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How much is your dog really costing you?

Will your 4-legged friend cost you an arm and a leg? We calculate the true cost of owning a dog.

Many dog lovers will readily agree that dogs offer more than just companionship; having a dog does a lot to enrich the lives of everyone in the house. But this enrichment comes with a cost.

From the necessities such as food and vet visits to the slightly less necessary but almost unavoidable purchases such as toys and treats, there is a lot your pooch will need. 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 afford it?

What can you expect to pay when you get a dog?

The first year of just owning a dog could set you back by $2,000 to $4,000. This is over and above the amount you pay for purchasing the dog in question.

A detailed cost breakdown is included below. It is worth noting that these figures are purely illustrative. In addition, this is not an exhaustive list of expenses either.

ItemsCosts
Purchasing the dogUp 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
Desexing$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
Total (on average)$3,000 - not including the dog itself

How much will your pooch cost over the long term?

Owning a dog involves incurring regular expenses, too. The annual expenses for looking after a dog amount to around $1,500. This figure could be higher depending on the dog’s breed, size, age and illness or accident history - as well as your ability to resist spoiling your pet.

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+
  • 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 and you could well be looking at a bare minimum expense of $40,000 to $65,000 over 10 years.

Matt's new best friends

Matt, one of Finder's publishers, bought his 2 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 on whether toys or dog treats are on sale."
Labrador retriever dogs looking at camera while they are chewing a rope toy in backyard

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.

Finder survey: How many Australians have borrowed money for expenses relating to a pet?

Response
No93.9%
Yes6.1%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1016 Australians, December 2023

Is pet insurance worth the cost?

Pet insurance is optional. Yet, it is worth noting that vet treatments can be expensive and insurance can help keep you covered for larger expenses down the track. This is why you’ll need to evaluate the payable premium, the policy exclusions 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.

What pet insurance is right for your pet?

How to reduce the cost of owning a dog

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.
  • Make sure your pet is healthy. Much like humans, 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.
  • Shop around for food/medicine. You can find some great deals on dog food, including locally made dog food, as well as viable low-cost pet medicines if you shop around and do your research.
  • Buy food in bulk. Buying your pet food in bulk from a wholesaler, rather than simply adding it to your weekly shop, can save you a considerable amount of money. Alternatively, if your pup's favourite brand is reduced at your local pet or grocery store, stock up when you can.

Financing options for your dog

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.
  • Low interest 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 and should only be used as a last resort.

How does it work?

Getting finance for your pet works in the same way as getting finance for anything else. You apply (online, in branch/store or over the phone) and are either approved or rejected based on your personal circumstances and financial credentials. If approved, you can use the funds to either purchase your pet or finance their needs (vet bills, ongoing costs etc).

It is worth noting that pet personal finance will usually be unsecured. This is because, unlike with products like car loans, you cannot use a pet as security on a loan. However, you can use a different form of security if you prefer a secured finance option.

It's quite rare, but your breeder might offer their own form of payment plan, which may cost less than a standard personal loan.

Pros of financing a dog
  • Buying a dog on finance could allow you to purchase the breed of dog that you want, which may be a more expensive option than opting for a shelter dog or a cheaper breed.
  • You can pay for your dog in incremental instalments, rather than all in one go. This can help to mitigate the overall cost of a dog.
  • If you make your repayments on time, you could improve your credit score.
  • You can apply for more than the cost of the dog in order to cover extras like vaccinations, toys and dog beds.
Cons of financing a dog
  • You may struggle to qualify for a secured personal loan when purchasing a dog, which is often cheaper than an unsecured personal loan.
  • Your dog will end up costing you more in the long term with a personal loan than it would if you paid in full up-front.
  • If your circumstances change and you find yourself unable to repay your loan, you may also not be in a financial position to keep your dog well cared for.

Eligibility criteria and documents needed when financing a dog

The eligibility criteria will differ between loans, but the following are some basic requirements you will need to meet:

  • Be over the age of 18
  • Have a good credit rating
  • Be an Australian citizen or permanent Australian resident

The information you will be asked to provide will depend on the loan you apply for. You will most likely need to provide the following:

  • Personal details including your name, contact information and proof of identification
  • Name and contact details of your employer
  • Details of your employment, including income amount and how you're employed (full time, part time etc)
  • Financial details including your assets, liabilities and any other active credit accounts

You can check the eligibility criteria for each individual loan on the Finder review page. If you have any concerns, make sure you reach out to the lender directly before you apply.

Is owning a dog worth it?

Becoming best friends with your new canine companion can be a fulfilling experience in many people's lives. That being said, owning or adopting a dog takes a lot of time, money and commitment – so whether it's worth it for everyone is completely down to the individual.

In the year 2021-22 alone, a total of 19,221 dogs were turned over to the Australian RSPCA, with just 36% of these being successfully rehomed. Many of the owners who turn these dogs over to shelters are those who have not properly considered what owning a dog means and whether it's suitable for them.

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 understand the financial costs of owning a dog before taking the plunge.

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