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How Much is that Pup in the Window? Costs for Potential Pet Owners to Consider

Erin Mantz
March 3, 2011

When I picked my Pug puppy out of the litter almost eleven years ago, I was certain she would be everything I wanted in a pet -- loving, obedient, cuddly and loyal. "Expensive" never entered my mind. Rizzo has absolutely won my heart and my wallet, but her medical care costs more than what I pay for my two sons.

According to 2009-2010 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, basic, annual expenses for dog owners in dollars included:

Surgical Vet Visits $532
Food $229
Kennel Boarding $273
Routine Vet $225
Vitamins $61
Food Treats $64
Toys $40
Groomer/Grooming Aids $66

The American Kennel Club's survey on the costs of dog ownership showed even higher annual costs -- around $2,500 for a dog's food, grooming, vet check-ups, pet sitting fees and more. 

Welcome to the Family: First-Year Costs

First-year costs as you cozy up to your fur baby bring extra expenses, such as spaying or neutering which range from $90 to $300. And then there are the basic supplies such as pet beds, leashes, collars, tags, toys, leashes and bones, food and water dishes. Don't forget the potty-training period, which may require a crate and dog walkers if you're out at work all day, cleaning solutions to freshen up areas where your puppy has accidents (and he will!), obedience training, vet visits for initial vaccines and well visits, and daytime care if you're out of the house, like doggie daycare or a dog walking service.

Teething Time

Another forgotten cost that comes with a puppy's teething time is when your house, furniture and clothes turn into teething toys. The puppy months will have your pup potentially chewing on everything from your furniture to your favorite slippers. Be prepared to repair or re-stain chewed table legs, replace socks or buy more sole inserts for your shoes. Better yet, buy some Bitter Apple Spray to deter dogs from chewing things you want to stay intact. 

Gates, Crates and Fences

As you get to know your dog and he is not yet trained, keeping him nearby can be a challenge until he is trained to "sit" or "stay" when the front door opens.  Some pet owners invest in extra things to prevent their dog from running away: obedience training, fences (real or invisible) for their backyard or shock mats to go near the front door. 

Key Considerations: Sizing Things Up

When it comes to feeding your furry friend, giant dogs cost the most -- $3,321 annually, vs. $1,831 for small dogs, according to the American Kennel Club survey. However, you just never know what requirements your breed may bring. My Pug was small, but overweight, so she required some diet dog food that was pretty costly. Your dog's breed and size will also impact where you fall on the price range for grooming. For instance, longer-haired or large dogs may be more expensive. A dog who has trouble sitting still during grooming may garner a "difficult handling" fee you discover when you pick her up. (Yes, this happened with my CavaPoo, twice, at two different groomers. I was so embarrassed!)

Pet Sitting and Boarding

Leaving for vacation? Figure in costs for boarding, pet sitting or a gift for that friend who's willing to take your pet in. In the inner suburbs of Washington, D.C. where I live, boarding ranges from $25 to $55 dollars a night. Choices include local vets and boutique shops to pet hotels and high-end cage-less care with playground equipment and webcams so you can watch your dog while you're away. 

Pet sitting is an alternative. According to Pet Sitters International's 2008 State of the Industry Survey, the fee for one pet-sitting dog visit is around $18.00.  The average length of a pet-sitting visit is about 37 minutes. Most pet sitters charge additional fees for services beyond basic pet care (grooming, behavior modification, etc.) and for households with more than two pets. A pet owner traveling one full week can anticipate pet-sitting costs of $295 for two visits per day or up to $388 for three visits per day. 

The High Cost of Vet Visits

Yearly vaccinations, visits to the vet, monthly flea and heartworm prevention pills, grooming and bathing, food, dental work and more, figure in throughout your pet's lifetime. Dog owners spent an average of $225 last year on routine vet visits and $532 on surgical visits, according to the American Pet Products Association. Some people will do anything for their pets. But a majority of owners draw the line after spending $500 for veterinary care, according to a recent survey by AP-Petside.com. As costs move closer to $1,000, fewer pet owners are likely to pay for care.

Pet insurance may help, depending on your breed. Monthly premiums can range from $10 to $100, with insurance promising to pay a portion of your pet's bills for medical and surgical care. What you pay depends on where you live, your pet's breed and age, the deductible and the coverage. Be sure to ask questions based on your breed. Some policies don't cover conditions specific and common to a particular breed.

Bracing Yourself for the Unexpected Expenses

Like raising kids, you can't anticipate everything. One owner's dog got bitten by a brown recluse spider. Cost of care: $3500. One cold, winter night right I found out my Pug needed 29 teeth out at once. Cost of care:  $3900 to Rizzo's oral surgeon. Dogs will have emergencies: eating chocolate by accident, getting into fights with other dogs, ear infections, sinus infections and UTIs that only very expensive antibiotics will treat. Peek under the rug after a few years and you may find serious damage from pee stains on your hardwood floor.

Regardless, the AKC survey showed that 47 percent of owners said the cost of dog ownership would not deter them from getting another dog.

More Resources

The financial site, Mint.com has a wonderful article about the cost of pets, from small dogs to cats, and every size between. For more insight on pet cost, check out their article here: Which is Cheaper: Dogs or Cats?.

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