Working in the vet field, and in emergency medicine specifically, I know the cost of vet care seems high. Heck, I’ve paid for the same vet care I’m usually talking to my clients about. I have two dogs with an uncommon skin disorder, one of whom has had a foreign body surgery to retrieve an ENTIRE stuffed animal, as in whole, and one who was hospitalized for trying to commit suicide via butter biscuits smothered in garlic. I get it. Even my employee discount doesn’t always lessen the blow.
But one thing most people don’t think about is the cost of owning a pet outside your crazy emergency situation. The everyday, normal cost of having a puppy can be high and depending on the breed, you can be looking at a really long commitment.
I own a Min Pin, a breed that averages a FIFTEEN YEAR lifespan. That means that I will be paying for her dermatology visits and daily medications for another ten years. And, frankly, I think she is too spiteful to die, so I don’t doubt it will be much longer. But even without crazy, weird and rare skin conditions, dogs carry a hefty price tag.
Erin from Unconventional Mommy Tails and I have teamed up to bring you a month post about pet care, pet costs and pet education and felt that letting people know the true cost of owning a pet was a great place to start. This month will be a little different. We have divided the post into puppy and kitten and are sharing the information. I will be discussing the puppy information and you can find kitten expenses, as well as a few general expenses over at her blog today. (In the following months we will usually have just one post that we both promote, alternating who hosts it)
Dogs pee. They pee everywhere. And they do not naturally take to something like a litter box. This means that you need the normal leash and collar, poo bags to take with you, pee pads to lay all over your floor in attempts to minimize the urine and feces damage, and a carpet cleaner (rented or purchased). And depending on the breed, potty training can take many, many months (JRT’s take up to 6 sometimes). So plan on these expenses for a good while after puppy comes home. You’ll be looking at at least $40 as an initial investiment (depending on how many pee pads you buy) and it will all have to be replaced regularly for a number of months.
Puppies have a lot of energy, like to explore their world and are naturally mouthy and destructive. Though they do (usually) grow out of the destructive behavior and mouthyness, plan on replacing a lot of the toys you buy frequently. Taking them for lots of walks will help with them exploring their new world, it wears them out and it helps them gain social interaction and social skills, but unlike kitties, puppies are going to be destructive for up to a year (or longer if they are my dogs). I always suggest toys that don’t have squeekies (don’t want them to swallow it and add emergency costs to this list!), but rubber, non-toxic toys are great. Kongs are wonderful for puppies, but pricey. And the more destructive your pup, the more expensive it is to find things that slow them down. You are looking at a minimum of $75 initially, but remember you will be replacing many of those items in the coming months as they grow, gain strength and are just plain puppies.
Dog food costs vary dramatically based on the size of your dog. For instance, my Min Pin goes through 8 pounds of food every month and a half to two months. My Doberman eats 35 pounds of food every 5 weeks. That price adds up! So it’s important to factor in how much your adorable fluff nugget is likely to eat as an adult, not as the puppy they are now. But even puppies eat A LOT of food since they are growing, so a Great Dane puppy can still be spendy in the food department. And quality, brand and ingredients in the dog food all affect cost. There are some amazing foods on the market and some not so great ones. It’s always best to ask your vet about food and nutrition at their puppy exam. The prices for food (again based on size) can range from $20 to $80 a month. Which means you can potentially be spending nearly $1000 a year just on dog food.
Flea / Heartworm Prevention
Depending on where you live, flea and heartworm medications can be a very important part of care. For instance, heartworm is not common in the state I live in, so it’s less likely to find a vet that will insist your dog be on a preventative unless they are from out of state, going out of state or have returned from out of state. Fleas are also not huge here either, but we still recommend pets be on a preventative at the minimum of during flea season. The best preventatives have both in them, thus reducing over all cost, but can still range between $100 to $300 a year, depending on the size of your pup.
Vet care is where things will add up, and fast. Spaying, neutering, vaccinating, fecal exams, dentals, and microchipping all add up, but all are important parts of pet health and pet healthcare. As a puppy, you likely won’t need a dental, and fingers crossed, an annual exam will be all your pup needs most years, but it’s important to have an idea of what to expect when you first visit your vet.
Erin will be talking about vaccines and other basics on her blog and over all, the cost and requirements are very similar for dogs and cats. I suggest you check out the awesome info she included in her post.
Luckily for dogs, they do not have to be FeLV or FIV tested, and don’t generally have anything other than a possible heartworm test that really must be done prior to vaccinating or bringing them home. But vaccinations are not the only thing to expect from that new puppy exam. So remember that you will have other cost associated with bringing home a new puppy.
- Fecal Testing
- Spay / Neuter
- Emergency Care
Misc Puppy Expenses
It’s important to properly train and socialize puppies. If you are an experienced dog owner, you likely have the basics of how to teach a sit/stay and how to walk on a leash. But if you have never owned a puppy before, be sure to look for experienced professional help. Ask friends and neighbors who they have used or recommend. Getting your pup into puppy classes can dramatically decrease your stress level and most have playtime build into the time so that the puppies get a little extra socialization.
Due to the widely varying costs bases on region, trainer experience and even their credentials, I can’t give a general cost, but can tell you that I did a weekly course for each pup that was six weeks long and paid $220. There will be places that are more and less that that so be sure to look around. And never be afraid to ask to sit in a class to see how they do it before signing up, or to ask for references.
And if your pup develops and problem behaviors or you need additional help, many trainers have advanced classes or even private lessons that can greatly help. All of my dogs have done a combo of puppy classes, advance training classes and private lessons (Because they are jerks).
Leash and Collar
It’s important to get a well fitting collar and a lovely strong leash for your pups. Typically this is an upfront expense and the collar will only need to be replaced once or twice. Generally, you can get away with $20 for the set for something nylon, assuming your pup has no allergies or special needs. To fit the collar, place it around the dogs neck and tighten. You should be able to fit two fingers under the collar, with a SMALL amount of slack. If you can’t fit two fingers, loosen it, if you can fit your fist under it, or whole hand, it’s too loose.
It is so very important to register your dogs. A city, or county license (or both if required where you live) can set you back anywhere from $20 to $200 depending on what state and area you live in. However, registering your animal is often legally required and very important in the event they get lost. Most cities and counties record your pets microchip number with the license so in the event their collar comes off while they are lost, they can still track you down and don’t have to wait for the microchip company to try to get a hold of you. But be sure to register your microchip number with the company anyway. Many people will take strays to local hospitals to be scanned.
To view additional post from Trust Me, I’m a Vet Tech CLICK HERE.