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.

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Many dog lovers readily agree that dogs offer more than just companionship; having a dog in your house does a lot to enrich the lives of its occupants. However, this enrichment does come at a cost.

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 a bunch of things your pooch needs. All these costs add up and sometimes come as a bit of a surprise to new dog owners. So, how much will your new dog cost, and can you afford it?

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

Owning a dog has numerous benefits, but it does involve several one-time and ongoing expenses.

How much does a dog cost

It is worth noting that these figures are purely illustrative. However, it is not an exhaustive list of expenses either.

From the figures given above, the first year of owning a dog could set you back by up to $2,000 to $4,000, which is over and above the amount you pay for purchasing the dog.

A detailed cost breakdown is below:

How much your pooch will cost long-term

Owning a dog also involves incurring regular annual expenses. In 2015, The New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) estimated that “caring for a dog costs around $1,686 a year”, with costs including food, veterinary care and annual expenses. This figure could well be higher, based on the dog’s breed, size, age and illness or accident history.

The average dog lifespan of a dog can vary significantly, depending on the breed. Small dogs can on average live 15 to 16 years, while with large ones, it could be 10 to 13 year. Giant breeds, such as the Great Dane, could be 8 to 9 years

Some of the recurring expenses may include the following:

  • Food: $465 to $1,300 (on average)
  • Toys and treats: $250 and above
  • Regular worm and flea treatment: $120
  • Annual health check-up: $262
  • Grooming: $40 to $105 (depending on the breed and the frequency of grooming)

Even using the lowest average figures above, the average annual expense of owning a dog in the first year could be $3,434 (including a $2,000 cost for the dog), followed by $1,812 every subsequent year.

These payments amount to $19,742 over 10 years.

If you purchase pet insurance, for example, with an annual premium of $1,000, this shoots up to $29,742. If you include additional expenses, such as the cost of the dog and visits to the vet for treating injury or illness, you could well be looking at a bare minimum expense of $40,000 to $65,000 over a 10-year period.

Matt's new best friends

Personal loans publisher, Matt bought his two Labrador Retrievers after walking into a pet store.

“I saw them and said I wouldn’t leave without the puppies.” He didn’t! He bought them both for approximately $1,100 each and said he wasn’t overly surprised at the cost. “I purchased both dogs on interest-free finance deals, so we only had to pay a minimal outlay each month.”

He didn’t organise a monthly budget but knew he could manage the ongoing repayments. He also admits that the other upfront costs he hadn’t budgeted for, ie vaccinations, desexing, food and bedding, was quite a shock. “It’s easy to get carried away spoiling them, and after paying back their finance, I now spend between $20 and $55 a week on them, depending on whether or not toys or dog treats are on sale”.

Ben & SophieMark’s advice for would-be pet owners? “Know how much you can afford, and only get a pet if you can manage it.” There are ways you can save by looking into interest-free finance deals and also pet care plans through vets.

For Matt, “You can’t really put a price on the unconditional love you get from a dog… If you can’t afford vets, you can’t afford pets” he said.

Is pet insurance worth the cost?

Pet insurance is optional. It is worth noting that vet treatments can be quite expensive, and insurance can help cover you from more substantial expense down the track. However, you need to evaluate the premium, the exclusions in the policy and the coverage on offer before you purchase the plan.

Pet insurance policies typically cover the following:

  • Accident only: This policy covers vet expenses in case your pet has an accident. The monthly premium ranges from about $17 to $37 per month.
  • Accident and illness: This policy covers vet expenses for accidents and illnesses. The monthly premium will usually range from $30 to $55.
  • Comprehensive cover: This policy covers vet costs for accidents and illnesses. Also, it covers routine vaccinations and worming treatments. The monthly premium typically ranges from $39 to $76 per month.

There are some pet insurers such as Southern Cross that provide cover for certain inherited conditions. For further information, you can head to their website. Insurance premiums can also vary depending on the excess you choose or whether you decide to co-pay.

Pet insurance policies can specify specific exclusions. Plans differ, but the following exclusions may apply:

  • 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 illness suffered during the waiting period and,
  • Treatment of diseases for which a known vaccine exists, e.g. kennel cough.
  • Dental cover.

If you feel pet insurance is expensive, if possible, consider setting aside a saving of about $100 a month. This fund could help during times when your pet needs medical treatment for illness or injury.

Financing options for your pet

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

  • Unsecured personal loans. These loans give you the option of finance, without the need to use an asset as security. As there is no security involved, the interest rates for these loans tend to be higher than their secured counterparts. Compare the terms on offer below from various lenders before selecting the most favourable one.
  • Credit cards. If you have a credit card, you could consider putting some of the costs, upfront and ongoing, on the card if you don’t have the ready money. If you don’t plan on paying off the total balance immediately, a lower interest rate card might be a better option as the interest charges won’t build as quickly as a card with a higher rate.
  • Short-term loans. If you require short-term credit for meeting unexpected expenses, or you have bad credit and can’t access traditional forms of credit, a payday loan might be an option. These loans cover you until your next payday and usually feature more flexible eligibility criteria than other types of loans. Bear in mind the fees and rates are much higher with this type of credit, so work out if you can afford the repayments before you apply.
According to the New Zealand Companion Animal Council’s report, “Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016” (an update on the 2011 survey) 28% of Kiwis have at least one dog, which equates to approximately 700,000 dogs. However, owning a dog does not come cheap. In any situation involving your finances, it is best to examine the potential implications of the decision you make. While there are several benefits to having a furry friend at your side, it is essential that you estimate the financial costs of owning a dog before you take the plunge.

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