If you’re keen to hear the pitter-patter of little feet in your home, you might think a dog is the perfect companion. But take a “paws” for a moment. As pets have become part of the family, caring for them has become increasingly expensive. Responsible pet ownership means establishing a pet care budget and attending to a whole host of needs.
Pet ownership is a joyful experience, but the costs of canine care often takes us humans by surprise. In addition to up-front expenses, there are both regular and annual bills to pay. That’s not to mention unexpected, one-off costs like those related to pet health emergencies!
Work out a realistic budget before you set off for the animal shelter or breeder because, in our experience, once a pooch’s big brown eyes have locked onto yours, there’s often no going back! Keep in mind that when you ask, “how much does it cost to take care of a dog,” that every dog is different – even within the same breed and litter. Just like humans, dogs have their own personality and their own needs.
A break down of dog care costs
In 2021, Americans spent over $123 billion on pet care, with the largest portion going toward dog care. A dog’s breed and health and an owner’s location and lifestyle are all factors affecting pet care costs. It is, for example, less expensive on average to be a pet owner in Florida, Oklahoma, and Oregon than in New York, California, or Wisconsin. Traveling, working outside of the home, or maintaining an especially active social life could result in big spending on doggy daycare, professional walking services, and boarding at kennels. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve broken down, category by category, how much it costs to own a dog. As for a rough estimate, you should expect a monthly budget of between $42 and $90 dollars per animal. That means the average annual cost of owning a dog can be well over $1,000 and that total costs across a dog’s lifetime can easily reach $15,000 or more.
Adoption/ purchase fees
If you’re set on a pedigreed dog, always do your research and buy from a reputable breeder. If not, why not do your bit for dogs in need and visit a rescue shelter. Mutts often blend the appealing features of several breeds without the risk of heritable health issues so common amongst purebreds. Your adoption fee may help to cover the cost of vaccinations, spaying, and neutering, or simply serve as a donation to keep the shelter well stocked.
In most US states you’ll need an annually renewed dog license for your pooch. Don’t skip this step. It’s far cheaper to pay for a license than pay the fine for not having one!
- Adoption fees: around $50 to $100
- Purchase fees: up to $2,000 or more
- Dog license: $10 to $20 annually
Food and treats
Feeding your dog high-quality food and taking it easy on the treats will pay off in the form of a more energetic, happy pup with a lower risk of developing chronic health issues related to excess weight.
- Food and treats: $20 to $60 a month for basic foods. $100 or more for special diets.
The dog-owner’s starter pack
Have you checked all the pet essentials off your list? Here’s a sampling of must-haves and a total estimated price tag for your trip to the pet store.
- Leashes, collars, and ID tags: Leashes have a habit of going for walks of their own, so it’s a good idea to have a few on hand. Invest in a sturdy collar that’s comfortable for your dog’s size and attach an engraved ID tag with your contact information.
- Toys: These aren’t just good for a fun time, they’re vital for your pet’s mental stimulation and exercise. At the very minimum, make sure to purchase some colorful balls, a chewy toy, and a puzzle toy for keeping them engaged over long periods.
- Bed(s): Dogs appreciate a comfy bed just as much as their owners do. Budget for at least two and put them in parts of the house where your pet can hang out with you. Don’t let sticker shock scare you away. Spending on a high-quality, washable, durable bed will save you money in the long run.
- Food and water bowls: Again, choose wisely and these will stand up to years of wear and tear.
- Carriers: Trips to the vet are unavoidable, so you may want a sturdy, comfortable carrier for small and mid-sized dogs.
- Crate: Crates are often useful for training young puppies and provide dogs of any age with a safe, comfortable space of their own.
- Total bill: $100 to $800
The pet-tech market is rapidly growing. If you’re away at work all day, you may want to look into automated solutions for monitoring dogs, keeping them engaged, or even administering treats.
- Cost: $5 to $200 plus ongoing costs associated with subscription-based apps.
Fit and healthy dogs
Responsible dog ownership includes routine veterinary care. Vaccinations and spaying or neutering are essential parts of your puppy’s development. Plan on getting to know your dog’s vet personally during the puppy months. Regular medication helps protect your pet (and even you) from all types of nasty parasites. Supplements probably won’t be necessary for healthy dogs who eat high-quality food, but adding Glucosamine or Omega 3 to your dog’s food can help promote healthy skin and joints. Get in the habit of administering dental care at home. Skip regular brushing and your dog may develop expensive teeth and gum diseases.
- Spaying and neutering: $150 to $700
- Vaccinations: $150 annually
- Preventive medications and supplements: $100 to $500 annually
- Professional dental care: $200 to $300 annually
- Dental disease treatment: up to $3,000
The cost of a well-behaved dog
During your dog’s puppy months and throughout their lives, you’ll be responsible for most of their socialization and training. You can seek out professional help in the form of obedience classes once your dog is vaccinated.
- Training classes: $250 or more
Getting your dog’s daily exercise
If you’re out all day, employing someone to dog sit or walk your pet is going to be one of your biggest expenses. You might save if you’ve got some friends or family to lean on.
- Professional dog sitting and walking: Up to $3,000 a year
Vacation care and travel costs
If you go away frequently and can’t take your dog with you, you’ll either have to find a reputable pet sitter or book them a spot in a boarding kennel. Pet sitters cost more, but many dog owners prefer having their dog stay at home with someone they trust. If you do travel with your pet, your travel costs will increase dramatically! Be ready to pay extra for your hotel rooms, for example.
- Boarding kennels: $40 or more a night
- Dog sitters: $40 to $80 a night
The cost of keeping dogs looking good
It’s possible your dog may go through their entire life without running up any grooming bill at all. If you have a long-haired breed, a show dog, or a pooch with an unruly coat, however, they’ll need specialized hair care. If you’re nervous about clipping your dog’s nails at home, they’ll need them professionally trimmed every month or two.
- Grooming: Up to $1,000 annually
- Nail trimming: $30 a session
Cleaning up after your furry family member
If you rent your home, check your lease or talk to your property manager to see if pets are allowed. If so, you may need to pay a non-refundable pet deposit or a cleaning fee once you’ve moved out. Whether you rent or own, a good vacuum cleaner and stain fighters are essential for keeping pet hair and messes at bay.
Those unexpected expenses
Despite your best pet care efforts, accidents happen. Even healthy dogs fall ill or have accidents and even minor medical mishaps can lead to hefty vet bills.
Veterinary emergencies: $500 to $5,000
Putting a price on your pet’s health and happiness
No owner should have to make the choice between whether or not to care for a sick or injured pet based on money alone. This unfortunately happens all too often when owners don’t have a plan in place for unexpected expenses.
Adding pet insurance to your dog care budget is a simple way to safeguard against unplanned costs. Premiums and the covered conditions vary widely, so get several quotes before making a decision.
Animalia can advise you on the best policy based on your pet’s breed, age, lifestyle, and general health. Don’t be driven by cost alone. Cheaper plans may look like a bargain, but if they don’t offer all the coverage you need, you may have to make a heartbreaking decision.