LOS ANGELES – The economy may have remained sluggish last year, but Americans refused to scrimp on their pets, with animal lovers spending upwards of $53 billion on food, veterinary care, kennels and other services in 2012.

That’s up 5 percent from 2011, when spending first broke the $50 billion barrier, says the American Pet Products Association, a trade group based in Greenwich, Conn. And APPA President and CEO Bob Vetere predicts another 4 percent gain this year.

At about $34.3 billion, food and vet care represented about two-thirds of total spending, with money spent on supplies and over-the-counter medications rising by more than 7 percent. Spending on the growing market of alternative vet care, such as acupuncture, totaled about $12.5 billion.

Vetere said spending on services such as grooming, boarding and pet-sitting grew nearly 10 percent during 2012 to almost $4.4 billion.