Can you afford a dog?
By Scott Sterling
My wife had just brought our 8-month-old puppy into the vet to be neutered. She calls me about ten minutes later:
“It’s going to be twice what we budgeted.”
“He only has one testicle. The other one didn’t descend.”
“So he only has half the testicles and the neuter costs double?”
The difference in cost was because the vet had to root around Sam’s abdomen to look for the other testicle. I understood, but it caused some budgetary rearranging that month.
I share this story to illustrate the costs that a lot of prospective dog owners fail to take into account when they are considering bringing a bundle of fur into their homes and hearts. Just like children, dogs come with some expenses, but predictable and unforeseen.
Aside from keeping a savings account (a great idea if you have kids or pets), there’s really no way to be prepared for your dog’s financial needs without knowing what to expect in advance.
Here are some things to ask yourself before taking the leap:
1. Do I have the disposable income to take care of a dog?
The ASCPA estimates that it costs between $580 and $875 annually to take care of a dog’s routine needs, depending on the size of the dog. That’s roughly $70 per month. If you don’t have that much left over at the end of every month before you take in your furry friend, you will either need to get creative with your personal finances or cut corners in the care of your dog. Neither one of those options are fair — to you or the dog.
2. Do I have the upfront costs involved with adopting a dog?
If you scan through the puppy ads in a newspaper, you will find out quickly that puppies can be expensive. Even if you adopt from a shelter, the costs can be more than $100. Then there are the one-time costs for things like a crate, toys, license, and collar, which can add up to about $200. If the dog isn’t spayed or neutered, you will eventually want to get that done. That costs $200 (unless your dog only has one testicle, then it costs $400).
A lot of shelters include spaying/neutering in their adoption fee, so do your homework before visiting. It might be worth only visiting ones where the procedure is included.
In other words, dogs are an upfront investment as well as a monthly recurring expense.
3. Do you have a savings account for unforeseen costs? If not, are you willing to start one?
We dog lovers want our pets to be active and happy. With activity, unfortunately, come accidents and injuries. Broken bones and ligament tears can cost hundreds of dollars to repair. You don’t want to put yourself in the position of putting off a needed repair for your pet because you can’t afford it right now.
You may want to consider pet health insurance for those unforeseen costs. Some plans even cover spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and preventative treatments like heartworm medication. Insurance can cost $200-300 per year, but it might save you much more than that in the long run.
Every dog deserves a loving human companion, but they also deserve one who is realistic when considering their abilities to care for a pet. The worst-case scenario is for a human to start resenting their dog because of the financial changes in the human’s lifestyle.
With proper planning, the only change in your lifestyle will be the addition of a lot of love.
In your opinion, how much is too much to spend on your dog's healthcare?