As the RSPCA says, a dog is for life, so you should think twice before buying one as a present this year.

The cost of keeping a dog over its lifetime has risen by 24 per cent to £13,000 since 2000, it was claimed this week. Pet insurance provider Intune calculates that the cost of keeping a cat has risen to more than £10,000.

The increase is largely blamed on higher veterinary fees which have surged by an estimated 45 per cent. The costs of annual booster injections, worming tablets and flea treatments at a veterinary surgery have also risen by 63 per cent, the company claimed.

At the same time, however, pet owners face massive differences in the cost of routine treatments with prices varying by as much as 86 per cent, depending on the area in which they live.

Research by Intune, the provider of financial services for older people set up and owned by Help the Aged, showed a standard veterinary consultation ranged from £21.95 to £40.92.

Intune says nearly 50 per cent of UK households own pets but many people do not realise the costs involved. As a result, thousands of animals are given up or abandoned each year.  Last year, the RSPCA saw a 23 per cent rise in abandoned pets .

Intune’s managing director, Stuart Castledine, said: “A pet is a great companion. Unfortunately, not everyone goes into ownership with their eyes open and can find that the costs are more than they bargained for.  As a result, they may either have to give their pets up or can fail to look after them properly - and there is no National Health Service for animals.”