MORE than half of dog owners describe their pets as their ‘best friend’, according to a new survey.

Figures revealed by Sainsbury’s Bank pet insurance support the common phrase that dogs are ‘man’s best friend’.

The survey found 59 per cent of people think of their pooches in this way, while 49 per cent of dog and cat owners say they prefer animals to people.

When asked why, 60 per cent said it was because they are like a faithful friend, while 58 per cent said they were more reliable than people.

Psychologist Gladeana McMahon says this is evidence of the “humanisation” of pets. She says evidence of this can be seen in the range of human-like goods and services for pets, including counselling, massages, motion-sickness pills for dogs and vitamin-enriched food.

The research also reveals that 17 per cent of the nation’s cats and dogs have their own social media profiles. Around one in eight (12 per cent) are on Facebook, five per cent are on Instagram, five per cent are on Twitter and three per cent on Snapchat.

Tom Thomson, head of Sainsbury’s Bank pet insurance, said: “Our pets play an important role in our lives. Not only are they valued members of our families, in many cases they are our best friends.

“However, if they become ill, the cost of veterinary treatment can run into thousands of pounds, but despite this the vast majority of our cats and dogs don’t have pet insurance.”