How much is a dog?

Here’s what you should budget before welcoming a new dog to the family

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Buying a dog is a lot more expensive than you'd think. There are so many costs aside from the initial purchase. Dogs need a lot of care, and no two dogs are alike. Food expenses add up fast, especially if your pup enjoys eating like a horse or needs to be on a strict medical diet.

Another ongoing expense often forgotten with dogs is medical care. You never know when your dog may accidentally swallow something dangerous. We’ll discuss what costs to budget for when you are planning to add a pooch to your home.

Key insights

Puppies generally cost more the first year, with ongoing costs as the dog matures.

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There are a lot of hidden costs with owning a puppy, including day care, adoption fees and renting fees.

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An emergency vet visit without pet insurance can set you back several thousand dollars.

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Dog costs estimates

It can be hard to estimate how much your dog will cost. Generally, though, the first year is the most expensive. Not only do you have to purchase the dog or pay fees, but you also need to pay for medical care.

Additional puppy costs to consider

Adopting or purchasing a dog comes with hidden expenses far beyond monthly food and yearly vet visits. During the first year, you'll need to buy more supplies and pay for initial vaccinations and spay or neutering costs.

  • Day care: Many people cannot care for puppies full time while working. Pet day care provides a solution, but costs range from $20 to $100 daily.
  • Apartment fees and deposits: Most apartment complexes require pet deposits and monthly fees. These expenses can add up when you're already covering moving costs.
  • Dog walking: Puppies need frequent walks for exercise and bathroom breaks. If your schedule doesn't allow this, consider the cost of hiring a dog walker.
  • Pet training: Training can be challenging. While do-it-yourself approaches are possible, you'll need treats and training tools. Professional training classes offer guidance but can cost $1,500 to $4,500 annually.
  • Dog sitting and boarding: When you want to get away but can’t take your pup along, you will need to hire a pet sitter or check in to a boarding facility. Boarding facilities can cost between $56 and $71 per night, but rates vary by location.

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How to save money on a dog

Owning a dog can be costly, but there are smart ways to save money. Here are some popular strategies dog owners use to cut costs:

  • Groom them at home: Grooming can cost between $30 to $60 per groom, and some breeds will require regular grooming as part of their hygiene routine. Investing in a grooming kit can save you time and money.
  • Subscribe to dog food subscriptions: Many online stores that sell dog food will also offer subscription options and online coupons.
  • Adopt an adult dog: Technically, adopting an adult dog isn't always cheaper, since some might have more health issues or require additional obedience training. However, if you can find a healthy dog older than 2, you might be able to forgo spay or neutering costs and the initial vaccination fees.
  • Buy secondhand toys and accessories: Toys, dog beds and accessories don't have to be new. Check your local neighborhood listing or thrift stores for gently used items for a fraction of the cost.
  • Invest in preventive health: Investing in preventive health care measures, such as dental care, vitamins and quality dog food, can prevent costly medical issues down the road.

Can pet insurance help you with dog costs?

Pet insurance covers accidents, illnesses and medications. Each insurance company covers vet visits differently. Pet insurance can help lower your pet's bill, but it depends on the type of insurance. At the vet, you pay the bill and then submit a claim to get the money reimbursed.

According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the monthly average cost of accident and illness coverage for a dog in 2023 was $56.30. You can find cheaper coverage depending on your plan, deductible and age and breed of your dog. Pet insurance can significantly save you money in the case of an accident or illness, but if your dog remains healthy and accident-free, the added expense might not feel worth it.

Emergency vet costs

Emergencies happen. Some dog breeds are also more susceptible to specific diseases and ailments. For instance, pugs can suffer from overheating and respiratory problems. Having to take your pet to the vet because of their breathing can set you back if you don’t have insurance.

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    How much should I budget for a dog each year?

    Budgeting for your dog is necessary to avoid financial mishaps. To be safe, it's good to budget for at least $4,000 each year. This number includes vet visits, food, supplies and more.

    What are some hidden costs of dog ownership?

    There are many hidden costs of dog ownership. Some of these include pet toys, preventive medications, dog sitting or boarding costs, and apartment fees.

    How often do dogs need to go to the vet?

    Dogs need to visit the vet at least once a year for an annual checkup. Puppies grow fast and require more visits.

    Do I need pet insurance?

    Everyone's needs are different, but pet insurance is helpful. You never know when an emergency will spring up. Pet insurance can significantly lower the amount of money you spend out of pocket on vet bills.

    Bottom line

    Dogs are called "man's best friend” for a good reason. However, it's essential to remember that welcoming a dog into your life is a significant commitment of time, money and care. Make sure you plan out your pup purchase accordingly so your new friend doesn’t cause you financial strain.

    Article sources
    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. Animal Humane Society, “Adoption Fees.” Accessed April 29, 2024.
    2. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “Cancer Management - Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed April 29, 2024.
    3. PetMD, “Pug.” Accessed April 29, 2024.
    4. WebMD, “What to Know About Costs of Emergency Veterinary Care.” Accessed April 29, 2024.
    5. North American Pet Health Insurance Association, “Section #3: Average Premiums.” Accessed April 29, 2024.
    6. Porter County Animal Shelter, “The Costs Of Owning A Dog.” Accessed April 29, 2024.
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