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How much is your dog really costing you?

Will your four-legged friend cost you an arm and a leg? The true cost of owning a dog.

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 does come with a cost.

From the 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. So, how much will your new dog really cost you, and can you really afford it?

What can you expect to pay when you get a dog?

Cost breakdown analysis

  • Purchasing the dog: Usually around $300 if adopting from a shelter, up to $2,000 for a purebred. Some designer breeds can get up to $25,000. A Red Tibetan Mastiff puppy once sold for $1.5 million.
  • Microchip: $60 to $80, plus $20 per year to keep it activated.
  • County registration: $40 to $150 (depending on where you live).
  • Vaccinations: $170 to $250.
  • Prevention for worms, fleas and heartworms: $120 to $300.
  • Spay or neuter: $200 to $500 (depending on the size, age and gender of the dog).
  • Food and bowls: $800 to $1,000 (depending on the size of dog and quality of food).
  • Toys and treats: $150 to $400 (but let’s be honest, it’s really unlimited for this one).
  • Bed and kennel expenses: $100 to $300.
  • Collars, leashes and harnesses: $40 to $100.
  • Puppy training: $170 (depending on the size, age and whether trainings are group or private).
  • Grooming: $70 to $90.
  • Car restraint: $30 and above.
  • Total: $1,917 to $5,370 (unless you’ve got a spare million to drop on a Red Tibetan Mastiff).

How much your pooch will cost long-term

Only the initial purchase of your pet and their first vaccinations and spay/neuter are one-time costs, which are usually included in your adoption fees. The rest are ongoing expenses that should be wired into your budget.

It’s safe to say, the bigger the dog, the more expensive they will be in terms of accessories and food needs. The average dog has a lifespan of approximately 15 years.

Some of the recurring expenses could include the following.

  • Food: $800 to $1,000
  • Toys and treats: $250 and above
  • Regular worm and flea treatment: $120
  • Annual health check-up: $90
  • Grooming: $70 to $90 (depending on the breed and the frequency of grooming)

Using the numbers given above, you’ll find that the average annual expense of owning a dog in the first year will be ~$2,000, followed by ~$1,500 every subsequent year.

This amounts to $15,500 over 10 years.

If you purchase pet insurance with an annual premium of $1,000, this shoots up to $25,500. Include additional expenses such as the cost of the dog and visits to the vet for treating any injuries or illnesses. You could well be looking at a minimum expense of $40,000 to $65,000 over a 10-year period.

Case study: Adrienne’s Catahoulas

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Adrienne Fuller
Head of Publishing

I bought my two Catahoula leopard dogs two years apart. My oldest, Moose, I adopted from a shelter for $325. His “sister,” Meenuh, I bought from a breeder two years later for $1,300. I knew dogs were in my budget, but I must admit that deciding to go with a breeder the second go around was a little shocking.

What has been more shocking aside from the regular expenses, however, is how much every little thing adds up. Living in rural California, we have lots of grasses that dry out in the summer and recently one got stuck in Moose’s eye. The vet bill came to $200.

I can afford a one-off $200 payment, but that was on top of a $250 bill I paid for stitches on a wound he got on some barbed wire the week before. And the week before that, both dogs needed dewormer for $50, and I went on a business trip and boarded them for a few days for $240. That’s $740 in unforeseen expenses in just one month.

Thankfully, they’re cute:

Two dogs sit on the beach in the sand

Is pet insurance worth the cost?

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 will typically cover the following:

  • Accident only: This policy will cover vet expenses in case your pet has an accident. The monthly premium ranges from about $15 to $30 per month.
  • Accident and illness: This policy covers vet expenses for accidents and illnesses. The monthly premium will usually range from $30 to $60.
  • Comprehensive coverage: This policy covers vet costs for accidents and illnesses. In addition, it covers routine vaccinations and worming treatments. The monthly premium typically range from $60 to $80 per month.

Pet insurance policies will specify certain exclusions as well. Policies differ, but the following exclusions are common:

  • Illness or injury from pre-existing conditions (including conditions affecting a body part such as the ears, the eyes, etc.)
  • Vet expenses for elective treatments such as de-sexing, orthodontics and so on.
  • Treatment of illnesses suffered during the waiting period.
  • Treatment of diseases for which a known vaccine exists, such as kennel cough.
  • Dental coverage.

If you feel that pet insurance is expensive, consider setting aside a small savings per month, if possible. This fund could help you in times when your pet needs medical treatment for illnesses or injuries.
Pets can be expensive, but there are financing solutions available

Financing options for your pet

As mentioned before, owning a dog can lead to various planned and unplanned expenses that could make a mess of your monthly household budget. In this scenario, you could consider the following alternatives for funding these expenses.

  • Unsecured personal loans. These give you the option of financing without needing to use an asset as security. Since there is no security involved, the interest rates for these loans tend to be higher than their secured counterparts. Compare the terms offered by various lenders before selecting the most favorable one.
  • Credit cards. If you have a credit card, you could consider putting some of the costs – both upfront and ongoing – on this card if you don’t have the ready money. If you don’t plan on paying off your total balance straight away, a lower interest card might be a better option as it won’t see your interest charges build as quickly as they would on one with a higher rate.

Owning a dog does not come cheap. In any matter involving your finances, it’s best to examine the potential implications of any decision that you make. 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.

Compare personal loan options

Frequently asked questions about the cost of owning a dog

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