The Lifetime Cost of Owning a Dog

Raise your hand if you’ve considered the total amount of money you’ll shell out when you adopt that cute little puppy at the pet store or shelter.

I’m guessing that many of you haven’t given it much thought, even if you incorporate a rough idea of the cost in your monthly or yearly budget. I didn’t have any idea about the money required for pet ownership until I actually adopted my dog, and wish that someone had written this post for me 3 years ago.

Before splashing around in the details, I would like to point out that having a pet is truly a price-less experience.

Many studies have proven that people with pets live longer and healthier lives, and that the physical and mental effects of an animal companion are evident and strong. You can’t put a price tag on that, but I will try my best anyway.

In order to accurately predict lifetime costs, we must first make several assumptions.

First, this analysis is based purely on my own experience and my limited research into potential costs. Your personal situation may be different, and you should adjust your calculations accordingly.

The average life expectancy of a typical dog in the United States is about 13 years. Assuming that you receive the dog sometime in its first year of life, this leaves about 12 years of care in your hands. We’ll use this to sum up the yearly costs.

One-Time Costs

  • Purchase Cost: If you opt for a purebred dog, your initial costs are going to be major. If you go the “recycled” option (adoption) like us, the cost is significantly smaller, usually under $100. This model will assume that you’ve adopted. Add in the cost of your dog if you’re making a purchase from a breeder.
  • “Home” Expenses: This includes the purchase of a kennel and beds. An average-sized kennel will cost a bit under $100, while a new bed each year will total up to about $400 dollars ($30-40 per bed per year). The total in this category is $500.
  • Classes: If you opt for obedience classes, the cheapest alternative (about $100) will be at your local pet store.

Yearly Costs

  • Veterinary Care: According to AOL, in 2005 the average vet/surgical bill for dogs was $785. This is probably one of the biggest challenges with keeping pet costs down, and depends on your feelings toward animal companions. I’m of the school that believes when it’s the dog’s time to go, you let them go. However, many owners would be willing to their life savings for their pets. If this is you, strongly consider whether pet insurance would pay off in the long run. Regular yearly visits to the vet cost about $100-$150. Assuming the addition of pet insurance, which can run about $300 per year, the yearly total for health is about $450, and protects you from unexpected health bills.
  • Food Costs: Your dog’s size and your choice of food will determine the range of costs in this category. We’re lucky in both, as we buy a generic brand of food that the dog goes absolutely nuts over, and she is a small, 20 pound animal. Typical food costs will range from $100 to $400, so we will assume a $250 average. Treats and other munchies will run about $100 per year, also depending on the size of the dog, and how much you want to use treats in the dog’s diet.
  • Toys and Accessories: If you purchase a few toys here and there, your leash lasts for a few years, and you need some poop bags every few months, expect to spend about $100 per year in accessories.
  • Grooming: A typical grooming appointment for your dog can cost between $30-$50, or more for larger breeds. If you save and wash your dog at home, you can cut costs considerably. If you groom professionally, expect to spend about $300 yearly.
  • Boarding: Assuming you leave your dog kenneled for one week each year, expect to spend about $100. Save on costs by leaving your dog with a friend.

To sum up, we have calculated our initial dog costs to be $700. Our per-year cost for the items mentioned are approximately $1300, which we multiply by 12 to get a lifetime cost – $15,600. Our total lifetime cost per dog is therefore $16,300.

Before your jaw drops to the ground, like one reader’s did, please understand that you can frugalize the heck out of this number. It’s an extremely conservative and “full” estimate of the costs of dog ownership. What are our family’s expected costs? $5,000. You just have to be willing to put in the effort.

Please post your suggestions and your personal experiences with pet costs and ways to save on any of these items.

Photo credit: / CC BY 2.0

15 thoughts on “The Lifetime Cost of Owning a Dog

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  2. We love our dogs and they are a constant source of laughter for our family, but we have also spent a good deal of emergency funds on them as well. Our dogs have needed surgery after getting in an accident at a local dog park. I guess some dog owners are investing in dog insurance as a way to offset these risks.

  3. heck, we paid $10k in vet and surgeon fees for our first dog…and that was just his first (of 3) leg surgeries. And we have 4 dogs now. They are priceless to us.

  4. An alternative to dog insurance, and a method I’ve utilized for my last 2 dogs: set aside money into a “dog emergency” fund each month. That way, if you don’t need to spend it, you get to keep it (instead of it going to the insurance company). HOWEVER — plan well. After our first dog had to undergo surgery for bloat, at a cost of $3500, that’s what we set aside. Our 2nd dog is currently undergoing cancer treatment, and we expect to spend at least $6500 more than that $3500 we have saved. So, insurance would’ve helped us.

    1. That’s an excellent way to do it, and we have something similar, although not specifically for dog purposes. For things that may or may not come up that are not threatening to your major assets or income, I think that a savings account makes the most sense.

  5. I’d agree and say $1k a year is reasonable to expect. Totally worth it to me 🙂 Ha, some people pay almost that much for their iPhone. I also consider the stress-reduction and other pysch/health benefits of having a dog. I’d choose a dog over TV, gadgets, eating out more for sure! But I’m a “dog person”.

  6. Don’t forget the wear and tear a dog can cause on house and property. Soiled carpet, chewed blinds, scratched doors, etc.

    1. Good point…our wonderful canine ate (not kidding) all of our window blinds one day when we were away. The following day, she ripped up the linoleum by the door. Wonderful to come home to. And a blessing to the landlord (thank God they were relatives)… 🙂

  7. thanks for the interesting article. One expense I have with my sweet dog that you didn’t take into account is “dog walking”. As a city person with a busy schedule, I sometimes need to pay to have my dog taken out. I know a lot of people in Toronto that pay to have their dogs walked on a regular basis – and they spend up to $15 per walk!

    1. Wow, that’s definitely a very important consideration. Even dog owners with a lot of time on their hands can sometimes find themselves away from home for a long time (we all have errands to run!). So dog walking is definitely in play.

      Thanks for pointing that out!

  8. Totally worth it to have a best friend. Who says you can’t buy happiness or friends!?!

    My family had a dog growing up that was an extension of who we were so we ended up shelling out several grand for surgery when he had cancer, didn’t regret it at all. I agree with Jonathan, I’d much rather have a dog than TV, gadgets, or eating out.
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last post: The Part Time Job Search =-.

  9. My husband and I gained a fish pond when we bought our home. Not quite the same as a dog…. All of my grown children and my siblings have dogs. I agree they are wonderful. My dog during my childhood rode on the tank of the motorcycle with my dad and on the bow of the boat when we went camping. We have lots of wonderful memories with Cookie. When Cookie had puppies and we were on vacation – One of the neighbor boys came into the yard and ended up throwing the puppy over his shoulder when he got scared by the kid who was coming to feed them. We ended up keeping Mitzi and she needed surgery on her hip. They removed the hip socket. I do remember it was expensive for my parents. Mitzi lived for 12 years, Cookie for 15 yrs. They were both very good companions!
    .-= Sindy´s last post: Ergotrans patient transfer into a vehicle with slide board =-.

  10. im considering a puppy, your site was helpful. i need as much info as i can get. please send me more!!!

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