So, your partner, spouse, or kids have finally talked you into (or, even better, agreed with you about) getting a dog. That’s wonderful for you and for your new buddy! But along with the joys and new responsibilities of bringing a furry family member into your life, taking care of their needs means you might be wondering how much does it cost to own a dog. No doubt, you’ll be looking at some added expenses. This is the time to get a realistic picture of what expenses will likely come up over a year and how much you should budget.
The average cost of owning one dog varies from about $1,500 to $4,500 per year. That’s a pretty big spread in terms of impact on your budget, so make sure you understand everything that goes into those figures.
Dog Costs to Consider
The most important factors to consider up front are the age of the dog you are thinking about, how big it is (or how big it will grow to be), and any health issues. That will impact what sorts of bills you’ll be looking at as you introduce your new pet into your home and how much you can expect to pay for veterinary care, food, and other expenses over time.
At the start, you’ll have the cost to either buy or adopt a dog. Keep in mind that buying a purebred dog from a reputable dealer will cost significantly more than the figures shared here, often reaching thousands of dollars, and you’ll need to research options in your area to get a clear picture of just how much you can expect to pay. Keep in mind also that purebreds are available from dedicated breed rescue organizations, usually for considerably lower adoption fees, but those are usually mature dogs, not puppies.
The average cost to adopt a dog from a shelter will range from $0 to about $500. Because most shelters are non-profit, you can also claim some of that as a charitable donation on your taxes. Check with the shelter to see if their adoption fee includes a general exam, tests for common canine diseases, spaying or neutering, preventative flea or tick treatments, vaccinations, or any other veterinary services.
Start-up Medical Expenses
If those services are not included in the adoption fee, you should budget between $50 and $400 for a full set of first-year vaccinations (rabies, parvovirus, distemper, etc.) to make sure your new dog gets off to the healthiest start possible. Getting your dogged chipped is a good idea and will add about $50 to your bill but will also allow you to get a one-time license that can save money compared to renewing every year if your state offers that option.
Well-puppy visits are recommended every 3 or 4 weeks for the first 16 weeks or so, so if you are going with a youngster, check with your local vets to find out how much they charge per visit and if they offer a discount package for multiple visits.
Barring any unexpected severe illness or injury, you should expect to pay the vet about the same amount each year that you own a dog. Keep in mind, however, that those numbers are likely to be somewhat higher if the dog you adopt or buy is a large breed that will grow to 80 pounds or more or if you fall in love with a dog that has special medical needs from the start.
Ongoing Vet Expenses
The good news is that your first year with a new dog is typically the most expensive until they get into old age or develop serious conditions. Still, you’ll want to get them in for a check-up at least once or twice a year, which should cost you around $300 – $500 a year, including lab work. Regular dental cleanings are also a good idea for their health and your olfactory comfort, so put aside at least $500 for that. It seems expensive, but you will save big compared to the cost of fixing dental disease, which can set you back many thousands and cause other health issues. This is especially true if you have a purebred that is prone to dental issues
Annual heartworm, tick, and flea treatments will add approximately $100 and $400 per year to your medical budget.
While dog prepping is usually not as involved (or expensive) as setting up a nursery for a new baby, you’ll want to have everything ready before the day you bring home your new companion. Food and bowls, a bed or crate with pads, leashes and harnesses, name tags, cleaning materials, and toys should all be ready when they arrive. Again depending on age and size (and how fancy your taste in crates, beds, and doggy bling), those will probably run you about $50 to $400. Most of those items are pretty durable but expect to spend $50 – $150 a year replacing chewed-up toys and worn-out or grown-out-of beds and harnesses.
On food, you’ll be able to save later by buying in bulk, but you should try out a few different brands in the early days to make sure your dog likes the flavor and texture. Any special dietary needs will bump up your food cost, and a Great Dane will eat many times what a Yorkie puts away, but expect to spend between $150 and $800 on food (and doggie treats) each year.
Some dogs just need to be soaped up and hosed down every once in a while to stay looking and smelling good. Of course, even with low-maintenance furballs, check to be sure you are using a quality shampoo and conditioner to avoid creating skin problems that can get expensive to treat. Other breeds will need much more attention, including regular hair and nail trimming and frequent brushing, or they can develop hair mats and skin problems that can get very expensive to deal with.
If you are willing and able to wield scissors and trimmers yourself, you’ll probably spend about $50 on tools every few years. However, if your pooch is a regular at the Doggy Day Spa, you’ll be paying $50-$100 per visit, so make sure that is in your budget.
This should only be an expense in Year 1 or Year 2. Still, whether you are buying books and videos or enrolling in canine etiquette classes, you should budget between $25 and $300 to make sure Rex or AnnaBelle gets along well with other dogs and humans.
Other Costs of Owning a Dog
For renters, the surcharge many landlords charge can add significantly to the cost of keeping a dog. And, of course, they can forbid you from having any pet at all in some cases. An inexpensive way around even a strict “No Pets” policy is to get an emotional support animal letter (ESA letter).
The right to keep an ESA is written into the Americans with Disabilities Act and U.S. FederalFair Housing regulations. While you need to follow the specific rules to get an emotional support animal registration, companies like Pettable will connect you to a licensed professional and make sure you are legally covered to bring your new dog home. And, if you get pushback from your landlord or management company, they have legal experts available to help them understand the laws around having an emotional support animal and renting.
Make sure you do your research to be sure you get a legitimate ESA letter, though. There are many shady outfits advertising ESA letters on the Internet that will deliver a useless piece of paper that won’t protect your rights and could get you kicked out and searching for a new place to go with your new dog.
Also, while rules around traveling with an animal have changed recently, carriers will still allow you to bring psychiatric service animals and service dogs are always allowed to travel with you for free.
Otherwise, if you plan to travel with your pet, check in advance to determine how much you will need to pay to transport your dog in the cabin or in the cargo hold and add that to your vacation budget.
If your buddy will be staying home while you travel for fun or work and you don’t have a neighbor or nearby family member who loves your dog as much as you do, you’ll need to calculate the cost of that too. Most dog owners will leave their pet behind once or twice a year for vacation or business travel at about $100 to $300 a pop. If your pooch is friendly, the less expensive boarding option will probably work, but some dogs (and owners) prefer it if someone moves in or visits multiple times a day while they are away. That tends to cost a bit more.
Woof (Worth) Every Penny
Bringing a dog into your life is a major commitment of time and money. But as nearly every dog owner will tell you, it is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. But it is an investment, and you need to treat it that way. Then you’ll avoid financial surprises after you add a fun, loyal, healthy, and adoring canine companion to the family who will add so much to your life.
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