Some pet owners spend more on their pet’s health than they do on their own

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And they’re willing to go into debt to do it.

That’s according to a new survey by online financial group LendEDU that asked 1,000 US pet owners how much they spend on their pets and how it impacts their personal finances.

It impacts them a lot, as it turns out: the polled owners spent an average of $140 per month on their pet, with 55% going toward food costs and 24% going toward veterinary care and pet insurance.

The real kicker is how much money some pet owners were willing to spend on their pet’s healthcare versus their own. The survey also asked, “Do you spend more annually on your pet’s healthcare expenses or own personal healthcare expenses?” Of those who responded:

  • 24% said they spend more on their pet’s healthcare than their own
  • 46% said they spend more on their personal healthcare expenses than their pet’s
  • 22% said they spent about the same
  • 8% said they preferred not to say

Regarding veterinary care in particular, pet owners are really willing to bite the bullet: of those polled, 24% said they’ve gone into debt to pay for their pet’s healthcare bills, either by using credit cards or taking out a personal loan. Their average debt? $1,567.

When asked if they had pet insurance, 39% of respondents said yes, which costs them an average of $76.76 per month. Of those respondents, 77% said pet insurance has come in handy for emergency expenses.

The average potential cost of those expenses if they didn’t have pet insurance was $1,458.03.

Of those without pet insurance, 56% of respondents didn’t know there was such a thing.

  • 39% didn’t think they needed pet insurance
  • 40% thought it cost too much
  • 12% thought their pet was too old to make the expense worth the cost
  • 3% said their pet had a pre-existing condition and was denied coverage

The survey also asked if spending on pets had delayed other major life decisions. Of those who responded:

  • 11% said they’d delayed having children or having more children
  • 8% said they’d delayed getting married
  • 10% said they’d missed other bill payments
  • 8% put off buying or renting a home or apartment
  • 6% put off buying or leasing a car

Commenting on the results of the survey, LendEDU said, “This is incredibly surprising to see, as many Americans might not think about how much they spend on their pet’s healthcare instead of their own. Some possible explanations for this could include people putting their pet first in the order of who gets health and dental appointments, or being neglectful to their own health to the benefit of their pets.”

Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that going into debt, or putting off major life plans, isn’t stopping pet owners from spending on their pets: overall, the total national spending on pets jumped by $3 billion from 2017 to 2018, with a record-high $72.56 billion spent on pets in 2018.

Photo credit: © iStock/Olivier Le Moal