Will your four-legged friend cost you an arm and a leg? The true cost of owning a dog.
Many dog lovers will readily agree that dogs offer more than just companionship – having a dog in the in your house does a lot to enrich the lives of the occupants. But this enrichment does come with a cost. From the necessities like food and vet visits, to the slightly less necessary but almost unavoidable purchases – toys, treats and more toys. All of these costs add up, and sometimes come as a bit of a surprise to a new dog owner. So, how much will your new dog really cost you, and can you really afford it?
What can you expect to pay when you get a dog?
Owning a dog has numerous benefits, but it does involve several one-time and ongoing expenses.
It is worth noting that these figures are purely illustrative. In addition, this is not an exhaustive list of expenses either. From the figures given above, the first year of owning a dog could set you back by up to $2,000 or $4,000. This is over and above the amount you pay for purchasing the dog. A detailed cost breakdown is included below
Cost breakdown analysis
Purchasing the dog: Up to $25,000, but usually below the $5,000 mark
The microchip: $60 to $80
Council registration: $40 to $150 (depending on whether the dog is desexed or not)
Vaccinations: $170 to $250
Prevention for worms, fleas and heartworms: $120 to $300
De-sexing: $200 to $500 (depending on the size, age and gender of the dog)
Food and bowls: $800 to $1,000 (depending on the size, breed and quality of the dog)
Toys and treats: $150 to $400
Bed and kennel expenses: $100 to $200
Collars, leashes and harnesses: $40 to $100
Puppy training: $170 (depending on the size, age and gender of the dog)
Grooming: $70 to $90
Car restraint: $30 and above
How much your pooch will cost long-term
Owning a dog involves incurring regular annual expenses too. The annual expenses for looking after a dog amount to $1,500 approximately. This figure could be higher as well, based on the dog’s breed, size, age and illness or accident history. It is worth noting that the average dog has a lifespan of approximately 15 years.
Some of the recurring expenses could include the following.
- Food: $800 to $1,000
- Toys and treats: $250 and above
- Regular worm and flea treatment: $120
- Annual health check-up: $90
- Grooming: $70 to $90 (depending on the breed and the frequency of grooming)
Using the numbers given above, you’ll find that the average annual expense of owning a dog in the first year will be $3,000, followed by $1,500 every subsequent year.
This amounts to $16,500 over 10 years.
If you purchase pet insurance with an annual premium of $1,000, this shoots up to $26,500. Include additional expenses such as the cost of the dog and visits to the vet for treating any injuries or illnesses. You could well be looking at a bare minimum expense of $40,000 to $65,000 over a 10-year period.
Matt's new best friends
Personal loans publisher Matt bought his two labrador retrievers after walking into a pet store. "I saw them and said I wouldn't leave without the puppies." And he didn't – he bought them both for about $1,000 each, and said he wasn't overly surprised at the cost. "I was able to get both dogs on interest-free finance deals, so we only had to pay a minimal outlay each month."
He didn't have a monthly budget organised, but knew he could manage the ongoing repayments. He also admits that the other upfront costs he hadn't budgeted for – vaccinations, desexing, food and bedding – was quite a shock. "It's easy to get carried away with spoiling them – after paying back their finance, I spend between $20 and $50 a week on them now, depending whether or not toys or dog treats are on sale."
His advice for would-be pet owners? "Know how much you can afford and only get a pet if you can manage it." There are ways you can save by looking into interest-free finance deals and also pet care plans through vets. For Matt, "you can't really put a price on the unconditional love you get from a dog...If you can't afford vets, you can't afford pets" he said.
Is pet insurance worth the cost?
Pet insurance is optional. Yet, it is worth noting that vet treatments can be quite expensive, and insurance can help keep you covered from larger expenses down the track. This is why you’ll need to evaluate the premium that's payable, the exclusions in the policy and the coverage offered before you purchase the policy.
Pet insurance policies will typically cover the following.
- Accident only: This policy will cover vet expenses in case your pet has an accident. The monthly premium ranges from about $15 to $30 per month.
- Accident and illness: This policy covers vet expenses for accidents and illnesses. The monthly premium will usually range from $30 to $60.
- Comprehensive cover: This policy covers vet costs for accidents and illnesses. In addition, it covers routine vaccinations and worming treatments. The monthly premium typically range from $60 to $80 per month.
Pet insurance policies will specify certain exclusions as well. Policies differ, but the following exclusions are common:
- Illness or injury from pre-existing conditions (including conditions affecting a body part such as the ears, the eyes, etc.)
- Vet expenses for elective treatments such as de-sexing, orthodontics and so on
- Treatment of illnesses suffered during the waiting period and,
- Treatment of diseases for which a known vaccine exists such as kennel cough
- Dental cover
If you feel that pet insurance is expensive, consider setting aside a saving of about $100 a month, if possible. This fund could help you in times when your pet needs medical treatment for illnesses or injuries.
Financing options for your pet
As mentioned before, owning a dog can lead to various planned and unplanned expenses that could make a mess of your monthly household budget. In this scenario, you could consider the following alternatives for funding these expenses.
- Unsecured Personal Loans. These give you the option of financing without needing to use an asset as security. As there is no security involved, the interest rates for these loans tend to be higher than their secured counterparts. Compare the terms offered by various lenders before selecting the most favourable one.
- Credit Cards. If you have a credit card, you could consider putting some of the costs – both upfront and ongoing – on this card if you don't have the ready money. If you don't plan on paying off your total balance straight away, a lower interest card might be a better option as it won't see your interest charges build as quickly as they would on one with a higher rate.
- Payday Loans. If you require a short-term loan for meeting unexpected expenses, or if you have bad credit and can't access traditional forms of credit, a payday loan might be an option to consider. These loans cover you until your next payday and will usually feature more flexible eligibility criteria than is applicable on other kinds of loans. Keep in mind the fees and rates are much higher with this type of credit, so work out if you can afford the repayments before you apply.
Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world – but owning a dog does not come cheap. In any matter involving your finances, it is best to examine the potential implications of any decision that you make. While there are several benefits to having a furry friend at your side, it is important that you estimate the financial costs of owning a dog before taking the plunge.