Budgeting for the Cost of a Dog How Much Will a Dog Cost in Their Lifetime?

Budgeting for the Cost of a Dog

Owning a dog can be a big financial commitment, but just how big? Find out how much a dog costs over their lifetime on average, and what can really increase the costs.

You may have noticed that once you brought your dog home, their cost of living took more than pocket change. Dogs need veterinary checkups, food, training, leashes and ID tags... and we haven't even gotten to what happens if a dog contracts a disease or illness and needs specialized care! Dogs in the US are living an average 11 years these days, and since dogs start to enter their senior years at age 6, that makes for a higher number of "golden years" than ever before.

Senior dogs need more medical attention, more frequent vet visits, and oftentimes, more medications to deal with issues and diseases that present when an animal is aging.

So what can a pet parent expect to pay for their dog over their lifetime? Let's take a look at all the various expenses broken down.

The Cost Vaccinations for Dogs

Whether you’ve adopted your dog from a shelter, brought them home from a friend's litter, or purchased from a breeder, they will need a few core vaccines. Rabies vaccines are required by law in most states, and some dogs will need additional non-required vaccines to ward of infections common in your area. Dog vaccinations can cost anywhere from $70-$255, depending on which ones you’ll need and where in the country you live.

Spaying and Neutering

Also as important as vaccinations are spaying or neutering your pet. These procedures not only reduce the population of unwanted pets who could wind up euthanized in shelters, spayed and neutered pets have a lower risk for certain health issues. The cost for spaying or neutering varies around the country, but neutering can cost between $55 and $300, and spaying is generally a bit cheaper, at $35 to $300. If you're looking for a deal, local animal shelters often offer low-cast spay and neuter services. 

Flea & Tick and Heartworm Preventatives

Forgoing flea & tick and heartworm prevention might mean you pay less for your pet every month, but pet insurance companies who've done the math show that prevention is cheaper over the long run. Annual costs for these parasite prevention medications can average around $85, while if you have to treat your pet, that large lump sum divides out to about $180 a year for the life of your pet. Not to mention the heartache and worry if your pet has to undergo surgery to remove heartworms.

Prescription Medication Costs

Prescription meds can vary widely in cost because prescriptions depend on the dosage your dog will need and whether the medication is needed to treat a chronic condition month after month, or to get rid of an acute problem like an infection. Allergy medications and pain medications for issues like arthritis can be common expenses for dogs. Insulin for diabetes is another common prescription cost for dog owners, and some diabetic dogs will need prescription food as well, which can cost around $90 a bag.

Vet Visits

All pets should see the vet once a year for a checkup, and senior dogs should visit the vet every six months. An office call will usually cost between $45 and $55, and a yearly heartworm test around $45-$50.

Senior dogs should also get a geriatric screening during which your vet will check for any health issues that might come up as your dog ages, and this can cost around $85-$110.

Kenneling or Boarding Your Dog

Leaving your dog in another’s care can be done on the cheap, or you can pull out all the stops. For a kennel that houses multiple pets, you can pay as little as $25-$45 a night. For a dog hotel, you could pay hundreds a night for a fancy room, room service, an in-room TV, private playtime, and more. Dog boarding may be a good mid-way option for both expense and value -- pet parents can pay around $40 a night to leave their pet in the care of another pet parent who's made a business of caring for pets in their own home.

Dog Food

Dog food is probably the most familiar expense. The cost of dog food can vary widely depending on whether you go for economical kibble, premium commercial foods, or dog food you make yourself!

Dog Supplies

Some pet parents seem to enjoy dog toys as much as their dogs do. Or at least, they enjoy shopping for them! Aside from toys, there are always the necessary expenses of leashes, collars, brushes, beds, and more. If you’re wondering where to find some great toys and treats on the cheap, take a quick look at some of these refreshingly low-cost pet supplies.

The Cost of a Surgery

It’s probably no surprise that surgeries can cost tons of money. Depending on what your dog needs, a surgery could cost thousands of dollars. Removing a cancerous tumor, for example, could cost between $2,500 and $6,000.

The Total Cost of a Dog

The average lifetime cost of a dog who lives for 11 years is over $15,000*, and of course, that number goes up for pets with chronic illnesses or who have to undergo emergency medical treatment.

Want to spend less on your dog's health needs?

There are ways to save on each and every one of these dog care expenses, and we at PetCareRx have rolled them all together into a paw-some savings plan.

Feeding Your Dog on a Budget

The food your dog eats does more than satisfy its need to eat. Other than filling up the stomach, it also affects the canine's quality of life and overall health. The dog's behavior is also influenced by the food you give it. You can give it proper nutrition without spending considerable sums of money.

Longer-term savings

All things come at a price, and good food is expensive. Pricier dog food may pinch your budget in the short term but will save you significant sums of money in the longer time frame. Costly dog foods are made from expensive raw materials which are better for your dog in terms of nutrition. The foods have more nutrients and there are fewer fillers. It means you can feed your dog in reduced quantities of expensive dog food.

Poor quality dog food is given more for compensating the smaller quantity of nutrients present in every serving. To figure out whether to buy a particular dog food product or not, read how many servings each packet has and the cost of the pouch or tin. It is then possible to calculate the cost per serving. Use the result, along with the ingredients published on the label, to compare the packet with other dog foods.

Cook your own

You can cook for your dog too. If you do so, remember to give a proper blend of cooked and raw foods. The benefit of this arrangement is that you can control what your dog eats and the ingredients in the food. You also save a considerable amount of money. Here's a note of caution though: it is essential that you do a copious quantity of research before you jump to home cooking your dog's meals. A number of recipe books are available on how to cook dog food.

You must also consult a veterinarian before taking the step. If you want to give your dog a balanced diet but like the concept of feeding it homemade food, then cast your eye towards base foods. A number of veterinary companies make base foods that can be combined with meat, either cooked or raw, depending on what you give to your dog. The mix of specialist-created base food, and your cooking is not only the best for your dog, but you also spend much fewer amounts of money compared to what you will pay if you purchase ready-cooked dog foods.

Another excellent method to save money on dog food is to make bulk purchases. Remember, however, you must first use the edible before it spoils. Many of the high-quality dog foods are available at a much lower price when you buy them in large quantities. Distributors sell them at much-discounted prices.

Learn more about PetPlus, the first ever comprehensive savings plan for pets. Find out how much a membership will help you save!

* Calculated from American Pet Products Association 2003-2004 National Pet Owners Survey and APPA 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey

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