Obviously both these examples are extremes – the low cost example is barely above the level of animal neglect and the high cost is a big city dog that cannot be left alone and with owners that have deep pockets. However, this is also a healthy dog with no medical costs aside from a bi-annual check up and possibly some period lab work to establish baselines in case of illness. Dogs that have allergies, diabetes, heart conditions, arthritis or hip dysplasia or any long term illness can easily have medical bills that cost into the thousands for that condition alone.
The other consideration is that the dog in the example never needed to step foot in a grooming shop either. For dogs that require regular grooming, add another $50 every three to six weeks depending on how fast their coat grows adding an average of $600 to the annual budget.
Thankfully, there are things that help keep the costs down:
- Pet insurance is an inexpensive way to guard against sudden or unexpected vet bills. It is easier to budget $25 a month then to find $2500 overnight if your dog swallows a foreign object or breaks a leg.
- Feed high quality food for the life of your pet! Cheap dog food is like living on fast food for humans – it fills the void but the long term damage to their system incurs medical expenses far surpassing the initial cost of eating healthy.
- Make sure your pet maintains their ideal weight. Extra pounds take a toll on every system in their body just like obesity adversely affects the human body.
- Yearly veterinary exams can find underlying conditions while they are still easily managed. For dogs over seven, bi-annual check-ups are recommended as dogs age much faster then humans and six months to a senior dog is the equivalent to four human years – a lot can happen in those four years!
- Regular visits to the groomer for dogs that require it is far cheaper in the long run. Groomers charge more (and rightly so) for dogs that have matted, dirty coats that require more time per visit.
- Keeping their nails trimmed, ears clean and teeth brushed can prevent vet bills for things like torn nails, ear infections and dental cleanings.
- Avoid breeds of dogs that are known to have expensive medical conditions i.e. Shar-pei are prone to allergies and Pugs often develop heart conditions as they age.
Anticipating potential expenses and preventing them before they happen definitely helps keep the cost of owning a dog within reason. Common sense like crating a dog that chews when you are at work or away from the home can limit the amount of damage he can do to the house and himself. Replacing a sofa or a new kitchen can add up as can the vet bills when he eats something he shouldn’t or breaks a leg jumping off the kitchen counter after enjoying last nights leftovers.
Before deciding on adding a new dog to the family, look carefully at your budget. A dog is for life and all too often animals are turned over to shelters or given away because the owners cannot afford them. Responsible ownership means taking financial responsibility for your dog.
The good news is, in the end, all a dog will ever ask for is your love and companionship and the cost of ownership is far outweighed by the many rewards of sharing your life with a pet.