Britain is not only a nation of animal lovers but is also willing to pay high prices for the best veterinary treatment.

A survey found pet owners in Britain are being charged up to four times as much as their European neighbours in vet bills.

Costs have risen by 40% since 1993 and are increasing by 11% a year - more than five times the rate of inflation.

While there are 8 million cat owners and nearly 7m dog owners there are only about 1.1m animal owners with pet insurance, says a spokeswoman for Petplan, the UK's biggest pet insurer. Treating a dog with a broken leg can cost up to £1,000.