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Friday, December 17, 2010

Costs Of Dog Ownership

I received a great question from a reader, Jessica....

I'm going through the very intensive decision over whether I will adopt a dog next year. I am an extremely responsible, pet-experienced twenty year old, and I have two years experience in the doggy daycare industry and I know I'll have no problems properly caring for a dog. Similarly, I've also realized that I can work my schedule out so I'm home most of the day with the dog.
My only concern is the cost of vet bills. I have a good chunk of money saved up in case of emergencies (which I would use if necessary) but I do wonder what the yearly physical, with shots and such, tends to cost.
I know that perhaps one of the biggest problems people have when they own animals is being able to pay for them financially and I want to make sure I have all my bases covered before deciding and looking this coming summer.
Jessica, I have to say that I wish more people were like you!  I can't say that I've ever had anyone ask me this (surprisingly enough) and I'm happy to answer it.  If more people would look into this BEFORE getting a pet, there would be healthier pets as the ones around would be better cared for.  
So let's do some math...As a disclaimer, I just want everyone to know that these figures are in US dollars and are based on my personal knowledge and experiences.  Check prices yourself and don't use these as direct quotes.

*  Office visits--These generally range from $30-60 and you should plan on 2-3 visits per year (combination of well and sick).  Annual Total:  $60-180
*  Vaccines--The current consensus in the veterinary field is that the distemper-parvo combination and rabies vaccines are the "core" or non-negotiable ones.  Other vaccines have some degree of debate, but I personally feel that leptospirosis is important, and any dog getting groomed or boarded should receive the kennel cough (bordetella) vaccine.  Most vaccines will range from $15-30 each.  Annual Total:  $45-105
* Heartworm testing--This should be performed annually and will run around $30-40.
* Fecal testing--This should be done 1-2 times per year to screen for intestinal parasites and will run around $30 each time.  Annual Total: $30-60
* Heartworm prevention--This should be given monthly in a tablet or twice yearly with a Proheart6 injection.  Depending on the size of your dog, six months of prevention will run $30-80.  Annual Total:  $60-160
* Flea prevention--Again, this will depend on the size of your pet.  It also depends on where you live, as in some locations you'll need flea prevention year-round.  When it comes to flea medication you don't want to use the cheap kinds as they don't work very well.  For a four-month supply this can run $40-60.  Annual Total:  $120-180
* Food--This one is hard to estimate because of the high variability in costs of food and amounts fed by food type.  With my own pets I spend about $40 every 6-8 weeks for two dogs.  So let's say $20 per month per dog as a rough estimate.  Annual Total: $240

Okay, so now pull out the calculator...carry the one...and we have a total annual cost for comprehensive basic preventative care of....$585-965

Obviously there are a ton of variables in these calculations, as prices will vary by region, how big your dog is, and what kinds of preventative care you get.  Now the good news is that these costs are spread out over the year, so you don't have to come up with it all at once.  However, this doesn't include any illnesses or emergency situations.  In addition to the basic costs of care and maintenance, I recommend having an emergency fund of at least $500 that you don't touch for any reasons other than medical problems with your dog.

Jessica, hopefully this gives you a basic idea of what pet ownership will cost.  If you don't think this will be possible, then please don't get a dog until you're ready. If these costs are within your budget, then Have a great time!