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 your house does a lot to enrich the lives of the occupants. But this enrichment does come with a cost.
From the necessities such as food and vet visits to the slightly less necessary but almost unavoidable purchases including toys, treats and more toys, there are a bunch of things your pooch needs. 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:
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 up-front costs he hadn't budgeted for such as vaccinations, desexing, food and bedding, were 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 ranges 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 desexing, orthodontics and so on
- Treatment of illnesses suffered during the waiting period
- 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.
How to reduce the cost of owning a pet
While the cost of your pet will vary based on the breed, age and size of the animal itself, there are a number of ways to reduce how much you pay, many of which will also improve your pet's life.
- Adopt your pet or get it from a shelter. Not only are you potentially saving the life of an animal by getting it from a shelter or the RSPCA, the animal will often already be desexed, wormed and vaccinated, meaning you will save yourself the time and money from doing this yourself.
- Register your pet. If your pet ever gets lost, it will be easier to be found if it is registered. You may also have to pay a fine if your pet is found to not be registered.
- Protect your home from pet-related damages. This includes keeping expensive or fragile items out of the reach of your pets, especially if you have a puppy or particularly adventurous animal.
- Make sure your pet is healthy. By giving your pet regular exercise and a good diet, you can help prevent expensive health problems later in life, as well as improve their quality of life in the meantime.
- Perform grooming and training yourself. It can be very expensive to outsource your pet's grooming and training needs, so take the time to learn how to do it yourself.
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 up-front and ongoing, on this card if you don't have the money available. 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.
- Short term 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.
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