HAMPTON ROADS , Va. - Owning a pet is a major responsibility - not just personally, but financially.
Area veterinarians say the majority of pet owners don't understand the costs associated with having an animal.
On average, veterinarians say pet owners should expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 a year for the life of their pet. This price is just for basics like food, toys, wellness visits and extras like dog walking and sitting. Over the cost of an average pet's lifetime, 13 years, that can equal up to $20,000.
According to area veterinarians, emergency costs like an injury or severe illness will happen at least once in a pet's lifetime and will substantially drive up the cost of ownership.
"What really gets scary is when the sudden things happen," explained Dr. Rachel L’Heureux of BluePearl Veterinarian. "When your puppy break his leg after jumping out of your arms - a lot of people aren't prepared for that."
To help combat these sudden costs, many pet owners take to fundraising sites like GoFundMe. Dr. L'Heureux says financial stress can be avoided with a little planning.
"You don't have to put your family and your pet in a stressful situation if you just plan ahead. It's like anything in life."
The top two ways Dr. L'Heureux suggests planning ahead are by getting pet insurance or a pet savings plan.
Pet insurance can offset major expenses, but owners need to do their research first.
"You need to go through these companies and really look through the fine print to see which works for you and your family."
According to Dr. L'Heureux, only 2 percent of pet owners in the United States have pet insurance. At BluePearl, 14 percent of their clients have pet insurance, meaning they are more likely to pursue treatment, especially in an emergency.
A pet savings plan is another way to make paying for pet costs not as painful. The goal is to have a completely separate bank account for your pet and adding funds to the account periodically. This way, when it comes to paying their bills, the payment isn't coming directly out of your accounts.
"By having a savings account, [it] allows you to have a budget for your dog. Knowing what your dog’s max budget is can help with your spending on extras like toys and grooming," said Dr. L'Heureux. "It is a really great thing to have in your pocket and arsenal before something scary happens."
Click here for more information about BluePearl.