dog with money in yard Cesar’s Way

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.”

“Why?”

“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?

4. Do I have money to pay a sitter?

Chances are, you won’t always be able to make it home enough times per day to take care of your dog, let them outside to use the bathroom, feed them, and so on and so forth. You will need someone to come into your house and take care of them on those days you are working late.

You’ll also need to consider the costs of hiring a dog sitter when you travel or go on vacation. These costs can add up if you need someone to stay at your home or stop by multiple times per day.

Having your dog stay at a kennel is another option, but it isn’t always the best one. Your dog may become stressed by being separated from their environment and routine, and they might become sick.

If you aren’t hiring a sitter, consider the costs of taking your dog with you to work or on vacation. A lot of campgrounds and hotels don’t allow pets, so you will need to rent a hotel or Airbnb that does.

5. Do I have money set aside for training?

Dog training is another expense you need to consider. A well-behaved pet is a safe and happy pet. Training classes are a great idea for a puppy or new dog of any age to help them learn the rules of the house and social behavior. If your dog doesn’t know how to act around guests, other dogs, or strangers in public places, these classes can save you money on potential vet bills from injuries and mishaps.

If your dog develops behavioral issues, like aggression, anxiety, or fearfulness, you’ll want to consult a professional dog trainer.

How to Create a Dog Budget

Just like you would create a budget for yourself, you need to create a budget for your dog. Putting together a monthly plan for how much money you will spend on food, toys, treats, and other supplies can help prevent overspending while also helping you stay organized and prepared.

Setting realistic financial goals for yourself will ensure that the health of your pet does not suffer as a result of financial constraints.

Create a Dog Emergency Fund

If your dog gets sick, has an accident, or anything unexpected happens that requires money, you will be able to use this fund without starting from scratch.

Set aside an amount each month in your savings that you can access without any penalty if something happens to your dog. Do not put this money into your “fun money” account. This is for emergencies only.

Make a List of Your Monthly Recurring Costs

Dogs cost money each month: food, treats, toys, grooming supplies, etc. You will want to add up how much you spend on these things each month so you have a budget in mind when looking at your weekly or monthly costs.

Adding up your monthly pet expenses in a spreadsheet or column will help you keep track of how much you spend over time.

Look for Ways to Cut Costs

Cutting costs is one way to make your dog more affordable. Here are some ideas to help you save money on your pet:

Buy in bulk. Pet supplies, like food and treats, are usually less expensive when bought in larger quantities. Shop around for the best prices if you plan to buy items from more than one store or online site regularly.

Use coupons, promo codes, and loyalty programs. Stores like Petco, Petsmart, and other pet stores often offer promo codes you can use in conjunction with manufacturer coupons for big savings. A loyalty program is another way to save. Pet insurance and pet food are often discounted for those who use a particular brand or service regularly.

Skip the extras. Expensive toys, fancy treats, and other extras are nice to have but not always necessary to keep your dog healthy. Your dog doesn’t really care about the cost of his or her collar!

Watch your dog closely. Don’t allow your dog to take things they aren’t supposed to have. This can help you avoid high medical bills from an intestinal blockage or swallowing something dangerous like rocks, toys, socks, bones, etc.

Limit your dog’s access to the house when you aren’t home. Keeping your dog in a crate or behind a baby gate can prevent accidents from happening, and limit damage to furniture from scratching or chewing. For some dogs this may mean they are not allowed on furniture at all. Make sure you know what restrictions are best for your pet.

Consider vaccination clinics. Vaccination clinics are usually cheaper than getting a vaccination at the vet’s office. You can learn more about them online. Some pet stores also host them and will provide you with information.

In Conclusion

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.


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