Poll: Pet owners spent an average of $500 at the vet

Despite a dismal economy, most Americans made taking their pets to the vet a priority in the past year. And pet owners spent an average of $500 on those visits, according to a new poll.

An AP-Petside.com poll found that about 80 percent of people took their pets to a vet, including 85 percent of dog owners and 79 percent of cat owners.

Those trips were not necessarily cheap, the poll shows. The average owner spent about $500 on vet visits last year. And in about 13 percent of visits, owners spent $1,000 or more on vet bills.

Sandra Centeno, of Decatur, went online to find a cheaper alternative to vet visits after her American Bulldog had a litter of 15.

"It has been really difficult," said Centeno. "Vet visits alone cost $65 for each dog, and the shots are very expensive." She ordered the shots from a reputable website for about $4 each and administered them to the dogs herself.

"That was way more reasonable," said Centeno.

According to the poll, about 41 percent of people with incomes below $50,000 said they couldn’t really afford to take their pet to the vet.

More than half of them said that they would take their pet to the vet only if the animal was really sick.

That's the case with Centeno, who home schools her two children. "They're a part of the family, so I would take them if there was an emergency," she said.