Britain's stray dog epidemic

With Britain in the grip of a financial downturn, we're all feeling the pinch. But spare a thought for the forgotten victims of the recession - our pets. We are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers, but nevertheless many of us are being forced to give away these trusted members of the family as we're simply unable to afford to care for them.

According to recent figures by the Dog's Trust, the number of abandoned pets climbed by 4% on the previous year to reach an 11-year high. The animal welfare charity's 2011 Stray Dog Survey found that 126,176 dogs were picked up by local authorities over the past 12 months - equating to a staggering 345 stray dogs being found every day.

Talking to the Telegraph, Clarissa Baldwin, chief executive of the Dog's Trust, says she believes that the economic crisis lies at the route of the epidemic. She said: "We are seeing quite a number of older dogs coming in with medical problems. They are obviously loved dogs and then suddenly people find they can't afford to look after them properly. We have people coming to us in tears because they are being forced to leave their house and struggling to find anywhere that will allow dogs in."

Of course, we all hope that we're never in the position where we may have to give up our animals - so what steps can we take to ensure our pet stays by our side?

1. Insure your pet against unexpected vet bills

A huge number of sick and injured pets are abandoned each year when owners find they simply cannot afford to get them treated. One way to help prevent this is to get good pet insurance in place. If you're struggling financially, you may think of pet insurance as just one more expense you could do without. But with the soaring cost of medical treatment, having your animal adequately insured can stop you going into debt or being forced to give up your pet altogether.

2. Moving to rented accommodation? Help is out there

The rise in abandoned dogs is apparently due in part to large numbers of people downsizing into rented accommodation. But don't just assume that private landlords won't allow you to take pets with you. Even if the contract states ‘no pets', you may be able to negotiate, especially if you're willing to pay a higher deposit that will cover any damage, or offer to cover the cost of getting the property cleaned when you leave. For more great advice and details on pet-friendly landlords and letting agencies across the UK, visit Lets With Pets.

3. Reduce the risk of preventable health problems

Do everything you can to make sure your dog or cat is in tip-top condition. Dental health is a good place to start as treatment may not be covered by pet insurance. Make sure you brush your dog or cat's teeth regularly with special brushes and paste. Keeping up-to-date with your pet's vaccinations is also a good way to make sure they don't come down with any preventable illnesses. And when it comes to grooming, a simple daily brush can extend the time between visits to the pricey poodle parlour.

4. Cut down on the cost of pet ownership

There are simple ways to make owning a pet more affordable - from buying inexpensive dog toys from jumble sales, to making your own bedding out of cheap cushions and duvets. Medication bought directly from your vet can be expensive, so always find out if you can buy the same brand for cheaper elsewhere. The same goes for pet food - there are huge reductions on many popular brands if you buy in bulk online.

Issued by Sainsbury's Finance

Sainsbury's Finance is a trading name of Sainsbury's Bank plc. All information correct at time of publication, but may be subject to change. Any views or opinions expressed in this article are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any part of the Sainsbury's Group of companies.

Sainsbury's Finance is a financial services provider engaged in savings accounts, credit cards, and personal loans. It also supplies insurance services in car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, pet insurance and travel insurance as well as being a provider of travel money services.