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Just how much is that doggie in the window? Often times in adoption, it’s the doggie, itself, that is the least expensive part of the equation!
According to a March report by the AP, Americans spent a record $56 billion on pets in 2013, and the numbers for 2014 are expected to nearly hit $60 billion. On what, you ask? To start: food (often specialty), veterinary care, supplies, prescriptions, and pet-specific services including grooming, boarding, training, and pet-sitting. And the list goes on!
First, ask yourself, “What pet can I afford?” A list published by financial-planning website Mint.com listed the top 10 cheapest pets to own – with fish, hamsters, guinea pigs, and geckos all making appearances. So if you’re looking for a starter pet to teach responsibility to a child or want a colorful living thing to energize your studio apartment without adding a huge line item to your household budget - start here!
But if your animal instincts leave you desiring a furry creature with four paws and a “waggily tail,” there’s still a lot to consider. If you already have a rescue friend in mind, read on! If not, start your search on ASPCA.org, Petfinder, Petango or your local animal shelter websites to see the wide array of dogs in need of a home!
This month we’ll cover the average expenses of adoption fees, food, and veterinary care. Make sure to check back next month for Part 2 when we talk about some of the unanticipated costs, like training and daily dog-walking services, and provide you with some great free resources to start your pet planning!
Often, prospective pet adopters are turned off by adoption fees – some think, “If nobody wants the animal, why should I have to pay for it?” however, adoption fees are an important part of ensuring the proper placement of an animal (making sure adopters have sound intentions), and also cover the initial veterinary expenses a shelter incurs per animal (spay/neuter fees, de-worming, initial vaccinations, etc.). Some shelters have “sales” on adoption fees, especially for the pups that are harder to find homes for (like black dogs and senior dogs). Expect adoption fees range from $50-$250.
A Yorkshire Terrier will nibble on ¼ to ¾ cups of food daily, while a giant breed such as a Great Dane or St. Bernard can easily down 2-4 cups in a 24-hour period. If your dog requires a specialty diet (like a limited-ingredient or hypoallergenic kibble prescribed by a veterinarian), the cost of a bag of food can more than double. You can price-compare at Petco and Petsmart, and on websites likeWag.com and DrsFosterAndSmith.com – check for auto-ship savings! And don’t forget about treats and chews!
Petfinder, one of North America’s leading online search databases of adoptable animals, published a list of average annual dog care costs including a breakdown of medical expenses. As you can imagine, the numbers vary depending on your dog’s breed, health condition, and geographic location. But expect at least a few hundred dollars annually for routine check-ups, vaccinations, and preventative medications (flea/tick and heartworm). Expenses from accidents or illnesses can skyrocket, especially if ongoing care is needed – so be sure to have a plan in place and put some money aside in case you were to be hit with a $5,000+ vet bill!
Will you purchase pet insurance? Objective websites like CanineJournal publish comparisons of the major providers every year. Most plans offer a monthly premium with a discount if you pay annually. You can also visit individual provider sites like GoPetPlan and PetsBest to “fetch” free quotes! If pet insurance isn’t an option (remember, dogs are subject to pre-existing condition clauses just like humans!), then start a Pet Savings Account right away.