The Hidden Costs of Dog Ownership

A dog may sound like life's greatest investment -- in exchange for food and a couple of essential items, you will receive more than a decade of unfaltering love and affection. However, the costs of becoming a dog owner reach beyond leashes and chew toys. There are a plethora of hidden costs often not considered until you're already committed to your canine companion. When buying a dog, don't forget to appropriately budget the necessities and fully weigh the costs of dog ownership.

It's not unreasonable to spend $1,000 in your first year of pet ownership (not including the cost of the dog itself). In fact, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals calculates the average first-year cost of dog ownership at $1,050-$1,435 dependent on size, plus an additional $264-$408 for grooming of long-haired dogs. Of these costs, $580-$875 are expected recurring annual expenses.

Vet costs
Dogs, like children, get sick unexpectedly. Owners will likely incur at least one $2,000-$4,000 bill for emergency care at some point during their pet's lifetime, according to the ASPCA. As a baseline, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association survey indicated an average annual veterinary bill of $219 per dog owner.

Because these surprise trips can be costly, some dog owners find dog insurance a worthwhile investment. If nothing extreme ever happens to your dog, you may shell out more for coverage than you would have for the medical costs alone, but if your dog experiences some major problems in its lifetime, insurance could save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

The cost of dog insurance varies depending on breed characteristics and coverage options. While it is reasonable to find dog insurance for less than $10 per month, increased coverage often starts at $20-$50 per month.

Nutrition
Food is an obvious expense, but it may cost more than you think. A large bag of Purina Puppy Chow is about $30 at the pet store, but for some dogs this won't suffice. Dogs can experience food allergies or intolerances that require limited-ingredient dog food, which often doubles the cost. The size of your dog will affect price, too. Larger dogs eat more, so when you pick your breed, be sure to appropriately calculate the grocery bill in advance.

Grooming and overall hygiene 
Dental chews, frequent baths, brushing, and nail clipping are a few typical grooming costs. Professional grooming may be required to give your Yorkshire terrier the perfect style, but even a Labrador that is content being bathed outside with a hose will need money set aside for a hair brush, shampoo, and an elevated water bill. Frequent walks may combat the problem of long nails, but some dogs will need a professional pedicure, which costs about $10 or less.

Dog-sitting and dog walking
Switching off responsibilities with another dog owner can help limit these expenses, but do consider the possibility of needing someone to help during work or a weekend away. A dog walker can cost up to $5,200 annually, while boarding can cost hundreds of dollars per visit.

Replacing damaged items
While dogs may be sweet, loving, and loyal, they can also be destructive. Keep in mind that a pet may require replacement of household items sooner than originally planned. From pet stains and odors to chewed table legs, your dog can force redecorating before you, or your budget, are ready.

It's impossible to accurately estimate the total cost of dog ownership, but appropriate research and consideration will help you determine if you can truly afford a dog. Start by contacting your local veterinarian and inquiring about expenses often associated with having a dog. Also, check expected weights of your prospective dog breed and use the charts on the back of dog food bags to get a baseline for monthly food costs. Next, take a trip to the pet store and price out items you know you will need to buy. Keep a checklist of how often you will need to replenish these supplies to get a better idea of monthly, annual and lifetime costs. Lastly, contact any additional services you may need. Determine how often you will require these services and calculate costs into your budget.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2014, at 5:50 AM, Interventizio wrote:

    This article is outrageous: you can't put a price tag on affection. You can't look at every aspect of life as an investment. Is this article computer- or human-generated?

  • Report this Comment On May 27, 2014, at 11:20 AM, emarshall12 wrote:

    Thank you for the post. It is expensive to own a dog. It is worth it when you do own one, though, to pay a little extra money for good grooming, healthy food, and trusted dog boarding when going on vacation.

    Emily Marshall | http://www.aocb.com/boarding

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