For many kids, a puppy is a present they add to their Christmas and birthday lists every year! But owning a dog is expensive, and it’s not something to be undertaken lightly. Unfortunately, animal rescue centers and shelters are full of dogs that people bought in a fit of enthusiasm without researching exactly how much their pet’s upkeep would cost.
The cost of keeping a dog is about much more than buying your pet some food, a collar, and a leash. In fact, the estimated cost of owning a dog is around $1,400 per year. Some breeds have a life expectancy of at least 15 years, and that’s a lot of cash to find!
Many factors come into play when it comes to the cost of keeping a dog. For example, large dogs tend to cost more than small dogs, and senior dogs may need regular medication and special food to keep them healthy. Even where you live can influence the final bill.
In this article, we take a detailed look at the many factors that can influence the cost of keeping your new best friend for the whole of his life.
Buying Your Puppy
Your first expense will be choosing and buying a puppy or a dog.
You could buy a puppy from a breeder. Obviously, a pedigree dog will be expensive, but even some designer cross-breeds can come with a hefty price tag. If you buy a dog from a licensed, reputable breeder, you can expect to pay upwards of $500, depending on how well-bred the puppy is.
Never buy a puppy from a puppy mill. A puppy from one of these operations will undoubtedly be cheaper than one purchased from a licensed breeder, but there’s a good chance that it will also be unhealthy. Also, puppy mills exist purely as a commercial exercise to make as much money from selling puppies as possible. Consequently, the conditions in which the parent dogs and their pups are kept are very often poor, and the animals typically suffer terribly.
An alternative to buying a dog from a breeder is to find one at a charity or shelter. There are literally thousands of unwanted dogs and puppies that are living in shelters throughout the U.S. that are just waiting for a loving, forever home.
Some shelters take in specific breeds too, so you may find your dream dog there for much less money than you’d have to pay a breeder. However, do bear in mind that rescue dogs come with unknown histories and may have health problems too.
Adding Up The Costs
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how much your new four-legged friend’s upkeep is going to cost you.
Typically, owning a dog is the most expensive in the first year. That’s because you’ll have lots of new things to buy for your pet, and there will be some essential veterinary bills to pay too.
Often, senior dogs over ten years of age will begin to develop age-related health conditions such as arthritis, which may mean you will be paying out for ongoing medication for the rest of your dog’s life.
Vet Check, Vaccinations & De-Worming
No matter where you find your dog, your first job is to take him to a good veterinarian for a check-up.
If you buy a puppy, he should come with health check records, and he should also have had his first set of vaccinations. Most shelters also have their dogs health-checked and vaccinated before they are rehomed. However, you should still have your new dog looked over by your vet. Puppies may need their second booster vaccinations so that they can begin socialization training around other dogs.
To remain protected against diseases, your dog will need booster vaccinations every year.
All dogs need regular de-worming and flea treatments throughout their lives.
So, how much will all that cost?
Well, a veterinary consultation typically costs around $50. Vaccination prices vary, depending on what shots are required, but you can expect to pay up to $100. De-worming and preventative flea treatments cost around $30 and will need repeating every month.
As dogs get older, they often require dental treatment, including teeth cleaning. The cost of a dental exam and clean is around $300 to $800.
It’s essential that you have your pet microchipped. That’s actually now the law in some countries, including the U.K. A microchip means that you stand much more chance of being reunited with your pet if he gets lost or is stolen.
Microchipping usually costs around $30.
Unless you’re planning on using your new dog as a stud or brood animal, it’s sensible to have him or her de-sexed. There are too many unwanted puppies, and you don’t want to add to the burden on animal shelters through not being a responsible owner.
Also, entire male dogs can be a nuisance if they catch wind of a female dog in heat, and your boy won’t be allowed in the dog park unless he’s been neutered. Female dogs can become broody and suffer from false pregnancy if they are not spayed. Older, unspayed female dogs commonly suffer from a potentially fatal condition called pyometra, which causes the womb to become infected.
The cost of de-sexing surgery is around $200.
Every U.S. state requires that all pet dogs are licensed. The cost of licensing varies, depending on where you live, but it’s usually around $20 per year. Sometimes this can be more, and you can incur penalties if you don’t register your dog in a timely fashion.
Before you welcome your new dog home, you’ll need to invest in a few essential basic items for his comfort and wellbeing.
Harness: A harness is much better for walking your dog than a traditional collar and leash. Dogs that pull and jump have been known to injure themselves when wearing a collar. A harness is much more sympathetic and safer for your pet.
Harnesses come in many different designs and vary in price from a few dollars to around $20.
Leash: You’ll need a leash to go with your dog’s harness. Sometimes, you can find a bargain buy where the leash is included with the harness or collar. A good quality dog leash will set you back around $20, although you can find cheaper alternatives.
Collar and ID tag: Although you’re going to be using a harness to walk your dog, most U.S. states insist that, by law, each pooch must wear a collar with his ID tags attached. A good quality adjustable dog collar will cost around $15.
Beds: Your dog will need at least two beds to allow you to swap them around and wash them regularly. That keeps doggy odor down and means that Fido will never be without a bed, even if he decides to chew one to pieces!
Dog beds vary in price from a few dollars to over $100 if you want to keep your new furry friend in luxury!
Food and Water Dishes: Your dog will need a food dish and a water bowl. Again, prices vary, depending on whether you buy a cheap plastic bowl or a more expensive ceramic or metal one. Ceramic or metal is best, as it’s easier to keep clean and is, therefore, more hygienic than plastic. Expect to pay around $20 for a decent quality food and water bowl set.
Toys: Puppies and adult dogs both love playing with you and with their toys! Be prepared to replace toys frequently during the life of your dog, as they do tend to become worn out, especially if you have an aggressive chewer. The cost of toys varies tremendously from a couple of dollars through to $20 plus.
Food and Treats: It’s essential that you feed your pet high-quality dog food that’s appropriate for his age, size, breed, health, and activity levels. Also, you’ll need to buy some healthy treats for your pet.
You can expect to pay between $20 and $60 per month to feed your dog. If your furry friend has a health condition that means he must eat a prescribed veterinary diet, feeding him will be more expensive. Prescription and therapeutic diet foods usually cost around $100 per month.
Puppy Crate: If you’re buying a puppy, you’ll need a crate. Puppy crates are essential for training your puppy and for safely keeping your pet contained so that he doesn’t wander into areas of your home that are off-limits.
Grooming Tools: Even short-haired dogs need grooming regularly, and if you choose a long-haired breed, you can expect to spend lots of time brushing your dog.
A basic grooming kit will comprise a wide-toothed comb, a slicker brush, and a soft-bristled brush. You’ll also need some dog shampoo and coat conditioner for bath times. Some breeds need regular visits to a professional dog groomer, especially if they have a coat that needs stripping or clipping.
The cost of buying a grooming kit and paying for trips to the groomer will cost you between $20 and $500 every year.
It’s easy to decide against insurance and assume that you’ll pay for vet’s bills as they arise. That’s fine, as long as your dog’s health conditions are minor and short-lived, but could you really afford the fees you’d face if your pet required surgery or developed a lifelong condition? You could quickly end up with bills running into the thousands, and you could even be faced with having your beloved pet put to sleep if you can’t afford to pay for his treatment.
There are lots of different options to consider when choosing a pet insurance policy, so always read the small print before signing up. Think about the amount of cover for vet’s fees that you’re likely to want and go from there.
- Basic annual cover: per condition, with a time limit
A basic policy will cover you for small surgical procedures, short-term illnesses or one-off injuries.
- Mid-level cover: per condition, no time limit applicable
Mid-level cover pays for one-off injuries, surgery or short to medium term illnesses.
- Lifetime policies
Lifetime policies are the most expensive but they do cover your pet should it contract a long term illness that requires regular, ongoing treatment.
Be aware that pet insurance policies are notorious for exclusions. Here are some key points to check before signing up:
- Are pre-existing conditions covered?
- Am I insured if my dog is ill and I have to cancel my holiday as a result?
- Am I covered for recovery costs if my dog gets lost?
- Are boarding kennel fees covered?
- Is accidental damage covered?
Remember that, as with any insurance policy, you will have to pay an excess amount in the event of a claim and that this excess effectively renews on the anniversary of the policy renewal.
The cost of insuring your dog will vary, depending on the provider. Pet insurance typically costs around $20 per month for a comprehensive cover policy.
If you decide to take your dog to obedience training classes, you should budget for at least $25 to $250 per year. That will cover the cost of DVDs, books, and classes that you may decide to attend with your dog.
It’s possible you can save some costs and do training online, or teach your child to train your dog as a fun hobby
Boarding & Sitters
Most dog owners need to leave their pets at home occasionally when they go away on vacation. You could put your dog in boarding kennels while you’re away, or you could hire a pet sitter.
Many dog owners prefer to use a pet sitter, as that means that their precious pooch will have one-to-one attention. Often, a professional pet sitter will come and live in your home to take care of your dog while you’re away. That’s great for your dog, as staying in familiar surroundings is much less stressful for him than being away from home. However, pet sitters are more expensive than boarding kennels.
The cost of boarding your dog in kennels for two weeks is around $300. You can expect to pay at least double that to hire a live-in pet sitter.
Although you may go through the whole of your dog’s life without an emergency arising, you must budget for unexpected setbacks. For example, if your dog needed an emergency veterinary visit and surgery, you could potentially be looking at a bill of over $5,000.
Doing the Math
To work out how much it costs to own a dog, use the handy chart we’ve provided for you below. Simply enter all the individual expenses that owning a dog will incur and calculate the total to see approximately how much your furry friend is going to set you back!
We’ve included two examples in the chart to help you get started.
Welcoming a dog into your life is a wonderful experience that is incredibly fulfilling, especially if you decide to offer a loving, forever home to an unwanted dog from a rescue shelter. But owning a dog is not a cheap undertaking!
Before you bring a dog home to share your life with you, use the chart above to work out whether you can really afford to pay for everything your new pet will need.