Dog Ownership Costs from Head to Tail

Estimated Reading Time 6 minutes
Dog Ownership Costs from Head to Tail

Puppies are irresistibly cute! But their unrelenting energy can tax your patience and make a mess. Older dogs are calm and unassuming, but they can develop special needs or medical conditions. No matter the age you adopt them, all dogs deserve proper care. In order to provide this lifelong care, it’s important to understand the costs you can expect to incur throughout your pet’s life. Keep reading to learn more!

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According to statistics compiled by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the average one-time cost of adopting a dog is approximately $1000. This includes spaying or neutering, initial vaccines, collar or harness and leash, microchipping, a crate, simple training classes or aids, and grooming tools (brushes and clippers).

From there, the cost for food, vaccines, wellness exams, preventative medication, toys, treats, licensing, health insurance, grooming consumables like shampoo, and occasional boarding fees escalates to approximately $1400 per year.

Should your pup need professional grooming or a dental cleaning the total price tag for adding a pooch can exceed $3000.

These numbers are estimates; and depending on the source, there can be a wide variation. A prospective dog owner needs to thoughtfully consider not only their lifestyle but also their budget. Before bringing a new best friend home, some preliminary calculations are in order.

1. How much is that doggy?

This can range from nothing (free-to-a-good-home, an unclaimed stray, or an inheritance) to approximately $50 -100 from a pet rescue, to thousands of dollars for a purebred. Chow-Chows, Tibetan Mastiff, and Samoyed are some of the most expensive breeds. (Approximate cost range: $0 – 6,000)

2. Basic Supplies

Your pup needs a collar or harness and leash. How about food and water bowls? Do you need a mat to protect the floor? Some toys? Do they need a bed? A kennel? Do you need to fence your yard? Again, this cost can vary greatly depending on you and your dog’s particular needs. Determine what is truly a need, and hold off on the wants until everyone is somewhat settled. Don’t forget a pooper scooper and disposable bags! (Approximate cost range: $20 – 200+)

3. How much food will they eat?

The best person to ask, your vet, may give you a small sample of puppy chow to try. But, once that’s gone, you’re on your own! Less expensive food may seem like a bargain, but nutrition is important for animals too. You’ll save money in the long run, especially on vet bills, if you stick to a high-quality food. Remember that the larger the dog, the more food they will consume. How about treats? (Approximate cost range: $120 – 900+)

4. Do they need a groomer?

Grooming refers not only to baths and haircuts, but also to nail trims, ear cleaning, and possibly teeth brushing and anal-gland expression. The anal glands are two small sacs on either side of the anal opening. They are normally emptied when your pooch empties their bowels, however, they can sometimes clog due to gastrointestinal issues. (A high-quality food will help prevent this.)

Your dog’s coat, breed, and temperament will determine if you can perform these tasks yourself. If you’ve never cut nails, cleaned ears, or expressed anal glands, ask your vet to demonstrate before attempting it. Oh - and the anal glands? Plug your nose! (Approximate cost range: $25 – 1,400)

5. What about medical expenses?

Shortly after acquiring your new best friend, a vet check is in order. A very young pup may simply need a quick examination of his eyes, ears, teeth, heart, and lungs. Depending on the dog’s age, they may also receive their first series of vaccines and deworming medication. Most puppies are born with internal parasites that have been passed along by their mother. External parasites such as fleas, ticks, and lice can be eliminated with either topical or oral medication.

For pups older than six months, a blood draw, which the American Heartworm Society recommends yearly, is necessary to test for heartworm disease before starting a year-round regimen of preventative medication. Depending on where you obtained your pooch, this first visit, along with some of the extras, may be covered by the adoption fee or may have already been given. The age at which the Rabies vaccine is administered, as well as licensing requirements, is dictated by your locality.

Your vet will help you decide when to spay or neuter your dog. This surgical procedure can help prevent future medical and behavioral problems as well as control pet overpopulation. There is no medical justification for allowing a female to have one litter.

Annual vet checks are important at every age to monitor any changes in your dog’s health and weight, administer vaccines, and check their stool. As your pet ages, extra screening (bloodwork, x-rays, etc.) and chronic health conditions that require lifelong meds can be costly. And unless you can get your pup to lie still with his mouth open, a simple dental cleaning is going to require anesthesia. (Approximate cost range: $900 – 2,000)

Finally, accidents happen - deep cuts, broken bones, scratched corneas, and eating inedibles. When it’s an emergency, you can’t wait. A wise pet owner will set aside an emergency fund or invest in pet insurance. (Approximate cost range $200 – 2000)

6. Sit, Stay.

All dogs need some training. The type and amount (and cost) will depend on the individual canine, their upbringing, and to some extent their size and breed. Can you provide the type of training they need, or should you hire a pro? Classes can run from basic and advanced obedience, to agility, guide dog, and vocational training.

(Approximate cost range: $10 – 100+/hour)

7. Hiding in Plain Sight

  • While you’re at work or traveling, where is your pup? At doggie daycare? Ka-ching. Did you hire a dog walker or pet sitter? Ka-ching, ka-ching.
  • Will you be traveling or moving with your dog?
  • Will your landlord add a monthly pet fee or raise your security deposit?
  • How much will it cost to replace a chewed carpet? A pair of shoes? A door!?
  • As unfair as it is, there are still some breeds that elicit fear. Should you adopt a Pitbull, Rottweiler, or Doberman (among others), you may pay a premium for homeowner’s insurance in case of a biting incident.

Please note that The Humane Society provides information for those who may need help caring for their pet.

The Final Cost

That day always comes, and we’re never prepared for it. This is the one instance in our dog’s life that we’d mortgage the house for. Who else would provide us with unconditional love and unending devotion? Treasure your time together. The final cost is always your heart.

Read more:

Pet Insurance Guide for Dog Owners

Pre-Existing Conditions: Helpful Tips You’ll Appreciate About Pet Health Insurance

Veterinary Virtual Care - FAQ

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Published: 6/2/2022
Dr. Sheena Haney, Veterinarian

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