Are you sure you will be able to afford Fido?

Cost Considerations When Adding a Dog to the Family

TDS Reader Contributors

Related Articles

Homeowners Insurance and Dogs

Cutting the Cost of Dog Food

Money Saving for Dog Lovers

Do-It-Yourself Dog Grooming

What Costs Should Be Considered?

We are considering getting a dog for our family. We know that we would love it and care for it, but would like to know what sort of financial commitment we would be making. Can anyone tell me approximately how much to budget per month for food, vet visits, kennel costs, and any other expenses we might not know about?

Consider the Size of the Dog

Obviously, it will depend somewhat on the dog. We have a 65-pound German Shepherd mix. We don't buy food at the vet, but do buy a quality brand. Buying cheap food will do two things: the dog will eat more food to get the nutrients it needs and it can cause future health problems. And regardless of quality, not all brands agree with all dogs. Saving a buck or two is not worth having to scrub the floor daily because the dog got sick!

Food and treats run us about $20 to $25 per month. The annual check-up and shots cost between $60 and $80 per year. You will want to provide your dog with heartworm and flea control medicine, which runs approximately $120 per year. (Flea collars are cheaper, but may not be an option as they make some dogs, including ours, sick.) If you are a renter, check your lease for pet policies and add an extra $10 per month to your rent. Other medications may be needed. Our dog is arthritic at only six years of age and this tends to run in certain larger breeds. We spend approximately $60 to $70 per month on her medication. So talk to owners of similar breeds and to your vet about the health of certain breeds. Other expenses should be included in the budget such as a collar, leash, toys, etc. If you need to kennel, the cost is based on the dog's size and will run between $7 and $10 per night.

Also, we buy all her medicine online. Because we are buying several things, the savings are significant even when we figure in shipping costs. We've found to have the best overall prices. We usually just order by phone and have gotten great service.

A Good Fit

The cost of owning a pet is expensive. We have a very nice dog, and typically we spend about $60 per year for miscellaneous veterinary needs.

As a puppy, they will need a series of vaccinations to keep them healthy just like a child. Once they reach adulthood, if they are healthy, the vet costs are not that bad barring accident or serious illness. As for food, we choose to feed a premium brand called Iams. It is what our dog came from the breeders eating almost 5 years ago and we have kept him on it. We attempted to change him over to another brand on a couple of occasions, but it affected his digestive system poorly both times. While the premium brands are more expensive, we have found that they last longer. The fecal messes tend to be smaller as the dogs tend to utilize more of the food and not make so much waste. A large 40 pound bag of Iams costs us around $27, but it lasts for about three months and we feed free choice (the dog always has food in his bowl).

Boarding costs anywhere from $12 to $15 per day. If you plan to board, you will also need to have your pet vaccinated to prevent Bordatella (a.k.a. Kennel Cough). Nail trims usually run about $12 if done in conjunction with another vet visit, but we do our own. Grooming is another matter all together. This will depend on the breed that you get. Some dogs will need to be groomed professionally and that can be expensive. We do our own grooming. There are also other expenses to consider. License? Will you be required to have it? That cost varies depending on whether your pet is spayed or neutered and could run $15 to $50 per year. Insurance on your homeowner's policies is impacted and some dogs are not covered. If you rent, you may have to pay a pet deposit. Is your yard fenced or will you need to undertake that measure? Personally, I do not recommend having a dog without a fenced yard, but that is a personal preference.

We have had our dog for nearly five years. With vet visits (he is healthy), boarding since we sometimes go out of town for short trips that all together may add up to 2.5 weeks per year, pet supplies including food, vitamins, collars, leashes, combs, brushes, toys, we have spent probably $4000 in that length of time. This cost does not include the two yards we have totally fenced because we have moved.

If you decide to proceed, I would recommend researching the type of dog you wish to get. Study to see if it will fit your lifestyle. Also, consider a mature pet if you do not wish to go through house training a puppy. There are quality animals out there. Consider contacting a breed rescue organization as well. They can often hook people up with great dogs that through no fault of their own are homeless.

Lower the Average Costs

It's the everyday expenses that cost the big bucks over time, not the purchase price of the dog. According to the information available at the West Wind Dog Training website, the average owner will spend about $600 during the first year on their dog just on routine expenses. My 14-year-old mixed breed terrier (purchased from the MSPCA in '94) has had two ACL surgeries in the past two years totaling more than $3,000. Fred's average vet bill runs about $300 to $500 per year.

Some ways to minimize the cost of having a dog:

  1. Choose a small dog breed. They cost less to feed and kennel. Small dogs are more welcome than large ones when you travel, too. One caveat to consider. Small breeds live longer than large breeds (in general), so you may have more medical expenses with a smaller dog.
  2. Choose a dog that requires minimal grooming. Where I live, a basic grooming (bath and brushing) costs about $40. Invest in a decent set of clippers and learn how to use them.
  3. Shop online for medications such as heartworm and flea/tick control. I save about 50 percent by filling Fred's thyroid prescription online rather than through the vet's office.
  4. Train your dog. A well-trained dog is less likely to chew, dig, bite, etc., all the things that can end up costing you money.

However, the biggest investment you'll need to make is time. I think pets are, in some ways, more demanding than children since your kids eventually become self-sufficient and leave home, but pets never do.

Make the Comparison

We have two dogs, a 55 pound Sheltie (very hairy - lots of vacuum bags) and a 5 pound poodle (doesn't shed, doesn't eat much, but initial outlay was twice the cost of the Sheltie). Between them they eat six pounds of dry food a week, no wet food. Each goes to the vet for shots annually at about $150 each that includes having their teeth cleaned. Kennel costs can be pretty high. We take the poodle with us on vacations ($75 airfare each way), but the Sheltie stays home and a neighbor checks in on him twice a day, as he has to be "walked" since we live in a condo. Other folks I know take their pets to the vet when they go out of town, but our neighbor likes the Sheltie and we like him to watch the place while we're gone as he has a big bark. Both pets just had birthdays, the Sheltie turned eight and the poodle turned three. They are our first pets so I don't know about "elderly" costs yet. The love is worth the hassle in my opinion.

Save on your pet's medications at 1-800-PetMeds.

Dog Requires Serious Consideration

Good for you for seriously considering the real costs of having a dog. Most people don't get beyond cute and then blame the dog when it doesn't work out.
We have a 3-year-old "mutt" that we got from the humane society as a puppy. Here were the basic costs:

  • $150 to Humane Society, which is more expensive than a shelter. Cost included basic shots and spaying (VERY IMPORTANT!).
  • $35 to vet for de-worming (almost always necessary for any kind of "kenneled" dog.)
  • $5 per month for Frontline (flea application done once a month). This will increase as the dog gets bigger. When they're pups, you can split a month's worth of application. Now, it's $10 per month for March through October.
  • $30 for basics like leash and collar. You'll have to change these about three times when they're growing. Don't forget toys as they are far cheaper than furniture!
  • $65 to $100 for obedience school. As an animal lover, I can't stress enough how important it is to socialize your dog and train them. They're like kids. Their behavior reflects what they've been taught to do and respect. A well-trained dog will be a happier dog and a joy to the family.
  • Food is harder to price because of the choices. My dog has a sensitive stomach so we go with the pricier dry food that seems to keep her healthier. With coupons, a 20-pound bag of Iams costs about $14. It lasts us for a couple of months. She weighs only about 25 pounds.
  • Vet costs have been low because she's been healthy and she's still young. For her yearly shots and check-up, it is about $80. We'll be cleaning her teeth later this year for about $150.
  • License fee in our area is $15 and spaying decreases costs significantly.


Take the Next Step

  • Don't let your pets take such a bite out of your budget! The Dollar Stretcher's Guide to Frugal Pet Care can show you smart ways to love your pet while spending less.
  • Stop overpaying for your pet's medications. See how much 1-800-PetMeds can help you save.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

Stay Connected with TDS


It's tough raising kids today!

Dollar Stretcher for Parents is a weekly newsletter designed just for parents that will help save your family both time and money.

Little Luxuries

And get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book