The Real Cost of Owning a Dog

Picture of 4 puppies

Have you ever wondered what it actually costs to own a dog? If most dog owners sat down and analyzed their canine-related expenses from year to year, they might be terrified! Still no one ever minds spending money on their best canine pal. When considering whether or not to add a dog to your family, it is always a good idea to examine what the costs will be prior to making a decision. Though it is possible to own a dog on a meager budget, there are certain expenses that should be prepared for, and it is helpful to have an idea of what to expect. What is the true cost of owning a dog?

The Premise

Any article that promises to give you a bottom line definitive amount that you can expect to spend over the life of a dog shouldn’t be trusted. After all, there are many variables that come into play with dog ownership. The life expectancy of your breed of choice as well as the age and health condition of the specific dog you select will determine how much money you will ultimately spend.

Other considerations include the upfront cost to acquire your dog. Did you pick out your precious bundle of joy from a rescue or shelter? Did you take in a stray off the street? Perhaps you devoted an inordinate amount of time to choosing just the right breeder from whom you would obtain your best canine pal. These choices too will affect cost.

With all of these things in mind, we will base our study on a dog breed of moderation: the Beagle. Beagles enjoy excellent longevity with life expectancies ranging from 10-14 years of age. They are also a breed that typically is of excellent health with most medical concerns arising only as the dog ages. The Beagle is also of moderate size, and if his food is carefully proportioned for him, will only eat a moderate amount of food on a daily basis.

Bear in mind that should you opt to purchase a large breed dog or a dog with a much longer or shorter life expectancy than that of the Beagle, your expenses may be vastly different from what is represented in this article.

Also, the article focuses on providing the best necessary care for a dog throughout the course of its life. These financial amounts represent the average care for the average dog, not those who might have crossed that…ahem…fine line such as this writer whose beloved pooch’s matching leash, collar, and winter jacket costs more than his own very best Sunday suit.

How Much Will It Cost to Purchase My New Dog?

Many people balk when they hear breeders quote the purchase price for one of their puppies. However, whether you pay $3,000, a couple of hundred dollars, or nothing at all, this cost is merely a down payment compared to what you will spend over the lifetime of a dog.

Consider the cost of your dog an investment. Though it is not necessary to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to get yourself a great companion, dogs from reputable breeders are from health-tested parents, meaning they are free from genetic diseases which could befall that specific breed. The extra money spent to acquire a puppy from a reputable breeder could equate to realized savings as these puppies typically remain healthy for the majority of their lives. However, since genetics is a cruel game, no breeder can offer a one hundred percent guarantee that one of their dogs will never become ill before succumbing to old age. You do, however, have the assurance that all requisite testing has been done, and to the best of human knowledge, your pup is free from common health ailments for that breed.

This is not to discount puppies or adult dogs from rescues, shelters, or even a stray you find on the street. All dogs are valuable, and all dogs should have a home and be loved. It is just wise to bear in mind that dogs that come from a shelter, a rescue, or from the street are a gamble as their health history is entirely unknown. The dog you purchase could enjoy excellent health for their whole life or become deathly ill at a young age. You just never know.

So, with this in mind, what will it cost to obtain a dog? Let’s go with a middle of the road figure and say our Beagle puppy is going to cost $1,200. This is a one time expense to purchase the puppy. It is most certainly not the highest amount you might pay for a dog nor is it the lowest. It is simply an average.

Total cost to acquire puppy=$1,200

How Much Will I Spend in Food?

When it comes to food, there are a number of variables to take into account. First of all, how much food will your dog eat? A toy breed such as a Yorkshire Terrier will eat far less than a Great Dane.

But it’s not just the amount your dog eats that equates to cost. There are many different “grades” and types of food you can feed your pooch. If you prefer to feed a raw or home cooked diet, you will spend much more money than someone who walks into their nearest grocery store and grabs a bag of the cheapest kibble available.

Though a dog should always be fed the highest quality diet you can afford, it is not necessary to purchase a premium level food to keep your dog healthy and happy. Beagles typically do best on a high protein diet due to their higher activity levels.

An active healthy Beagle will eat approximately 1 cup of kibble per day. A 25 lb bag of a medium grade kibble costs $100 and contains up to 100 cups of food per package. This means that you will need to purchase 4 bags a year, bringing your yearly food cost to $400. This means that if your dog lives to be 12 years old, you will have spent $4,800 in food for your Beagle in his lifetime.

Bear in mind that your dog’s appetite will wax and wane with activity and age. Your Beagle may eat a little extra food as a puppy or during periods of intense exercise, but this is balanced out during the senior years when your dog is less active and requires less food to maintain body weight and good health.

Total cost of food for the life of the dog=$4,800

How Much Will Training Cost?

Obviously, training costs are mostly expended during the puppy years. But since the Beagle is a hunting breed, some owners like to enter them in classes designed to strengthen their natural abilities such as scentwork.

A 6 week puppy socialization class will typically cost $150. If you opt to move up to the Level One obedience class, you will pay an additional $150 for that set of classes as well. Since Beagles are not an easy breed to train, most families opt to stop after the dog has mastered his basic commands.

Breeds who excel at training such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and even Jack Russell Terriers may benefit from further training opportunities, and this, of course, would drive up the cost of training in your own personal estimate.

But for the Beagle, the average training costs for the life of the dog are $300. This figure does not include treats or any necessary tools such as leashes, collars, clickers, or other accessories. These will be factored into the total cost in a subsequent section.

Total cost for training=$300

How Much Will Be My Vet Costs Be?

Estimating veterinary costs can be very tricky. Of course, we know that vaccinations are a must. Many families also purchase flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives yearly. These items are basic care and can easily be predicted. What cannot be as easily foreseen is any additional medical care your dog might require throughout their lifetime. With this in mind, it is always advisable that you put away a minimum of $2,000 for emergency care. This would help to cover any unexpected accidents, injuries, or illnesses for your dog. Beagles are particularly prone to eating things that they shouldn’t. Should your dog experience a blockage, it will require an expensive surgery, and it would be a terrible shame to be unable to give your dog the medical attention he needs simply because the finances are not there. With this in mind, regardless of breed, it is wise to start a savings account today. Aim to keep a minimum of $2,000 in the account, but you can continue to add to it gradually to increase the amount in case it is ever needed. We will add this suggested rainy day veterinary care fund to the bottom line of expenses for veterinary care for your dog.

It is also recommended that your dog receive a once yearly wellness exam from your veterinarian up until the senior years when your dog should see a vet twice yearly. This can help prevent the onset of an illness that might go undetected until it is too late to treat.

End of life care will be treated separately in a different portion of the article, so we will leave those costs until then.

Veterinary visits range in cost depending on the clinic and where in the world you happen to live. As an average, we will say that each wellness exam costs $75. Your dog needs one per year until after age 8 then 2 per year at a minimum. Assuming our Beagle lives to be 12, the cost for wellness exams alone will be $1,200.

In addition to this, your puppy will require a set of puppy vaccinations of which there are three in a series to be boostered at one year of age. Most vets also recommend vaccination for rabies at age 6 months with a booster administered for it one year after the initial shot. Though vaccination protocols differ from vet to vet, we will assume the most commonly recommended schedule of re-vaccination is every 3 years for core vaccines with none given after age 8. If each set of vaccinations costs $75, your dog will require 8 sets of shots costing a total of $600.

Flea, tick, and heartworm treatments also vary in cost. One of the most popular treatments must be done monthly and costs $15 per tube, bringing the cost to $180 per year. The total cost for preventatives would be $2,160 over 12 years.

Lastly, since every dog has the occasional one-off ear infection, cut paw, or bout of conjunctivitis where veterinary care is required, we will add a line expense of $600 for unexpected veterinary visits.

This brings our total cost to $1,200 in wellness exams, $2,000 in an emergency fund, $600 for lifetime vaccinations, $2,160 for flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives, and $600 for emergency vet visits.

Total amount for veterinary care=$7,360

What Can I Expect to Pay in Grooming Costs?

Grooming costs for a Beagle are next to none. You’ve chosen your breed well! Other than the occasional shampooing and regular nail clipping, you’re getting off easy.

However, this is where the bill can ratchet up dramatically for people who opt to purchase a breed such as an Old English Sheepdog, a Poodle, or a Labradoodle who will require frequent bathing, brushing, and visits to the groomer. These costs could easily range in the thousands of dollars per year.

For our Beagle, we simply need to purchase a good set of nail clippers at the cost of $20 and some shampoo every three years at the cost of $20 per bottle. This brings our grooming costs to $100.

Total grooming costs=$100

What Will Boarding Cost Me?

Boarding is an expense that you may never have to pay. But if you plan to go on vacation somewhere where Fido will not be welcome, you will have to consider boarding your pooch at a kennel unless you have a family member or friend willing to take care of your main canine squeeze until you return home.

Kennel expenses also range in price depending on their location and the services offered, but $30 per night seems to be a standard cost. Assuming you go on vacation 5 times throughout your dog’s life for a period of 7 days each time, you will pay $1,050 in boarding fees.

If you opt to bring your pooch along with you for your vacation, many hotels have a pet policy. While they welcome your dog with open arms, they also expect you to pay a fee for the privilege. This fee is most often not refundable and can range as high as $25 per night. For our purposes, we will say that you bring Fido along for a hotel holiday for a total of 20 nights during his lifetime. At $25 per night, this brings the total hotel expense for Fido to $500.

Total cost for boarding=$1,550

How much can I expect to pay in wear and tear on my house?

There is no doubt that your house will experience some abuse if you own a dog! You may find you end up losing a few of your favorite pairs of shoes due to a canine chewing fiend and more than one couch might succumb to damage from canine nails. Flooring can often become scratched up beyond all hope of repair. What about the cost of chemicals to treat the urine stains on your lawn, and the cost of replenishing your underwear supply because Fido seems to have taken off with most of yours?

All of these expenses add up for sure though they are not necessarily replaced in one lump expenditure. As a conservative estimate, we will cite $2,000 as the expense for home repair due to wear and tear from sharing your house with a dog.

Total cost for household wear and tear=$2,000

How Much Can I Expect to Pay in Wear and Tear on My House?

Many families who would rather not have to try to maintain a cash emergency fund consider pet insurance. Pet insurance can be an excellent option, for sure, but not all pet insurances are created equally.

All pet insurance providers have a deductible that you must pay. Some of them offer a deductible per accident or illness but then offer free coverage for the life of the dog for that particular condition once the deductible amount has been met. The down side to this is that it is PER ACCIDENT OR CONDITION, meaning you might meet a deductible for one problem and never encounter it again. You could be paying deductibles for life and never realize any actual savings.

Other companies offer a yearly deductible. Once that amount has been met, you receive a percentage back of funds spent for the remainder of that calendar year.

Most pet insurance companies also institute limits and will not cover pre-existing conditions. With this in mind; if you opt to purchase insurance for your dog, it is best to do it when your dog is a puppy to gain the maximum possible coverage as a puppy is unlikely to have any medical issues which could be claimed as pre-existing.

Not all pet insurance companies will cover medications and required diagnostic tests, so these could also add up to additional, unforeseen costs for you.

Typical medical coverage for a young dog ranges around $50 per month with a $250 deductible for the year. Should you opt to purchase health insurance for your dog, you would be paying $600 a year in premiums plus a $250 deductible yearly bringing your annual total to $850 year or $10,200 over the 12 year life span of your dog. This is assuming that the full deductible is paid yearly, but the dog did not require enough care for any refund to be issued which is typically the case. Given this incredible cost when viewed as a whole, it is easy to see why most families prefer a cash emergency fund. However, it is worth considering pet insurance as accidents can happen, and having the coverage is one way to ensure that your dog will receive the emergency care he needs. It is always wise to remember that most companies do require that you pay the entire cost up front then wait for reimbursement. Since many families do not have access to that much cash so quickly, it is often easier to open a savings account to be prepared for an emergency situation.

We will consider pet insurance optional and not include it in our total cost for expenses associated with owning a dog for a lifetime.

What Are the Associated Costs with End of Life Care?

End of life care is always difficult. A time will come when every dog begins to fail and specialized care is required. Many dogs fall victim to cancer, but other ailments may befall your pooch as well including failing eyesight and hearing, degenerative disc disease, arthritis, dementia, and even kidney, liver, or heart failure. Beagles can be prone to both heart murmurs and kidney disease as they age.

Though it is nearly impossible to estimate how much end of life care will cost, we can safely assume that the senior Beagle will require medication to manage pain in the last two or three years of life. Pain medications for a Beagle typically run around $50 per month. If a pain management regimen is adopted at age 10 and lasts until the dog passes at age 12, the total cost for pain medications would be $1,800.

It is also a fair assumption that your dog will also require other medications to manage symptoms which appear with old age. Some dogs will require dentals and even minor or major surgeries. To err on the side of caution, we will estimate $4,000 to dedicate to care from age 10 through 12 when problems most typically appear. This money includes the cost of euthanasia and cremation (approximately $500 for both), medications, surgeries, diagnostic testings or necessary medical treatments such as chemotherapy, orthopedic beds, and special foods and/or supplements.

Total cost for end of life care: $5,800

Are There Any Miscellaneous Expenses I Need to Know About?

Oh, yes! There are lots of miscellaneous expenses that come with owning a dog. But let’s start with the things that we know we need to have. Every Beagle should have a crate. A dog crate for a Beagle will cost approximately $60. But no crate is complete without a comfy blanket or crate pad which adds another $25 to our cost.

Your dog will also need a comfortable bed to call his own. Since nothing lasts forever, you’ll likely need to buy a few over the course of Fido’s life. And you’ll need more than one since Fido likes to spend his time in many different rooms in the house. Let’s assume you buy 2 beds every 3 years at a cost of $50 per bed. That brings our bedding total to $400.

Of course, Fido is going to need a collar and a leash. Both wear out over time, so your pooch will need 1 collar every 2 years and a new leash every 3. If 1 collar is $20 and a new leash is $30, you will be paying $120 for collars, and $120 in leashes bringing our total for collars and leashes to $240.

Training treats! How can we forget training treats? Since you’ll be going through a lot of them and good quality treats cost about $10 a bag, you’ll likely need at least 2 bags per month for 12 years. That’s $2,880 in treats over a lifetime. Make sure you purchase a clicker too as that’s an integral part of any training program. Available for only $10, that raises your total only marginally to $2,890.

Of course, we can’t forget those little add-on extras that make life fun such as Halloween and Christmas costumes, poop bags, dog boots, dog coats, dog bowls, and lots and lots of dog toys. We can safely allot $3,000 in this category, spread out over the course of 12 years.

And lastly, what about those McDonalds hamburgers as a reward for being a good boy at the vet or the occasional ice cream on a hot summer’s day? Can’t forget to add those to the cost…so, we must allow $200 for these items as well.

Then there are the true miscellaneous items; the things we don’t realize we need but somehow end up buying anyway such as dog tags and licenses. They add $1,000 to our bottom line.

Total cost for miscellaneous items=$7,815

So, What Is the True Cost of a Dog?

Based on our calculations, the total cost for owning dog a comes to $30,925. For a dog living to the ripe old age of 12, that equates to $2,577.83 per year.

Dogs are expensive; there is no doubt. But to the true dog lover, sharing their life with a dog is priceless.



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