If your kid wants a dog this summer or for Christmas, their birthday, President’s Day or just about any other day of the year, think twice.
Along with the responsibilities of raising a pet that the child should help with — walking, feeding, grooming and cleaning up after — there are bigger responsibilities that you’ll have to face as a parent. Financial ones. Ones where you have to pull money out of your pocket to pay for whatever the dog needs.
These probably aren’t at the front of your mind when you’re looking at cute dogs at your local animal shelter, but they will be soon after you leave with a new pet in your hands. The costs of pet ownership are high for any type of pet, including cats. But as someone who has only owned dogs, I’m going with my experience with dogs.
Here are five of the biggest costs you’ll have as a new pet owner. Some are optional, but the consequences of not having some of them could be more expensive down the road. If that’s a risk you’re willing to take to save money, then go for it.
Adoption fees can be staggering enough to get you to reconsider getting a dog. The costs I’m detailing are from my local animal shelter, which is where you should be adopting a dog if you really want to save a life. Go to a pet store or private breeder, and you’ll likely pay a lot more.
Many animal shelters will require that your pet be spayed or neutered, a cost they usually discount, before you can take it home. For a male dog, the neuter deposit or surgery fee ranges from $60 to $135, and that goes up to $75 to $195 to spay a female dog.
Here are other adoption fees at my local animal shelter:
- Rabies vaccination: $6
- Other vaccinations: $40
- License fee: $20-$40
- Adoption fee: $16
- Microchip: $27
- Spay/neuter: $115 for 20-pound to 50-pound dog.
Add all those up and you’ve got $224 for an average-sized dog, after getting back your surgery deposit.
That’s just to get out the door. Go buy a leash, collar, dog food and water dishes, and the total so far can easily go to $250.
When we’ve adopted dogs, the county has always been kind enough to give us coupons for a free first visit to a local veterinarian of our choice. This is a great bonus, until you realize the vet stays in business by getting you and other dog owners to stay with them as patients for your dog’s future vet visits. And there will be future visits.
How many injuries can a dog have, right? During his first year with us, our current dog, Puckett, went to the vet for a front paw he injured somehow and had an infection, and for a minor eye injury. The paw injury was the most expensive, requiring many pills to be taken daily, and return visits for follow-up care.
But long before the pet injuries occur, the vet will tell you the importance of getting your dog vaccinated for kennel cough ($25), heartworm test ($42), heartworm prevention pills ($52), and flea/tick prevention tablets, $24 each. That’s easily $200 more to get out the vet’s door if you want to prevent such maladies for your dog.
The running total now? At least $450.
This is an optional cost, but one worth considering when adopting an anima. If your dog doesn’t have any serious illnesses and is spayed or neutered, $35 per month for a pet insurance plan is reasonable. That includes 80 percent reimbursement and $250 annual deductible. That’s $670 per year out of your pocket before medical costs are paid.
Having major surgery can more than pay for the cost, and even a middle-of-the road illness can make pet insurance worthwhile.
If you think this is a worthwhile expense, then the running total for your dog for the year increases to $1,120.
Vacations for you and your dog
This is a cost you probably won’t think of until long after you’ve had a pet, but family vacations are likely to change with a pet in the house.
Unless you’re going to take your pet to every vacation you go on, you’ll need to pay for a dog sitter or dog walker while you’re away. You may be lucky and have a friend with a dog who will take yours in, and vice-versa, during a vacation. If not, plan to pay around $50 per night for a dog sitter.
A week away could cost $350 in boarding costs for your dog. Our running total is now up to $1,470.
Food, grooming and other daily costs
Luckily, this is where the pet expenses drop. Daily care costs are minimal. We spend about $30 per month on dog food. Monthly grooming appointments can cost $50, but those can be avoided if you give your dog a bath and haircut yourself.
There’s also the cost of plastic bags to carry with you when you walk your dog so you can pick up after their mess, though that cost can also drop to zero by recycling newspaper bags or other bags you have around the house.
Dog toys aren’t cheap, though they’re so much fun they don’t seem like much of an expense. But figure in around $20 a month for toys anyway. That adds up to $50 a month for toys and food, or $600 per year.
The total cost
Our grand total now: $2,070. That’s for the first year of owning a canine. Minimum.
Some of these costs, however, can be eliminated. Some are one-time costs. You’ll never pay the $250 in adoption fees and other new pet costs again, until you get another pet.
Other costs are optional. You may want to live on the edge and not buy pet insurance or do preventative care for your pet. That will save you $870.
If you never take your pet on vacation, or at least have a kind friend who will take care of your pet while you’re gone, you’ll save $350 per year.
Subtract pet insurance, medicine, adoption fees and boarding, and having a pet after the first year is virtually free. You’ll save $1,470 by avoiding those costs, dropping the total to $600 per year for food and toys only.
That’s a big savings. Until your dog is injured or sick and has to go to the vet. Or you go on vacation.