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Many dog lovers will readily agree that dogs offer more than just companionship. Having a dog in the house does a lot to enrich your life, but this enrichment comes with a price tag.
From necessities such as food and vet visits, to the slightly less necessary but almost unavoidable purchases including toys, treats and more toys, there are many things your pooch needs. All of these costs add up, and sometimes come as a bit of a surprise to a new dog owner. But what is the true cost of owning a dog, and before you jump in, can you afford it?
They’re playful, patient and loyal so it’s no wonder why dogs are nicknamed man’s best friend. While you’re giving your time to your new family member, you’re also committing to a lifetime of expenses, starting with the initial investment of bringing Fido home safely. We’re talking about the set-up costs at home from your pooch’s comfy bed to his doggie bowl and leash to practicalities like his initial visit to the vet to get vaccinated and microchipped.
If you’re thinking of getting a dog, here’s what to expect for the upfront, one-time costs you’ll need to save up for:
|Type of expense||Upfront cost|
|Purchasing your dog||$200 to $2,500|
|First vet visit (health exam with vaccines)||$400|
|Vet care (heartworm/flea/tick prevention, deworming medication, fecal exam)||$250|
|Spay or neuter||$600|
|Follow-up vet visits until 16 weeks old||$100 to $300|
|Essential supplies (collar, ID tags, leash, toys, training pads, water and food bowls)||$200 to $250|
|Doggy bed and crate||$200|
|Initial set-up of dog food and treats||$30 to $100|
|Total one-time initial costs||$2,505 to $5,125|
These figures are based on rough estimates and they’ll fluctuate depending on the size of your dog, the type of breed you’re getting, where you’re getting your dog from, and how much it’ll cost to keep your pup well fed and healthy. For example:
As you and your dog settle into a routine at home, you’ll get acquainted with the monthly expenses you’ll need to include in your budget for keeping Fido happy and healthy. The big ticket items like purchasing your dog, getting him to the vet, and helping him settle in at home with a bed, doggy bowl, collar and leash are all out of the way. Here’s a look at the monthly costs of owning a dog:
|Type of expense||Monthly cost|
|Food and treats||$30 to $72|
|Total monthly costs||$158 to $200|
|Total monthly costs with a dog walker, if needed at $200/month||$358 to $400|
Once again, these are rough estimates, but try to consider these factors and if your dog needs these tailored options:
So, with all of these factors in mind, what is the average cost of owning a dog per year in Canada? The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association estimates that it’s just over $3,242, excluding a dog walker and professional grooming. Here’s the breakdown of annual expenses:
|Type of expense||Annual cost|
|Veterinary care (annual checkup, heartworm/flea and tick prevention, annual heartworm/Lyme test, fecal exams)||$465|
|Veterinary care (annual vaccinations)||$128|
|Food and treats||$1,031|
|Essentials (leashes, collars, toys)||$104|
|Yearly total including a regular dog walker, if needed (roughly $3,000)||$6,242|
|Yearly total including routine professional grooming, if needed (roughly $480)||$6,722|
Keep in mind, this is an estimate to help you consider the average cost of owning a dog per year in Canada. Your spending will vary depending on where you live (in the city, suburbs or in rural areas), and on the size and type of breed of your dog. But overall these are recurring annual costs so you can expect to spend in each of these categories each year.
Just like homeowners need to save for a leaky roof or a broken refrigerator, dog owners need to save for a rainy day in case life throws you and your pup a curve ball. Medical emergencies, chronic illnesses, or other unplanned expenses could lead to hefty price tags to the tune of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
For example, the cost of an emergency visit to the vet could start at $300 upwards to $500. If something serious happens to Fido and he needs to stay in the ICU, the bill could be even higher.
To prepare for the unexpected, earmark some cash in your emergency savings fund specifically for if anything goes awry with your dog. Some people also hang onto a credit card or keep a line of credit open for emergencies.
The upfront, monthly, annual and lifetime cost of your pet will vary depending on what kind of dog you’d like to bring home to the family. For starters, there’s size; the grocery bill for a Yorkshire Terrier or a Shih Tzu is going to be far less than for a Bernese Mountain Dog or a German Shepherd. (They’re all adorable and fluffy, though!)
Some breeds come with genetic health issues that may lead to extra visits to the vet in the long run. Others have lots of energy and need plenty of exercise and companionship, so a dog walker is an expense you can’t skip out on.
Do your homework on the type of dog you’ve set your sights on so you’re aware of any out-of-the-ordinary expenses you may have to commit to.
Rachel lives in the heart of downtown Toronto with her puppy, Lulu. She works in an office uptown at a 9 to 5 job, but she also spends about an hour commuting to work and back home each day. Because she’s not home during the day for the majority of the week, she hires a dog walker who takes Lulu for a daily afternoon walk, so she can be fed and relieved. Rachel spends $50 per week or $200 a month for Lulu’s daily walks.
Lulu is a medium-sized dog Rachel found at a rescue shelter. The average dog has a lifespan of approximately 15 years.
Using the numbers given above, you’ll find Rachel’s initial cost for bringing Lulu home was $2,500, followed by an annual expense of $5,642. This amounts to $56,420 over the course of 15 years. Rachel tries to lower her costs by making Lulu’s grooming an at-home DIY project, shopping for off-brand dog food, and relying on her parents to look after Lulu when Rachel travels or goes on vacation so she doesn’t have to pay for a kennel or dog sitter.
Pet insurance is optional. Yet it’s worth noting that vet treatments can be quite expensive, and insurance can help keep you covered from larger expenses down the road. You’ll need to evaluate the premium, the exclusions in the policy and the coverage offered before you purchase the policy.
Pet insurance policies typically cover the following:
Pet insurance policies will specify certain exclusions as well. Policies differ, but the following exclusions are common:
If you feel that pet insurance is too expensive, consider setting aside some savings each month, if possible, to create your own little pet emergency fund. This fund could help you in times when your pet needs medical treatment for illnesses or injuries.
Samantha is relocating to Northern Ontario. Her dog Spot hasn’t been to the vet in a while. He is long overdue for at least three vaccinations and she wants to get him neutered. She will also need to pick up two different medications to see him through mosquito season. She’s been told her total bill will come to $1,150. The cost to neuter her dog will be $250, the two medications come in at $350 and the vaccinations come in at $400, and then she will have to pay tax.
Samantha doesn’t have this kind of money on hand right now; her big move up north has dwindled her savings down. However, since she will start her new job within a couple of weeks, she decides to take out a loan to cover the costs. Heading online, she compares both payday loans and personal loans. Since she has a decent credit score, she settles on a personal loan for $1,200, which will be repaid over 6 months.
|Cost of vet bills||$1,150.00|
|Loan type||Personal loan|
|Interest rate (APR)||10.00%|
|Loan term||6 months|
|Additional fees||Origination fee of 3% ($36.00)|
|Total loan cost||$1,271.24|
There are a few options when it comes to paying for emergency or unexpected costs. These options include:
Owning a dog does not come cheap. As with any matter involving your finances, it’s best to examine the potential implications of any decision before you take action. While there are several benefits to having a furry friend at your side, it’s important that you estimate the financial costs of owning a dog before taking the plunge.
Carving out and sticking to a budget is a great idea for pet owners. Here’s a look at key ways you can keep expenses low:
While a lifetime of memories with your family dog is priceless, as you can see, pet ownership can really add up. Ultimately, it’s a long-term time commitment and major financial responsibility.
If you’re on the fence about becoming a pet owner, factor in all of the one-time, monthly and annual expenses to see how they fit into your current budget and lifestyle. Buying a dog is not a decision to be made on a whim. If the math checks out, and you have the time and love to give, you’re in for a treat. Your new best friend will come with puppy-dog eyes, wet-nosed kisses and plenty of cuddles!
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