Adopting a Dog? Here's How Much It Will Really Cost You

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Thinking of adopting a pandemic puppy? Your new furry friend could come with a hefty price tag.

If you've had your eye on a shelter dog to help keep you company during the pandemic, you aren't alone. The social restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 have had an unexpected impact on animal adoptions across the nation. Turns out if we can't have cocktails with our friends, we'll have cuddle time with that cocker spaniel mix from the shelter instead.

Early in the pandemic, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports seeing a 70% rise in animals adopted from its foster home programs in New York and Los Angeles, and adoptions have steadily continued from that point. That's not taking into account the trends occurring at other shelters across the nation, either.

But while adopting a furry friend can be a great way to give a stray dog a forever home while adding some excitement to your life, it can also be a costly proposition. If you're tossing around the idea of taking on a barking buddy, here's how it could affect your bank account.

Why the cost of a dog matters

Before we get into the costs of adopting a dog, it's important to note why this information is important. While adopting a dog can give them the home they need, it can also prove to be too costly for some people.

According to the ASPCA, an estimated 4.2 million U.S. pets will end up in poverty due to the owners suffering financial hardship caused by the ongoing pandemic. That number has increased by 21% when compared to the pre-COVID-19 figures from February 2020.

Financial hardships like these make it more likely that an adopted dog will be abandoned, returned to the shelter, or rehomed. It can also increase the likelihood of these adopted dogs being deprived of quality food or necessary veterinary care.

Adopting a dog you can't afford can be devastating for both you and the pup, so before you take the leap from pet-free to dog owner, make sure you weigh the costs and double check that you can afford them. The alternative is worse than having to wait until your finances are stable to make your move.

The true cost of adopting a dog

There are tons of one-time and ongoing costs associated with adopting a dog. In total, the average cost of owning a dog during the first year lands somewhere between $1,471 and $2,008.31, according to the ASPCA. These costs depend heavily on the size of the dog you're adopting, among other factors.

Those average costs to bring your dog home from the shelter could actually be $2,350 or more, according to the pet website Add in the average total additional costs -- or costs outside the norm for things like boarding, pet rental deposits, and other optional but pricey purchases -- and it can get a lot more expensive. Rover estimates those costs to be between $1,645 and a whopping $4,315 on average.

So, why is it so expensive to adopt a dog? Well, there are a number of different expenses calculated into that total, including:

Adoption fees

Adoption fees can range from $50 to $500. What you actually pay will depend on a ton of different factors, including what the shelter charges in your area and often the age of the dog you're adopting. Puppies typically come with a higher adoption fee, while senior or hard-to-place dogs are generally cheaper to adopt.

Spaying or neutering

Depending on where you adopt your dog from, you may have to pony up the costs to spay or neuter your pet. That can come with a price tag ranging from about $35 to $400 or more, according to


If you're going to adopt a dog, be prepared for the food costs. The ASPCA estimates that the annual cost of dog food for a small breed is about $212 on average, while a large breed dog will cost about $400 per year to feed.

Routine vet care

On average, it costs somewhere between $210 and $260 for your new dog's regular vet checkups, according to the ASPCA. That includes the costs for regular exams, vaccinations, heartworm preventative, and topical flea and tick preventative.

Other medical care

What the routine vet care estimate does not include, however, are any medical emergencies or ongoing health care costs for chronic illnesses with your pet. According to Rover, those costs range between $250 and $275 per year on average.

It also doesn't include the costly puppy vaccinations, which Rover estimates can range from $75 to $100 on average.

Pet health insurance

Pet health insurance is optional coverage for your pet's vet care, but it can be well worth the monthly charges to keep a policy on your dog. If you opt into this type of coverage, the ASPCA estimates that you'll be paying about $225 per year for it. Rover estimates those costs could be much higher, depending on your location and other factors.


Toys are also optional, but your new puppy or dog will need at least a few of them to keep themselves occupied. And you'll want to toss a few their way, too, in order to give them something to chew on besides your furniture. The prices will vary, but Rover estimates dog owners will spend between $10 and $200 per year on toys alone.


Your dog may be more comfortable in a crate after life in the shelter. If you want to crate train a puppy or older dog, you'll be investing between $35 and $125 on average for a crate, according to the ASPCA. The bed will add another $5 to $200 to that bill, according to Rover.

Other miscellaneous costs

Whether it's training classes, which average about $110 per year according to the ASPCA, or a new leash and collar, the miscellaneous costs of owning a dog add up quickly. You'll need to shell out about $25 to $35 for a collar and leash, per the ASPCA cost estimate. Treats will cost you another $5 to $15 on average, according to Rover.

Is adopting a dog worth the cost?

That answer is pretty personal, but if we're judging by the response to's survey on how their new shelter dog has affected them during the pandemic, it sure seems that way. A year after the start of the pandemic, 80% of pet parents say that their dog has positively impacted their mental health and well-being during this time. And that alone can be priceless.

So, if you're still ready to adopt that dog -- or another pet -- from your local shelter, just make sure you can swing the high end of the cost estimates for its care. It isn't cheap to own a pet, but it can be worth every penny -- but only if you can make it work with your budget.

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