The Costs of Caring for Your Dog

by AJ Pettersen · 9 comments

Dog + money

My wife and I recently got a new puppy. Her first few days with us were spent in a house full of packed items, and the next few were spent driving across the country to our new home. Now that we’ve settled in, we’re focusing on training and caring for her the best we can.

When you purchase a dog, there are many things to take care of, and along with those things, many costs that are incurred. Among these, providing the right grooming, veterinary care, and food are the most important.

Grooming

Our new puppy is a non-shedding breed, which means she needs to get haircuts. These can get very expensive if done professionally, so I’ve decided to take on the challenge. With the same buzzer I use to cut my hair, I cut our new puppy’s coat. Doing a little bit at a time, I was able to trim the long spots and save some money.

Clipping toenails is a part of grooming that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Though this can also be done by a professional, I decided to try myself. This was a bit more difficult, but it was worth the cash we saved. If you plan on doing this, you’ll need to buy a dog-specific nail clipper and some cauterizing powder.

Dog washing is another step of the grooming process. For this, we purchased dog shampoo and conditioner for about $10, and we gave her a bath in our tub.

We decided to do all the grooming ourselves, which saves money, but also takes time. Some people don’t have enough time to do all of the grooming themselves, so they bring their dog to a professional.

Veterinary Care

Veterinary visits in the first year are very important. Dogs need a number of different shots and must be checked by a professional fairly frequently.

We have been to the vet twice — once for an initial checkup and once for a series of shots. This will be followed by another series of shots and, in the future, spaying.

Vets often recommend a host of shots and pills for dogs. Make sure to do your research and decide whether you want or need all of them for your dog. The vet is usually only trying to do what’s best, but finding out what’s necessary can make a big difference financially.

Food

What you feed your dog can have noted effects on their health and overall well being. There are a ton of options out there, though in general, you get what you pay for. If you don’t know what food to buy, talk to someone who is familiar with the options. A worker at the pet supply store helped us to pick out a good brand. Don’t skimp on this; your dog’s diet is vital to its health.

How to Balance the Costs of Dog Care

These decisions come down to what you feel is important. If you don’t have time to groom your dog, and you want him or her to look a certain way, you should go to a professional groomer. This is the area where you can save the most money, however, as you don’t want to cut back on other areas. To save money on veterinary care and food, do your research!

What other costs does do you incur while caring for your dog? 

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Adele January 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

This subject was reviewed a short time ago, and I had hoped that any additional columns about it might mention adoption rather than “purchasing” a dog, especially since so many commenters mentioned it.

Purchased dogs, often from puppy stores, are 100% bred in inhumane conditions known as puppy mills. No self respecting breeder of a specific dog breed, who does private breeding in their home and only one litter a year at best, would sell their dogs to a store to sell like a pocketbook. Puppy mills are known (though legislation monitoring them is inconsistent and is a grassroots efforts done state bystate) abusers because there is almost no oversight of them. I’m not one for huge government oversight but the lack of it in this case has resulted in needless suffering and substandard dog breeds. Typically the mother dog never leaves the cage, receives no vet care, and the puppies are often born and sold ill, a fact covered up by durg use before they leave the puppy-miller, and dogs are stacked in too-msall metal cages with wire bottoms. They sometimes are resold during auctions and some rescues have begun to buy them just to save them. You cannot believe the condition they come out in. Not to be seen on a full stomach. Also, dogs who cannot breed anymore are often left to starve to death, simply receiving no more nourishment, or are buried alive. Do a little research; check out the ASPCA’s extensive publication and advocacy on the issue, as one example. there is crossover on this subject and that of the treatment of racing greyhounds. Thankfully, many people in the public know better now. There is a long way to go.

Apart from that, I would add to the costs you mentioned: dog walking costs, Care Credit (a card that offer medical care for both pets and humans with no interest for six months. I use it as my pet emergency fund in case something bad happens), and teeth cleaning, which in little dogs is often an issue. I use CET brand chews, which has an enzematic cleaner on them, helping to keep the teeth clean to begin with. Bad teeth leads to failing organs later. Also, Frontline and Heartgard are fairly typical maintenence medications to keep dogs and cats healthy, free from ticks and fleas, and heartworm and other worms, depending on the brand of medication you use (Interceptor is another good one). Especially in warmer climes where mosquitos are an issue, and which can result in heartworm (a deadly condition if not treated).

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Adele January 16, 2013 at 10:25 am

sorry for my typos…

“…a fact covered up by drug use before they leave the puppy-miller, and dogs are stacked in too-small metal cages with wire bottoms.”

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Heather January 16, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Another way to save money on the dog is how you pick your dog and at what age. Puppies are obviously far more expensive. But even still, it tends to be cheaper to adopt a puppy from a shelter than it is to buy a puppy from the breeder. This is a one-time cost obviously but can make a huge difference. I found my Labrador at a shelter when he was 2 (he’s almost 12 now!) and he is truly the best dog you could ever imagine. We actually found him the day before he was supposed to be euthanized and only paid $25 for him from a local shelter.

Costs are also dependent on the size dog that you get. My lab’s food costs occur almost every month ($45 for a premium-brand bag (if on sale)); treats, chews and toys also tend to be more expensive for larger dogs.

Boarding your dog when out of town is also a cost that you need to consider (thankfully, I have fellow doggy neighbors and we puppy-sit for each other as much as we can, but it’s inevitable to need a kennel at some point). I now live in an area with extremely reasonable kennel costs ($15/day) but I have paid upwards of $45/day. Also, if your dog has a lot of energy or anxiety issues with separation, doggy day care might be a real benefit but again comes with a cost.

Adele mentioned on-going heartworm/flea/tick medicine but there are other medicines to consider too: thyroid, joint medicine, vitamins, allergies, diabetes, etc. However, I did see recently that Target has started PetRX and offers lots of pet meds for much less than what I pay at my vet.

Yearly licensing of dogs is required in my area, $15 a year. Also, I carry renter’s insurance with liability in the event that my dog would cause harm to someone (highly unlikely but I still have to carry it as it is required by our complex). Obedience classes are almost a must for puppies/young dogs.

As mentioned, I have a very large, shedding dog so washing him at home tends to clog my bathtub. In lieu of a professional groomer (which used to cost me $60 each time), I take him to a local place that offers self-service washing. $15 for use of their tub, bathing supplies and towels. You can also use their clippers for hair and nails for $5. My dog I swear has body odor so he gets a bath every 2-3 weeks, which I try to extend out by using dry shampoo. On average, using self-service over professional saves me $750 A YEAR! Still not as cheap as washing him at home but it saves the wear and tear on our plumbing, need for Drano and saves me from having to lift my 90lb dog into the tub myself. I also brush his teeth multiple times a week as to be able to extend out the time between vet teeth cleanings.

Even despite all of the costs, I would still say every penny is worth having my Ziggy!

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Heather January 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Oh yes! And pet rent (which I think you mentioned in an earlier post). I pay $20 a month for one dog plus a $100 non-refundable deposit. In addition, due to the stains, dirt and hair that my dog tracks in, I shampoo my carpets every 4 months. I do save some money by getting a Rug Doctor, but, again, $40 each time!

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Bridget January 16, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Dog grooming can get expensive. I remember paying $45 for my dog when he was living. Vet bills were high as well. It was all worth it. I felt like he was one of my kids.

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Marbella January 17, 2013 at 2:30 am

A dog can be an expensive or fairly cheap new family member. You shall find what different dogs cost of maintenance before you decide what breed of dog you want.

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Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle January 17, 2013 at 4:50 am

I plan for emergency vet visits in my yearly budget. In 2012 it was almost $500.00 on Thanksgiving Day for an ear that swelled to the size of a grapefruit. Part of that itemized bill was $40.00 for an ear bandage that the dog removed within 5 minutes of returning home.

Wear and tear on home and yard is another big cost. My vacuums have a short rough life dealing with all the hair and I will have to clean my carpets again this spring after mud season is over.

I wouldn’t miss having a dog no matter how much they cost but my very senior dog probably will be gone before summer and that is the worst, very worst part of dog ownership.

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Chloe January 17, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, so maybe someone else has mentioned this.
But added under “veterinary costs”… I think it’s a good idea if you’re going to have a dog, to at least look into doggie health insurance, & find out if it makes sense for you.
One of my sisters has had 2 pure breed dachsunds. One died last year after some years of illnesses, and she just got a new puppy this week. Another dachsund. :D
She loves them, but said for her, it was WELL worth getting pet health insurance, especially as the older dog got older.
Now this is especially true of pure bred dogs, because they usually have some tendency or predisposition to certain ailments.
My friend had a shitzu that wound up getting cancer, and they actually took it for chemo.
But my MIL also has a dog that has had some pretty serious & expensive veterinary costs, and she got the dog as a puppy from a rescue, and it’s not a pure bred at all, and she wasn’t even 2 years old when the condition struck.

Some plans cover more than others. And some cost more than others. Best to do research before making any decisions on that. Like some will cover routine immunizations, teeth cleaning, and even nail clipping I think.
But I would say it’s definitely worth looking into, and could save in the long run.

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Shane January 18, 2013 at 6:46 am

Yes these are things many people don’t think about before purchasing a dog. The other thing that I like to mention is to look at the breed long and hard before you purchase and understand their know problems such as hip problems and diseases they are prone to.

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