The True Cost of Having a Dog

Updated on April 21, 2018
Camille Harris profile image

After getting injured by a dog in 2011, Camille has dedicated herself to caring for and understanding dogs. She regularly dog sits as well!

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Though my coworkers may tell you I wrote this article solely to post photos of my puppy, I'm truly writing to help you avoid the "sticker shock" I experienced when I adopted her last May. Somehow we managed to spend $1,000 (including the adoption fee) in the first 24 hours we had Boise (née Charlotte). Thankfully, we don't spend anywhere near that amount in the course of a day, week, or even month. But, every bed she destroys, every poop she takes, and every flea/tick treatment we apply lightens our wallets. Here are some of the costs you can expect to incur when your new best friend moves in.

Disclaimer

I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any close personal friends who are. The information below is solely based on my experiences as a slightly obsessive, pushover "pet parent".

Crunchies, crunchies everywhere, but not a bite to eat!
Crunchies, crunchies everywhere, but not a bite to eat! | Source

Food

While it may be obvious that you need to feed your dog, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. Additionally, there is quite a large range in price among different brands and types. One of the most important questions you'll have to answer is: wet, dry, or both? Most vets recommend a combination of wet and dry food. I feed my dogs both, with one consuming raw food by Primal, and the other eating Newman's Own puppy food. They also eat a few cups of grain-free dry food by Taste of the Wild. Our monthly dog food bill is about $160.

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Money Saving Tip #1

Check to see if there are vet clinics in your area. They often offer discounted vaccines! VIP Pet Clinic serves California, and VetCo by Petco is nationwide.

Health (Vet, etc.)

Dogs need to visit the vet at least once a year for check ups and vaccinations. In the first six months of Boise's life, we visited the vet about three times: twice to get her vaccinated for rabies, DHPP, and Bordetella; and once to treat a tapeworm. Just speaking with the doctor costs $50; each shot costs at least $20. Make sure you budget for these expenses and others, like annual or biannual teeth cleaning ($195-$600) and pet insurance ($10-$70/month).

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Safety (Nametag, etc.)

Keeping your dog safe involves more than just protecting him or her from external threats like cars, other animals, and poachers. Things like making sure she has an updated address tag ($15), rabies tag or dog license (depending on your location), and sturdy collars ($9-$45) and leashes ($15-$35) are just as necessary.

Pet Care (When You're Away)

Chances are, you'll have to leave the house sometime. When you do, you'll want to make sure your furry buddy is well cared for. Some dogs can tolerate being left alone for long periods, but do you really want your new pal ranging around your home alone for eight hours a day? I've been lucky enough to not have to leave my dogs alone for more than four hours at a time, but when the day comes that they need care, we're looking at $20-$30/day for either doggy day care or the services of a professional dog walker. This can quickly add up, so if you're someone who works outside the home, getting a dog might not be the best choice right now unless you can afford the extra expenditure. When you take a vacation, you'll pay overnight care charges of $30-$50/night, depending on the facility, your dog's size, and his individual needs (medication, etc.).

$55 worth of comfort...
$55 worth of comfort... | Source

Comfort (Bedding, etc.)

Unless you want your dog cuddling up with you at night, you'll need to buy her a bed. You don't have to spend a fortune for a quality bed - the most durable, seemingly chew-proof crate pad we've purchased was $20 from Target! Boise has chewed through $100 beds, and I'm sure your dog or puppy could, too. Look for a bed that is machine washable and (relatively) chew-resistant; nylon (think tents) is a great, durable material.

Cheap entertainment...(my socks)
Cheap entertainment...(my socks) | Source

Entertainment (Toys, etc.)

Balls, ropes, and chew bones can be wonderfully entertaining for your dog. Many dogs enjoy chasing a ball, so plan to invest $8 in a ChuckIt! ball launcher for you and your best friend's enjoyment. Other fun options are:

  • PetQwerks Talking Babble Ball Dog Toy: It talks when your dog touches it!
  • Ruff Toys Natural Rubber Double Tug Ring: You grab one end, and your dog grabs the other for a game of tug of war.

Money Saving Tip #2

Share your food with your dog. Avoid foods like chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, and raisins. Dogs can safely consume apples (without the core), cottage cheese, cooked chicken, sweet potatoes, and salmon. Exercise caution when introducing a new food to your pet. Try adding a couple tablespoons to his food for a few days, carefully monitoring his bowel movements.

Dog Care Expenses By Type, Cost, and Frequency

(click column header to sort results)
Expense  
Approximate Cost  
Purchase Frequency  
Total First Year Cost  
Food* (Dry)
$42-$52 for a 25 lb. bag
Monthly
$504-$624
Flea/Tick Treatment
$33/mo. supply-$55/6-mo. supply
Every Three to Six Months
$110-$132
Toys
Varies
Varies
Varies
Poop Bags**
$10-$15/package
Varies
Varies
Vet Visit
$50
Once a Year
$50
Insurance
$10-$70
Monthly
$120-$840
Vaccinations
$20-$30/vaccine
Once a Year
$240-$720***
Teeth Cleaning
Between $195 and $600
Once or Twice a Year
$390-$1,200
Pet Care (Dog Walking, etc)
Between $20-$30
Per Visit
Varies
Collar
$9-$45
Once, but may vary
$9-$45
Leash
$15-$35
Once, but may vary
$15-$35
Name Tag
$15
Once a Year
$15
Bed
$20-$200
Once, but may vary
$20-$200
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total First Year Cost
$1,473-$3,861
*For simplicity's sake, I only included dry food as there is great variation in wet food types, packaging, etc. **Optional as you can use paper or plastic grocery bags ***Sometimes multiple vaccines are required, e.g. rabies and bordete
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Boise in her 36-inch Petnation Port-A-Crate E2 Indoor/Outdoor Pet HomePaco and Boise behind the Carlson 0930PW Extra-Wide Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door. I would NOT recommend this product.PetSafe Anti-Bark Spray collar. Best $35 I've ever spent...
Boise in her 36-inch Petnation Port-A-Crate E2 Indoor/Outdoor Pet Home
Boise in her 36-inch Petnation Port-A-Crate E2 Indoor/Outdoor Pet Home | Source
Paco and Boise behind the Carlson 0930PW Extra-Wide Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door. I would NOT recommend this product.
Paco and Boise behind the Carlson 0930PW Extra-Wide Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door. I would NOT recommend this product. | Source
PetSafe Anti-Bark Spray collar. Best $35 I've ever spent...
PetSafe Anti-Bark Spray collar. Best $35 I've ever spent... | Source

Extras

You may find yourself needing to purchase items you haven't budgeted for, or visiting the emergency vet. Here are some of the extra expenses you might encounter as a pet parent:

  • Baby gate: Helpful for keeping curious puppies contained and safe! I purchased the Summer Multi-Use Deco Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate for about $56 from Amazon. I also purchased a less expensive gate for another room (pictured): the Carlson 0930PW Extra-Wide Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door. It has over 1,000 reviews and is currently rated at 4.3/5 stars. However, I would not personally recommend the Carlson; it isn't nearly as sturdy as the Summer.
  • Crate: If you adopt a puppy, you'll probably want to purchase a crate for him or her. Crate training is extremely effective for housebreaking canines, and the crate can also act as a safe place he or she can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. For a durable and easy to move crate, check out Petnation's Indoor/Outdoor Pet Home. At just $48.72, the 36-inch is plenty big for our 55-lb. Shepherd mix.
  • Clothing: I never thought I'd stoop to place an item of clothing on my dog, but lo and behold, I bought Boise a $12 raincoat at the start of winter last year. You may find that you need to purchase the same, or other items like dog booties for the extreme temperatures of winter and summer.
  • Hygiene: Never use human shampoo, toothpaste, or other personal care products on your dog. Shampoos formulated for your dog will cost you about $10-$15 a bottle. Enzymatic toothpastes cost around $10 as well. You can apply the toothpaste using your finger or a gauze pad, or you can spring for a dog toothbrush. You may also need to purchase nail clippers, brushes, and other grooming elements.
  • Nutritional Supplements: Probiotics can be helpful for easing bouts of diarrhea or other gastrointestinal upsets. You can expect to pay at least $10 for a bottle of capsules or chews to soothe your pup's tummy.
  • Training Aids: While a handful of kibble can be extremely effective for training, high value treats like dog jerky are nice to give your pup when she masters a new trick. Treats are wonderful, but you may find that your dog does not respond to reward-based training. Vibrating collars can help refocus your dog's attention, and bark cessation collars safely discourage nuisance barking by misting your pup with citronella if she barks loudly or excessively. We've had great success with PetSafe's $35 Anti-Bark Spray Collar.

Money Saving Tip #3

1800PetMeds.com is a great site for medications. Obviously if your dog needs something urgently, you should buy it from your vet or local pet pharmacy. However, if your pup requires medication to treat a chronic condition, or uses topical pest prevention like Frontline, it would behoove you to check to see if you can purchase it at a lower cost from 1-800-Pet-Meds.

PetSafe Gentle Spray Bark Collar for Dogs, Citronella, Anti-Bark Device, Water Resistant
PetSafe Gentle Spray Bark Collar for Dogs, Citronella, Anti-Bark Device, Water Resistant

While the jury is out regarding barking cessation, I experienced success with the temporary use of this product. It produces a harmless puff of citronella when your dog barks and is at most minorly annoying to the dog. My dog no longer requires this collar since it trained her out of excessive barking. I'd highly recommend it, but only for short-term use.

 

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      • Camille Harris profile imageAUTHOR

        Camille Harris 

        4 years ago from SF Bay Area

        Thanks for your feedback, Jo! Six cats!?!?! Wow. Are any related? The most we ever had was two cats and two dogs. Three litter boxes for the two cats (how many for yours?!?).

        Thanks again for reading and commenting.

      • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

        Jo_Goldsmith11 

        4 years ago

        Your photos are amazing! interesting research and an insightful look to pet care and loving them. We have a dog and six cats! We formerly were a foster /rescue home for cats and dogs. We spoil our pets but realize the cost can really be stressful to maintain their comforts. Useful ideas and informative!

        shared and Up :-)

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