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'According to RSPCA figures, nearly one-fifth of people who bought a puppy in the past two years no longer have their dog. This is why people purchasing a new dog should think ahead.'

Britain's most expensive breeds
3Golden Retriever
4German Shepherd
5Cocker Spaniel
6West Highland White Terrier
7English Springer Spaniel
8Staffordshire Bull Terrier
9Border Collie

[Source: helpucover and PDSA claims per breed statistics in 2010]

helpucover's consultant vet Dr Jackson says: 'Labradors topped the list because they will carry long-term hereditary conditions that make them more vulnerable to conditions that affect all dogs in general.'

Annie Blackwood, a pet owner from Wales, has a Boxer named Clarrie, and is all too well aware of the costs involved in owning the breed. When Clarrie was first tested by an allergy specialist, test results showed that she was suffering from multiple major reactions. Clarrie turned out to be one of the most allergic dogs the specialist had seen.

Clarrie's main medication costs £40 per week. But this causes gum overgrowth side effects, which Ms Blackwood says 'involves about three hours of surgery every eight months costing £400 to £500 each time.'

helpucover adds: 'One of the problems with a lot of pet insurers is that once you have claimed on a condition for your pet, they won't pay out any money if your pet has any problems related to that same condition. It's best for pet owners to think about lifelong insurance, such as helpucover's, to make sure that their pet is covered for life.'

So what lies behind the great British love affair with our four-legged friends? According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) the top five reasons for owning a dog or cat are: 'companionship'; 'always wanting one'; 'believing they are easy to look after'; 'pet was rescued'; and 'fitting in with lifestyle'.

Would-be dog owners in the UK can expect to pay £700 or more for a pedigree pup who will often enjoy the best of everything, even when times are hard.

Commenting on the humanisation effect, Dr Jackson said: 'In a lot of cases pets are replacement family. And it's common that they are treated like family members, which again reinforces the point of lifelong insurance for pet owners.'

helpucover has listed its top tips to help save people save money if they are planning to get a dog:

  • Visit rescue homes and choose carefully
  • Get a mongrel as they have fewer problems than pure breeds
  • Clean your pet's teeth daily or give dental chews
  • Buy pet insurance, with lifetime cover offering the best value
  • Get your dog neutered, unless you want more mouths to feed
  • Buy pet food in bulk, but make sure your dog likes it first
  • Keep up to date with vaccinations. Prevention is better and cheaper
  • Buy toys from charity shops
  • Order over-the-counter pet medications online for discounts
  • Set up a house sitting/feeding rota with neighbours.
  • Stop buying accessories. Who cares if Fido has a sparkly collar?
Average annual cost
Essential vet costs£280
Boarding kennel (two-week holiday)£238
Pet minders£160
Insurance per annum£204
TOTAL LIFETIME COST£30,380 (approx.)

[Source: Good Housekeeping magazine based on 12-year life expectancy]