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Americans pampering pets more than ever

DETROIT — When the stock market took a nosedive this summer, Steve Sturn was bummed about the performance of his 401(k). But the uncertain economy didn't stop him from splurging on Bruno, his French bulldog. Sturn bought a $15.95 bone-shaped cake from Three Dog Bakery in Plymouth, Mich., to celebrate Bruno's first birthday.

"He loved it," said Sturn, 31, of Ann Arbor, Mich., who works for a mortgage company. "He went at it."

Sturn, who is engaged, doesn't have any children, unless you count Bruno and Rod, a 10-month-old Boston terrier. "They are like family members," Sturn said. "This is a special occasion. It's like a kid's birthday."

Despite a weak economy, pet owners continue to spend big money on their pets, pampering them with everything from massages to treats and teeth whitening.

Americans spent more than $3.5 billion in 2010 on pet services — a figure that has doubled in the past decade, fueled by high-end grooming, luxury pet hotels and day care, according to the American Pet Products Association, a nonprofit trade association.

We spent $45.5 billion on pets in general in 2009, $48.35 billion in 2010, and an estimated $50 billion-plus this year.

The weak economy might actually be the key reason why people are pampering their pets, according to Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, a science adviser at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"We saw this post-9/11," said Zawistowski, who has written a college textbook about the relationship between people and animals. "People were home nesting. Part of that home nesting is the comfort our pets give us."

Who spends more,

a cat or dog owner?

According to the 2011-2012 American Pet Products Association's National Pet Owners Survey, basic annual expenses include:

Surgical vet visits$407$425
Routine vet$248$219
Boarding $274$166
Vitamins $95$43
Travel expenses $78$48

grooming aids
$73 $34
Food treats $70$41
Toys $43$21

Americans pampering pets more than ever 10/31/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 31, 2011 4:30am]
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