have to buy kibble, a collar and a leash. That, plus the
upfront cost of a new pup, pretty much covers it, right?
quite. Most new pet owners grossly underestimate what it
actually costs to own a dog, say Wisconsin veterinarians
Race Foster and Marty Smith, founders of the pet supply
company Drs. Foster and Smith, on PetEducation.com.
food and regular veterinary care, consider licensing,
electric fences or regular fencing, home crates and
travel crates, training and obedience classes, boarding,
dog walking, dog-sitting, grooming, teeth cleaning,
treats, toys, poop bags, flea/tick meds, heartworm meds,
microchips, and spay/neuter surgery, if your breeder
didnít provide it. Not to mention collateral costs
such as carpet cleaning or replacement, ruined
furniture, doors scratched, gardens unearthed, screens
ripped or the extra deposit landlords require.
if you have a healthy dog. Allergies, eye trouble and
joint problems show up later.
American Pet Products Association pegs the annual cost
of a dog at $1,641. The American Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ASPCA, says the annual
cost is $695. Both agree first-year costs are higher.
spend $23 billion every year on pet food, $15 billion on
vet care and $2 billion on the initial purchase of all
pets, according to the American Pet Products
Association. The initial price of a dog ranges from $25
to $300, for an adoption fee for a rescue, to $3,000 and
up for a specific breed.
higher price can deliver a dog that costs less
long-term. Tessa Rawitzer of Bellingham, Wash., spent
$2,500 on an Australian labradoodle pup, named Arnold,
three years ago. That included documentation that both
parents were free of inherited defects, plus neutering,
shots, deworming, a crate and a manual. The breeder was
recognized by the labradoodle breed association and
rated by the Better Business Bureau.
is hoping all that will mean fewer medical bills over
the dogís life. Her previous dog, an equally beloved
rescue mutt named Jake, wound up costing much more. A
115-pound mix of German shepherd, Akita, and great Dane,
Jake was running when he tore one knee ligament, then a
few months later, the other. Surgery and follow-up care
cost $8,000. Arthritis and other issues, with
accompanying pain and meds, came later.
has had dogs all her life, usually rescues. This time,
too, she went to the local humane society first. They
had Chihuahuas and pit bulls, 6 months old, heredity and
temperaments unknown. "I was not going to chance
it," Rawitzer said. "You donít know what youíre
Barklage of Lake St. Louis, Mo., got her 2-month-old
Shih Tzu and cairn terrier mix, Sandy, from a pet store.
At a regular six-month checkup, the vet noticed
something odd about Sandyís leg. A trip to a
specialist confirmed a genetic bone problem. Choices
presented to Barklage included surgery, at $1,500, or do
nothing, which could necessitate amputation later.
"She was young; she had her whole life ahead. And
we loved her. She was a great dog."
was the right decision, Barklage says, but recovery was
stressful and time-consuming. The first stage, sedation
and caging, lasted a month. "Sandy had to keep
weight off her foot. She was either in the cage or
sitting on my lap." Recovery took another four
weeks and required constant watching. "But she was
worth every penny. Dogs are. She lived six years after
that. Her (eventual) death was devastating to us."
has not gotten another dog. "You never know what
youíre going to get. Even a purebred has issues.
Unless youíve seen where the puppy was raised, you
have no idea where it came from."
owners overlook the potential cost of accidents,
Rawitzer says. Arnold, her labradoodle, at one point
lapped up a tiny, tasty bristle that had fallen out of
the barbecue-cleaning brush. An X-ray, treatment and
follow-up X-ray came to $400. That accident happened
during regular vet hours. The next time he ate something
he shouldnít have, it was during the weekend. That
trip to the emergency vet resulted in a $1,200 bill.
owners may not consider ongoing needs, such as boarding
if they travel. Grooming averages $65 plus tip per
monthly visit, more if the owner doesnít keep up with
important than expense, most new owners donít realize
the time a dog requires, says vet Michelle Schraeder,
owner of Mountain Veterinary Hospital in Bellingham,
Wash. That includes training, socialization with other
dogs and people, and whatever it takes to ensure a
decent home life. Itís not OK to let a dog roam the
neighborhood or be tied to a chain.
a lifelong dog owner now retired from a corporate job,
agrees. "You need to walk your dog. Itís
excellent exercise and socialization for humans too. Itís
a good way to make new friends.
the time," Rawitzer says. "You get back a
whole lot of love."