They say dog is man’s best friend, and they’re not wrong. A dog — or any other pet, really — can bring love, joy and companionship to its owner and improve their quality of life. Simply petting an animal releases oxytocin — the feel-good hormone — and lowers cortisol — the stress hormone.
Dogs, in particular, encourage us to be more active, from going on walks to playing fetch or tug, which is not only fun, but can benefit our health. These kinds of benefits, though, are difficult to measure, and it’s worth noting, especially if you’re considering adopting a pet, that there are real (and substantial) costs of pet ownership.
If you’re considering becoming a pet parent or you’ve already jumped in with both feet, be mindful of these costs that can quickly add up.
Food Costs Can Eat up your Budget
Keeping your pet healthy is priority No. 1, and that starts with food. Even the most basic pet food, such as kibble, is something you need to factor into your budget.
Let’s take dog food, for instance, which averages $2.19 per pound. If a 25-pound dog consumes around 20 pounds of food per month, its food will likely cost between $40 and $50 each month. And that’s just standard store-bought dog food. If you want to feed your pet fresh food, or food that is specifically formulated for their breed or dietary requirements, it will cost you between $2 and $12 a day (depending on the size of your dog and how much it eats) or as much as $360 a month, according to a recent Wirecutter article.
For exotic pets that require specialized diets or reptiles that feed on live food, costs can vary widely depending on the species. Before you bring home your animal, do your research so you can budget for food accordingly.
Veterinary Care Prices
Just as we go to the doctor for annual checkups, illnesses, and injuries, so should our pets. Veterinary care can be quite pricey, but it’s a necessary expense for all pet owners. At the very minimum, be prepared to pay for regular medications, shots, and dental care. As you’d expect, young and aging pets often require more care, while small pets, such as fish, reptiles, birds and hamsters usually require little to no vet care.
Puppies, kittens and other animals in their early life stages will require more vet attention, including vaccines, flea and heartworm medication, and spaying or neutering. Older pets, on the other hand, encounter many of the same health problems humans do as they age, such as eye problems, arthritis, and even cancer. Keeping your pet healthy means yearly vet care expenses, so plan for them accordingly.
One more factor. If you’re in a big city where the cost of living is higher, the care will be more expensive. However, this also means you may have more options to choose from. Get quotes for wellness exams and any services you plan on getting before signing on with a specific vet.
If your pet is a breed that will require veterinary care, pet insurance can potentially help cover the costs of some vet visits. This also comes at a cost, but it could be a beneficial expense for pets if secured early on in their life. If an accident should land your pet in the vet for major surgery, pet insurance can save you thousands of dollars. And if you’re contemplating getting a pet, you should plan for accidents. They’re almost inevitable.
You can plan to pay anywhere from $30 to $100 a month for pet insurance based on your pet’s breed, age and the plan you select. Just like health insurance for humans, these plans come with coverage limits and deductibles you’ll want to be aware of, meaning, even with insurance, you’ll still pay for a lot of vet care out of pocket. This is important to note, especially if your pet has a pre-existing condition or is a breed prone to illness.
Many pet insurance policies will be far more expensive for older or illness-prone pets, which could mean it’s not worth getting. In that case, it’s a pretty good idea to start a separate savings account for veterinary care rather than pay for expensive insurance and co-pays, particularly if they’re worthless!
Always carefully weigh the costs of an insurance policy against your anticipated vet expenses and the cost of potential accidents before entering into an insurance contract.
Training Can Be Pricey
While any new pet owner crosses their fingers and hopes their pet will be naturally well-behaved, this isn’t always the case. Sure, some pets have better temperaments than others, but, in general, they’re all still animals.
Whether you embark on training your pet yourself or hire a trainer, there’s a cost involved. As you’d imagine, the former is far less expensive than the latter.
While the costs of training vary greatly depending on where you live, private trainers range from $75-400 per session, while group training classes can cost as little as $50 a session or less for package deals.
If you train your pet yourself, you’ll still fork over funds to cover training books and supplies which could include special harnesses, toys, gates, and treats to entice your dog or cat into being a perfectly behaved pet.
And when your patience runs out, (fingers crossed that never happens!), you may end up hiring a trainer anyway.
In addition to training supplies and food, there are plenty of other supplies your pet will need, such as a place to sleep (a crate, a bed, or a few of each), toys to play with (and many of them so they don’t get bored), bowls to eat and drink from, leashes, harnesses, collars, brushes, safety gates, car seats, toothbrushes, and nail trimmers, to name a few. While none of these individually break the bank, they do add up.
For exotic pets that require special caging and forms of enrichment, supplies can be a hefty expense. Obviously, not all of these are always necessary, but being mindful of what you might need can help you narrow down the costs.
A Pretty Penny for Grooming
Grooming entails trimming or shaving your pet’s hair, cutting their nails, and cleaning them, which is important for their overall health. Grooming costs range from $10 to $75 depending on the service and size of your pet. If your animal needs more frequent grooming, these costs can easily double. Some animals need more grooming than others, so consider this carefully before you pick out your pet.
Walking and Boarding
Whether you’re going on a trip or you’re stuck at work, there may come a time when you can’t walk or watch your pet..
If you have friends and family to walk or watch your pet (without aggravation or complaining!) that’s great. But there could be those times when you need to hire a walker or pet sitter to take care of your beloved animal. Both of these options can run you at least a hundred dollars if you’re gone for a week or even just a long weekend. Dog walking apps such as Wag and Rover charge $20 for a 30-minute walk or $30 for a 60-minute walk and $30-40 a night, on average, for pet-sitting. Boarding fees will vary based on where you live, but average $35 a night as well. Remember, whatever you’ve budgeted for your trip, tack on the cost of caring for your loved one.
Sure, pets themselves can cost you, but so can the damage they inflict on your floors and furniture.
We hate to say it, but depending on the kind of pet you have, there’s a good chance they’ll will ruin something, if not many things, around the house. This means you’ll need to replace rugs, pillows, and perhaps even furniture pieces. To minimize your risk and potential costs, put away anything that’s too valuable for you to replace. And while you’re at it, consider setting up gates to keep your beloved away from those priceless areas of your home.
The Cost of True Love
Having a pet is joy, but it also comes with real expenses. Knowing that, and by making a little effort to plan, you’ll be able to allow room in your budget for that multi-legged bundle of unconditional love.