Have you considered the lifetime costs of having a pet?
Pets are expensive. One of the reasons that rescue groups will do home visits and make vet reference calls before adopting out dogs is to try to gauge whether the family is a good fit for the pet. We want a safe environment and we take the lifetime cost of a pet into consideration. Most adoption applications will ask the potential adopter how much they think a pet will cost annually. We want them to either already know that its expensive or google it and be prepared for the unexpected costs of dog ownership. The sad truth is that many pets will be surrendered to an animal shelter, and face euthanasia, because their families could not afford their care.
Having a pet can cost more than $1,000 in the first year alone, and well over $500 each year after. Depending on the pet and the circumstances, the costs could be much higher.
If you need to fence in your backyard for your new pet, you’re looking at spending thousands of dollars. After that, there are two basic cost areas when owning a pet: the initial costs (adoption costs, vaccinations, leash, collar, tag, crate, bed, bowls, and maybe training) and then the general costs over your pet’s lifetime (food, toys, routine vet visits, flea/tick and heartworm prevention). Depending on the breed, grooming can be a relatively minor cost or a large one. (Long haired breeds require much more grooming than short haired breeds, and so called designer dogs like doodle mixes can require daily home grooming to avoid matting and expensive professional grooming.) Pet food will be a large portion of your yearly pet budget, especially if you have a large dog. Training is an optional cost. If you’ve never owned a dog, then professional training can be worth the cost to reduce behavioral issues. Once you know how to train a dog, you are pretty much good to go on your own unless you have serious behavior problems. When you travel, or you have to work late, you might not be able to give your dog the attention it needs. Hiring a dog walker can help during the day (a half-hour walk averages around $22 per dog). Boarding your dog you can expect to pay from $25 to $45 per night.
Medical costs are going to be the most expensive aspect of owning a pet.
The average vet visit can range from $50 to $400, and routine dental care is about the same. Dogs need vaccinations (against kennel cough, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, canine parainfluenza, coronavirus, leptospirosis, lyme disease, parvovirus, and rabies). These vaccinations will cost between $60 to $70 on average, with the rabies vaccine costing an addition $15 to $20. Puppies require frequent visits to the vet for their vaccinations, but after a year old, most vets recommend yearly visits. As your dog ages, you need to take it to see your vet at least twice a year. Your pets also need monthly flea, tick and heartworm prevention. The risk of a dog’s being infected with heartworm disease each year is 1 in 200, about the same odds as you being diagnosed with cancer. It only takes one mosquito bite. Heartworms are completely preventable, but can be very difficult to treat. The cost of heartworm prevention medication is around $25-40 for 6 months, depending on the weight of your dog, or $50-80 annually. The cost of treating heartworms starts at $400 and can be more than a thousand dollars, again depending on the weight of your dog. Heartworm treatment is a painful, prolonged ordeal for the dog, involving months of strict crate rest.
Add in routine expenses such as ear and dental care. Plaque and tartar can build up on a dog’s teeth and lead to gum disease. Ear and dental care is around $40 monthly, although specific dental treatments can cost upwards of $1,000 depending on the severity.
The cost of preventing illness is always less than the cost of treating it.
If you adopt from a rescue or shelter, there is a good chance your dog will have already been spayed or neutered. However, if you have to pay for it yourself, expect to spend up to $200. Spay/USA is a nationwide network and referral service for affordable spay/neuter services.
Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to medical problems than others. Any animal bred to look a specific way likely has chronic health issue as a result. Some breeds are infamous for them. Most flat-faced dog breeds have chronic respiratory issues. German Shepherds are prone to eczema and hip dysplasia. Bulldogs face a myriad of joint issues and skin issues. Poor little King Charles Cavalier Spaniels are prone to brain injury because their skulls have been bred almost too small for their brains. Generally, mutts are healthier and less prone to these types of chronic illness.
A sudden illness or injury to your pet can mean an emergency visit to the veterinarian. Are you able and prepared to pay for that?
Dogster lists the most common canine emergencies that signal the need for an immediate vet visit.
- Difficulty breathing (average treatment cost: $1,200)
- Bloat or gastric dilatation (average treatment cost: $5,000)
- Seizures (average treatment cost: $3,000)
- Profuse hemorrhaging (average treatment cost: $400)
- Protracted vomiting or diarrhea (average treatment cost: $3,500)
- Collapsing (average treatment cost: $2,800)
*Cost estimates are from Vetary.
If your dog displays any of the above symptoms, or:
- inability to lie down comfortably
- struggling to urinate
- not eating or drinking
- severe coughing
- abdominal distention
- attempting to vomit
- loss of use of rear legs
— call your vet immediately and get your pet medical treatment as soon as possible.
Do You Need Pet Insurance?
It can seem like an unnecessary expense, but pet insurance can help to offset some or most of the costs of diagnosing, treating and managing your pet’s illness or injury.
Maybe you can set up a savings account specifically for pet emergencies. This is not a bad idea, but if you set aside $30 each month, you’ll have just $1,080 within three years. That can help offset the cost of an emergency treatment, but may not fully cover it, and what if your pet has an emergency before you have saved that much?
If you’re unsure if pet insurance is worth it, consider how you would deal with an unexpected bill. If you’ve ever had a pet that was seriously injured or ill and spent hundreds or thousands of dollars for treatment, you’ve probably thought that pet insurance would have come in handy. Ask yourself what would you do if your vet said we can help your pet, but it requires major surgery/seeing a specialist/rehabilitation/etc. Translation: it will be expensive. If your answer is do it, but you’re worried about how you would afford it, then you should look into purchasing pet insurance.
The cost of pet insurance can range from $15 per month to as much as $75 per month depending on where you live, the age of your pet, and it’s breed. Certain breeds are more vulnerable to specific problems. Pedigree dogs and cats can be more susceptible to illness, congenital diseases, and hereditary conditions. Animals with higher risk factors (like English Bulldogs) will be much more costly to insure than a mutt.
I have my 4 permanent resident dogs covered with both medical and wellness plans with Nationwide. Most companies allow you to customize your policy, selecting from several deductible and copay options to find a premium that fits your budget. Nationwide insurance offers a variety of pet insurance plans from $18-22 a month basic pet wellness plan (covering exams, vaccinations, flea/tick prevention) to $22-34 a month for a medical plan that covers injuries and illnesses as well and offers a choice of annual deductible (see VetPetInsurance.com).
The best time to insure a pet is when you first purchase it, especially with a puppy. There aren’t likely to be any pre-existing conditions that would increase the cost of insurance or invalidate your pet’s eligibility.
Keep in mind that A) taking out a new policy might not cover your pet until after the policy start date (usually 14 days) and B) pet insurance plans are generally reimbursement plans – you pay the bills up front. Ask how claims are processed and the timeframe for reimbursement. It can be as long as 4-6 weeks.
Try negotiating with your veterinary clinic for a better price or the ability to finance the cost of care over time. If you’re concerned about covering the expenses up front, ask your veterinarian about payment options or Care Credit, a credit card company for health and veterinary care that can offer a plan and a low monthly payment to fit into almost every budget.
Check out your local veterinary schools. Some run low-cost clinics for limited income clients. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s website and VeterinarySchools.com have lists of veterinary schools by state.
There are a number of organizations providing help if you know where to look. In some cases, the national club for your breed may offer a veterinary financial assistance fund. The following groups all offer Breed Specific Aid:
Bernese Mountain Dog: Berner Emergency Health Assistance Fund
Boston Terrier: Boston Terrier Rescue Net
Corgi: Corgi Aid
Doberman: Special Needs Dobermans
Labrador: Labrador Lifeline
Boxer: Boxer through Toby’s Gift
Dalmatian:The Jake Brady Memorial Fund
Golden Retriever:The Goldstock Fund (rescued dogs)
Great Pyrenees: Pyramedic
Westies/West Highland White Terrier: Westie Med
Have a different breed or a mixed breed? No problem. Check out these groups:
Red Rover Relief provides financial assistance grants and additional resources so pet owners and rescuers can care for animals who need urgent veterinary care. RedRover also offers financial assistance for victims of domestic violence and their pets.
Top Dog Foundation “Bentley Grant”: for senior dogs (age 10 and over; breed taken into consideration when determining what is “senior”)
The Brown Dog Foundation offers pet owners in temporary financial crisis an alternative to euthanasia when their pet faces a treatable life-threatening condition in order to restore the quality of life for pet and owner.
The Fairy DogParent Grant provides help to those experiencing financial hardship – specifically when faced with a decision on whether or not they can continue to afford to keep their dog or will need to surrender it to a shelter. They can assist with the financial burdens of dog food, medical assistance and general wellness.
Harley’s Hope Foundation works to ensure low income pet parents and their companion or service animals remain together and to prevent at-risk animals from being surrendered or falling victim to euthanasia for treatable conditions.
The Ian Somerhalder Foundation Emergency Medical Care Grant for Animals offers grants of up to $2,000 to US and Canadian animal shelters, rescue agencies, and individuals to assist with costs of urgent medical care for animals that are injured, abused, or neglected.
Shakespeare Animal Fund offers assistance primarily to those on fixed incomes or with annual incomes below $35,000. (Exceptions are made depending on circumstances.) SAF will pay the veterinarian directly, reducing out of pocket costs for low income pet owners who need to save their pet’s life.
Pet Assistance provides emergency veterinary subsidies to pet owners in financial need for pets that have a good prognosis.
Frankie’s Friends provides grants to help with the cost of life-saving or life-enhancing emergency or specialty care for pets whose families cannot afford the full cost of treatment.
Paws 4 A Cure provides financial assistance to qualified families throughout the United States who cannot afford veterinary care for their beloved furry family members without help. Paws 4 A Cure does not discriminate against breed, age, or diagnosis.
Rose’s Fund for animals recognizes that it takes more than love to save a life, and all animals deserve a chance. They will financially assist, to the best of their ability, pet owners and Good Samaritans who have an animal with a good prognosis for a healthy life, but are at a financial loss.
The Pet Fund is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit association that provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need urgent veterinary care.
The Humane Society of the United States maintains a list or pet financial aid resources by state: AL | AK | | AZ | AR | CA | CO | CT | DE | DC | FL | GA | HI | ID | IL | IN | IA | KS | KY | LA | ME | MD | MA | MI | MN | MS | MO | MT | NE | NV | NH | NJ | NM | NY | NC | ND | OH | OK | OR | PA | RI | SC | SD | TN | TX | UT | VT | VA | WA | WV | WI | WY | Puerto Rico