs taxpayers up to $300 million a year, according to the state comptroller. Nationwide, this costs local taxpayer-funded shelters and humane societies $1 billion. This has to stop," Lieu said in a statement to the governor.
Microchips are implanted just under the skin of animals and their radio frequency information, usually an ID number that can be linked to an owner in a database, is read by passing an electronic scanner over the pet.
U.S. malls plan pet sale ban
Global Animal, an online animal news magazine, reports Macerich, a major U.S. shopping mall developer, is banning sales of live animals in its 74 malls to break the puppy mill industry.
Macerich reportedly will not renew leases of existing pet stores that sell live animals and plans to open stores that promote adoption of rescued pets. Some of the corporation's premier malls include Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles, Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Chesterfield Towne Center in Richmond, Va.
Halloween scary for pets
With Halloween coming at the end October, pet health insurer PetPlan is warning people to take precautions to keep their animals safe.
-- If you expect a lot of trick-or-treaters at the door, consider putting the pet in a closed room with water, food, toys and a comfortable bed. That will prevent a spooked pet from bolting outside and running away.
-- Nearly 15 percent of pet owners plan to dress their animals in a costume. If you do, make sure the animal can see and can move around unencumbered, and that the seasonal getup doesn't have frills that can be chewed off and swallowed. If it's warm make sure the pet is not overheated or dehydrated.
-- And of course keep candy, especially chocolate and sugary sweets like raisins, away from pets.
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