For many Americans, a dog is more than a pet; it is part of the family. Just like a child, canines need to be fed, groomed, and have medical checkups. Add in training classes, doggie daycare and municipal licensing, and Fido just might be one of the most expensive members of your household.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the estimated expenses for the first year of dog ownership range from $1,314 to $1,843, which includes food, municipal licensing, health insurance and other supplies. The ASPCA notes that this is a minimum estimate and excludes the cost of adopting or buying the dog. Also not included are variable recurring costs like doggie daycare, which can range in price from $25 to $39 daily, depending on the location, services, and type of dog.
In his blog, A Vet’s Guide to Life, veterinarian Dr. Chris Bern estimates the total annual cost of basic preventative canine care between $585-$965 annually and is quick to point out that these figures do not include any special diets or extra medical expenses, which are known to cost some pet owners tens of thousands in unexpected costs. Owning a dog is a long-term commitment, with the average lifespan of an American dog being 12.8 years, and small breeds like Miniature Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers living to about 14.
Based on these estimates, owning a small dog for 12 years will cost at least $7,000, and a large pooch will run about $10,500. Remember that these figures are minimal estimates, and most dog owners have stories of unexpected medical bills for everything from canine chemotherapy to extracting foreign objects, like wedding bands, from Fido’s tummy. Medical care for pets has advanced tremendously in recent years, making MRI’s, CT scans and kidney transplants all options for dog owners dealing with a sick animal.
Ways To Control Dog Ownership Costs
If a pooch is a non-negotiable member of your family, here are some ways to manage the daily, annual and lifetime expenses:
- Do Your Research. Talk with your local veterinarian, animal shelter or breeder about costs involved with different types of dogs. Often the best source of accurate and honest information about pet ownership is from families who have the type of pet you want, so hang out in the local dog park for inside information on dog breeds and possible costs.
- Consider Pet Insurance. The premiums are usually between $300 and $500 annually, and depending on the policy, can cover both routine and emergency vet visits. A simple emergency exam at an after-hours pet hospital starts at about $99, and many 24-hour clinics need a credit card deposit of $1000 or more before an animal is even seen by a vet.
- Dog-Proof Your Home. Many of the unexpected costs of pet ownership involve damage or outright destruction of property caused by chewing, clawing, and “accidents” that result in mangled shoes and stained rugs. Save money on doggie damages by restricting where your pet can go in your home, and keeping unintended chew toys safely out of reach.
- Shop Around. When you need a vet, be sure to ask about fees and payment plans. Just like other health care providers, like dentists and massage therapists, many veterinarians offer both discounts for cash payments and low-interest payment plans for big expenses. If you have a vet college in your area, contact the school to see if they offer reduced-fee student run medical clinics. Many areas now have low-cost or by-donation pet health clinics to cut the number of pets abandoned due to financial hardship of the owners.
If owning a dog is not in your budget, consider volunteering as a visitor or canine walker at your local shelter. Another option is fostering a dog, which is a great way to see if dog ownership is a good fit for your family without making a long-term commitment to a pet.