The AP-Petside.com Poll was conducted Oct. 13-17, 2011, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,118 pet owners. Results among pet owners have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Eight in 10 pet owners took their animal companion to a veterinarian in the past 12 months. And cost was an obstacle for a third of those who did not visit the vet.
But most pet owners trust that vets are not suggesting unnecessary treatments, and the bulk of pet owners faced costs below the average. Sixty percent of those who did take a pet to the vet spent $300 or less on their animal's care, the average expenditure was boosted higher by the one in eight (13 percent) who spent $1,000 or more.
About one in six pet owners say their pet faced a serious illness during the year, and those pet owners spent an average of $1,092 on vet care. One percent say they took their pets to the vet and spent no money.
According to the poll, most pet owners have faith in the treatment vets recommend. Overall, 52 percent say vets do not often recommend excessive treatment, 26 percent say that happens moderately often, 17 percent extremely or very often.
Those whose pets had been seriously ill in the past year were no more likely than others to say that vets suggest treatments that go beyond what is reasonable and necessary.
Among those who did not take their pets to the vet last year, 52 percent say they only take their pets to the vet "when they're really sick" and a third say they can't afford it at all.
Fifty-eight percent of those who did not take their pets to a vet in the past year said they "have a type of pet that doesn't need much veterinary care." Among them, 52 percent have dogs, 52 percent cats, 10 percent fish, and 5 percent birds.
Not surprisingly, higher-income pet owners (household incomes over $50,000) were more apt to take their pets to the vet than those with incomes below $50,000 — 90 percent versus 74 percent. Forty percent of those with household incomes below $50,000 who didn't take their pets to the vet say they can't really afford to do so.
According to the poll, dog owners were a bit more likely to take their pets to the vet than cat owners — 85 percent of dog owners compared with 79 percent of cat owners. But dog owners spent a bit less — an average of $537 — than cat owners, who spent an average of $558.
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