How much does it cost to own a dog during their lifetime?
Dogs are one of the best purchases a person can make in their life. Not only do dogs provide loyalty and companionship but studies have also shown that they help relieve anxiety and improve mental health. As much as many of us wish we could have 10+ dogs roaming about our house, there is a large price tag to consider with owning a dog.
Many first time dog owners are unaware of just how much it costs to own a dog. Before purchasing a dog, many soon-to-be dog parents only look at the cost to purchase the dog they want and fail to take into consideration just how much their furry friend will cost them in the long run. Expensive vet bills and costly dietary requirements are one of the reasons that so many dogs are turned over to shelters and rescues. Owners realize that they can no longer afford to provide for their dog and they end up having to rehome them.
With the rising costs in North America, one reddit user actually tracked his dog’s spending throughout her 13 year lifespan to help give other dog owners an idea of what they are in for when it comes to their pup’s bills in the long run. Keep reading for a review of what they found, as well as a few of some of my own tips as a dog expert to help reduce some of your doggy bills.
Treats and toys
Starting off with the smallest category, the least amount of money was spent on treats and toys. Even still, over the dog’s life the cost of simple treats and toys still amounted to a staggering $900! While this category isn’t necessarily needed for survival, it is something that greatly impacts the overall well being and quality of life for dogs.
Treats are a great tool for training, especially when using positive reinforcement. Healthy treats also generally cost more than unhealthy treats. This is because quality, natural ingredients are going into healthy treats, which generally cost more to produce. For owners looking to keep down the cost of treats, there is always the option to make your own at home! DIY treats are not only healthy but also help save you money in the long run!
Toys are a form of enrichment for dogs. They provide an outlet for excess energy and a source of mental stimulation. One way I have found to keep my dog’s toy cost down is by searching my local thrift store for dog toys that have been donated. Give them a good wash and they are good to go! I can often find balls and stuffed animals second hand and usually buy the more specialized toys from the pet store.
There are so many different coat types in the dog world. Some are long, some are short. Some are curly and others are wiry. As a result, different breeds require different levels of grooming. The owner of the dog in the reddit thread found that he spent $1500 on his golden retriever over the course of their life.
In general, golden retrievers do not need to spend a whole lot of the time at the groomers. They are usually good to go with a brush, deshedding, trim and bath on occasion. For dogs that have higher grooming requirements like doodles, poodles, and shih tzus you can expect upwards of 2 to 3 times this amount.
As an owner of a cocker spaniel with an ever growing coat, I found that I was spending at least $120 every 3 weeks on hair cuts. Those grooming bills started adding up fast so I decided to try my hand at dog grooming. I invested in a good set of dog clippers ($300) and a second hand dog grooming table ($100). While the start up cost is high, it has definitely paid itself off and saved me a lot of money in the long run. To begin, your dog may have a few bad haircuts, but with practice and the right equipment, it is easy to become a pro!
If you don’t feel confident cutting your dog’s hair yourself, one thing that can really minimize the number of grooming visits is consistently brushing/combing your dog at home. One of the reasons that grooming bills are so high is because groomers need to spend time detangling matted dogs. By ensuring your dog’s coat is clean, healthy and tangle free, your time spent at the groomer may be reduced.
Good doggy manners come with training. Training is one of the most important things when it comes to owning a dog. It goes a long way in not only helping you to socialize your dog but also ensure that they have good manners around other dogs, kids, pets and people. Proper training also helps to keep your dog safe and out of harm’s way.
There are a few different options when it comes to training. I usually recommend that all first time dog owners seek a personal canine trainer or join a group training session like puppy kindergarten to establish those fundamental skills. For more experienced, confident owners, they can always try training their dogs at home. Dogs with more challenging behavioral issues or dog breeds that are more stubborn, they may require extra classes.
The owner of the dog in the reddit thread found that he spent about $2000 on training. This is about average for those looking to work with a certified canine trainer doing multiple sessions.
All dogs need to eat! Food costs are one of those that most pet owners expect as it can vary greatly depending on the size of your dog. It probably comes as no surprise that dog owners with a larger size dog are going to have higher food bills. On average, it costs around $150 per month to feed a dog.
The type of food you’re feeding also affects how much you need to budget for your dog. Many pet owners think that the best way to save on food costs is by feeding their dog lower priced food. While this technically lowers the overall food cost, it may result in a linear increase in the cost of an even more expensive category of owning a dog; vet bills.
Think of food as an investment. Good, healthy food may be more expensive but the quality ingredients used in the food may help to reduce the risk of costly health problems in the future. For example, I feed my dog Kabo because it has natural ingredients like whole meats, fibre, omega 3s and antioxidants that will help improve my dog’s health in the long run by reducing the risk of having to treat diseases like cancer, diabetes or liver disease.
Aside from food, there are other general costs that just come with owning a dog. This includes things like kennels, leashes, beds, etc. Most of these are start up costs and only need to be replaced periodically throughout your dog’s life.
Veterinary and medical
Nobody likes going to the vet. Vet bills are often quite costly and usually unavoidable. Yearly vet costs in Canada can range from $100-$400 for routine checks that include vaccines, dewormer and physical. From here, the bills only increase. Just like us humans, as a dog ages their body slows and they develop health conditions that require treatment. Of these, it is usually procedures like chemotherapy, surgery and medical imaging that are the most costly, which can range from $250 to over $10,000 for a single bill.
There are many different things that can affect vet costs for a dog owner and this usually has to do with the specific dog. Factors like genetics, breed and environment greatly influence how much you will be paying for future vet bills. Certain breeds are much more hardy and require few vet appointments throughout their life, while other breeds, some of which are very popular, are prone to frequent health issues like allergies, joint issues and organ problems which require consistent medical attention. The reddit user found that for his golden retriever, he spent $18,000 on vet bills during the 13 years that he owned them.
Some health problems are unavoidable but one of the best things you can do to minimize your risk of costly diseases is by making sure your dog is in the best possible body condition. The right balance of food and exercise goes a long way in maintaining your dog’s overall health. If you’re unsure of what a health body condition score looks like in dogs, check out our chart below:
Food is medicine and as stated above, investing in a good food can go a long way in reducing the risk of disease in your dog. Avoid feeding your dog food with over processed ingredients like corn meal, meat by-product meal, wheat starch and other synthetic ingredients like colors and flavours. Invest in a quality food with good ingredients like whole protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and fruits/veggies that help to fight off disease.
One other thing you can do to reduce the risk of having to worry about paying off giant vet bills is by doing your research before you get your dog. Be aware of which breeds are susceptible to more severe health problems and only purchase a dog from a reputable breeder that does health and genetic testing on their pups.
Boarding and daycare
Probably the most shocking cost in the reddit breakdown was the accumulative cost for boarding and daycare. The reddit user spent an astounding $20,000 for boarding and daycare during his dog’s 13 year life. Now this cost may seem completely unreasonable but for those taking their dog to daycare frequently or boarding them for long periods of time, this cost is not completely out of the normal range.
Daycare and boarding centres can be quite expensive, especially in urban areas. Doggy daycare can range from $40-$250 per visit while overnight boarding can range from $50-upwards of $350 per visit. However, sometimes these costs may simply be unavoidable for those pet parents who work long hours or are traveling.
My suggestion to owners who want to keep daycare and boarding costs low is to research the kennels in your area and make a list of the best prices and facility offerings. Some of the least expensive kennels can actually be found just outside city limits. These businesses also often have more space for the dogs to run and play! Alternatively, you can also ask a friend or family member to look after your precious pooch while you’re away or out of the house.
Take home message
Owning a dog isn’t cheap but it is so worth it! Dogs can live anywhere from 5 to 18 years so before purchasing one, make a budget and keep in mind some of the costs that may occur throughout their lifetime. It seems that vet visits and daycare/boarding are some of the costs that dog owners will need to most closely consider before purchasing a dog. The good news is that there are a lot of things that you can do to help keep your doggy bills low!