Cost of Owning a Dog: How Much You Need to Take Care of a Pet
We know pets cost money. But when it comes to the actual cost of owning a dog, what should you prepare for? How expensive are our four-legged friends, really?
The answer is, unfortunately, pretty expensive. Ready to see everything you need to know about the cost of owning a dog? Read on.
The Basic Cost of Owning a Dog
Let’s start with the basics — costs you can absolutely count on having to pay if you have a dog. Note that these are all rough estimates, and actual costs will vary based on many factors like your location, the size of your dog, where you shop, and what types of supplies you buy.
|Expense||Monthly Estimated Cost||Yearly Estimated Cost|
|Food and treats||$20-$65||$250-$700|
|Leashes and collars||$1-$5||$10-$50|
|Routine vet care (for a healthy dog)||$25-$150||$300-$2,000|
|Preventative medications and supplements||$10-$50||$100-$600|
|Pet sitting or boarding (will vary depending on how much you travel)||$10-$100||$100-$1,000|
On average, a dog owner should plan on spending around $100 a month just on basic supplies and care for their pet, all the way up to $500 a month for a dog that has needs like regular grooming, training classes, or boarding while you’re away on trips.
The Initial Investment when Adopting a Dog
Of course, those are just the regular, ongoing costs of owning a dog. That doesn’t take into account the initial investment when you first bring your pup home. Let’s break that down.
|Starting supplies (including toys, bed, collar and leash, crate, etc.)||$50-$300|
|Health checkup and vaccinations||$100-$350|
|Preventative care (flea/tick/heartworm medication, etc.)||$50-$100|
|Spay or neuter||$50-$300|
|Microchip insertion and registration||$50-$100|
*Cost reflects fees for adoptable dogs from shelters. Buying a purebred dog from a breeder will likely cost much more.
The bottom line? If you can get away with spending a few hundred dollars on everything you need when you first get your dog, you’re a frugal spender. Most people should expect to spend around $1,000 or more to get everything they need to keep their new dog safe, happy, and healthy.
Ongoing Costs of Owning a Dog
As all dog owners know, our pups are part of the family. And just like any other family member, they have ongoing expenses.
Food and treats
One cost you’ll have no way around is the ongoing expense for food and treats for your dog. In order to give your dog the healthiest life possible, you’ll want to purchase high quality dog food, which can range from $30 to $50 for a medium-sized bag. Based on that, depending on the size of your dog and how much he or she needs to eat, the monthly expense can range from $20 to $65 or more.
To stay active and mentally engaged, your dog will regularly need new toys to play with. Luckily, this doesn’t need to be a huge expense. New toys can come from the clearance bin at your local pet store, and this cost can be kept to just a few dollars a month, if needed.
Your dog’s bed should last a while (as long as he or she doesn’t play with it or chew it up). But it will still need to be replaced sometimes, especially if it gets dirty or damaged. A good-quality dog bed can range from $50 all the way to $200 if you have a large dog who needs a big bed.
Collars and leashes
Similar to your dog’s bed, you should be able to get at least a few years of use out of a collar and leash. But these items do wear out, and for your dog’s safety, you’ll want to replace them as needed (like if your dog gains or loses weight, or the collar or leash shows any signs of significant wear). Expect to spend $10 to $50 each year on collars and leashes.
Grooming is an expense that will vary quite a lot depending on your dog and his or her needs. Some dogs only need an occasional bath and nail trim, while others require regular haircuts to live their best lives. If you have a dog that needs regular full grooms, expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $75 per month for that.
Routine vet care
All dogs need routine checkups, just like humans. Each year, your dog should have a thorough health exam, which may include boosters for vaccines, bloodwork, or other preventative treatments. Costs for veterinary care can vary by location, but expect a thorough yearly checkup to cost around $300 for a healthy dog, or up to $2,000 if your dog has pre-existing health problems or extra health needs, like dental care.
Preventative medications and supplements
All dogs should receive medication to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworms. Some dogs, especially older dogs, will also require vitamins or extra supplements to stay in the best possible health. These needs will average around $10 to $50 per month.
Training is another cost that will vary greatly from dog to dog. If you’re an experienced dog owner and can handle basic training on your own, it might not cost anything. But if your dog needs training for a behavioral problem, or even a basic obedience course, expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $300 per course.
Pet sitting or boarding
Your costs for pet sitting or boarding depend on how often you travel without your dog. Costs can also vary quite a bit — amateur pet sitters might be able to care for your pup for as little as $10 a day, while dog boarding facilities with a lot of amenities may charge up to $100 per day.
All dogs need walks. If you have the time to walk your dog yourself, this won’t be a cost you have to pay. But depending on your lifestyle and schedule, you may need a dog walker to help out. For regular weekday walks, this is a cost that can quickly reach four digits per year.
Unexpected Costs of Owning a Dog
We’ve covered the ongoing costs of owning a dog, which are all the expenses you expect to pay on a regular basis. But dogs can also come with surprise costs.
One of the biggest potential costs dog owners need to prepare for is an emergency expense. This can take a lot of different forms. For example, if you have a personal emergency and need to leave town suddenly or can’t care for your dog for a time, this could come with significant costs for boarding and other care.
However, when most people think of emergency expenses for their pets, they think of vet bills.
For even a minor emergency, vet bills can be incredibly expensive.
A single visit to an emergency vet can cost $500 to $1,000. Depending on the care your pet needs, that cost can climb to $2,000, $5,000 or even more.
Any advanced surgery for your pet is likely to cost $2,000 to $5,000. If your pet needs to spend time receiving advanced care at the vet, that’s likely to cost another $200 to $500 per day.
Many people turn to credit cards or lines of credit if they can’t immediately afford an emergency expense like a large vet bill. In this case, you’ll need to add interest into the cost of the emergency.
Even the best behaved dog might someday mistake something for a toy that isn’t. Another unexpected cost of owning a dog is destruction of your property — whether it’s a piece of furniture, an expensive pair of shoes, or your yard’s sprinkler system. Dog owners also need to be prepared for the possibility that their dog could damage something expensive that belongs to someone else — in which case you’ll be on the hook for making it right, and quickly.
Cost of Owning a Dog: Example Budget
Want to get better at tracking your costs for your pets? Download our free budget to start tracking your expenses and budgeting for the cost of owning a dog.
Average Lifetime Cost of Owning a Dog (By Size)
As you can see, there are a lot of variables to consider when trying to find the true cost of owning a dog. It will vary depending on where you live, how you shop, and your dog’s health and needs. It will also vary depending on your dog’s size and life expectancy. According to the American Kennel Club, these are the average total amounts you can expect to spend over the entire life of different kinds of dogs:
- Small dog (average lifespan of around 15 years): $15,051
- Medium dog (average lifespan of around 13 years: $15,782
- Large dog (average lifespan or around 10 years): $14,480
How to Reduce the Cost of Owning a Dog
If you’re worried about the cost of owning a dog, you’re not alone. Dogs come with major expenses — even people who currently own dogs might not be financially prepared for the responsibility. Luckily, there are some ways you can try to cut down on costs.
Monthly premiums for pet insurance may seem like just another ongoing expense to add to your pet budget. But if your pet ever has a medical emergency or becomes severely ill, pet insurance can save their life. If you aren’t in a position to be able to afford a surprise bill that costs several thousand dollars, you need pet insurance to keep your dog safe.
If you typically shop at the same pet store for all your dog’s needs, see if they have a loyalty program that can earn you discounts or free products as you spend.
This is good advice for any budget-conscious person, whether they own a pet or not: Shop for things that are on sale. If your pet needs toys, look for a clearance bin at the pet store. If he or she needs a new bed, look for coupons for big-box retailers or pet stores.
The Bottom Line: How Much Money Do You Need to Own a Pet?
If you’ve been keeping a tally so far, you know that to own a dog, you’ll need:
- An upfront investment of about $400-$2,000 for your dog and all of his or her supplies.
- An emergency fund of at least $1,000-$2,000, but preferably more like $4,000-$,6000, to cover vet bills and other emergency expenses.
- The ability to spend $100-$500 per month for your dog’s food, care, and ongoing needs.
Pets are expensive, but they’re worth every penny. Just remember that the responsibility to take care of your pet falls on you, and if you can’t afford all these expenses, you might not be ready for a dog just yet.