How Much Does It Cost to Own A Pet?
All three of my fur babies came into my life when I needed a hand - and instead I found their paw. There is Toulouse, the most stubborn and determined tiny feline who is convinced he can in fact speak human. We have our bernese girly, Brooke, who's smile is infectious and has the kindest, most tender soul. And then there is Bow, our second bernese, who keeps our life interesting and full of laughter. Toulouse was as stray kitten who came into my life at the tender age of 5 weeks old. He was sick and weighed merely 11 ounces; the vets did not know why he was still alive. But my connection with this tiny creature was immediate and it became my mission to ensure he lived and was brought back to health. Some would say I saved him, but I would argue that he saved me. I was going through the roughest time of my life when he found me. He gave me purpose. He taught what unconditional love truly is. Brooke came to me as a sign 5 months later. Having a bernese mountain dog was something I had longed for deeply for over a decade, and I had faith that one day I would finally have one when my life finally started falling into place. Well, my life quickly all fell into place. When I met the love of my life, Mitch, he was the proud father of Brooke. He jokes that the only reason I gave him a chance was because I wanted her in my life; and while that is only ever so slightly true, having her did sincerely feel like a sign that my life was finally going in the right direction and I was exactly where, and with whom, I was meant to be. Bow came into our lives 4 months after that as a testament of our commitment. Mitch and I had spent countless of hours talking about our future together and we knew we wanted to expand our family. Next thing we knew we were grabbing a coffee and taking a drive out to meet some puppies. While waiting for our appointment to meet some puppies, the family before us was meeting an older litter that ready to go home right away - which was not our original intention, but Bow found his way into Mitch’s arms, and Mitch and I instantly knew he was ours. That was the moment we decided to jump two feet in together into this crazy thing called life and we have never looked back. We moved in together the following day, and Bow came home that weekend.
Now, while our fur babies are most absolutely one of our biggest blessings, they do not come without sacrifice. Providing for them and giving them the best life we can comes at a high financial cost, one that should not be taken lightly when considering bringing any living creature into your life. There have been multiple aspects of our life that we have gladly chosen to forgo so that we are able to financially provide for them. And though I want to share real numbers with you so that you can better understand how much of a financial impact they are, I encourage you to do your own research, and bare in mind that these numbers are based on where we live, our personal decisions, as well as their particular needs. Not all pets will be the same, and you may choose different alternatives than we have, but I’m hoping this gives you an idea.
So lets begin with the most obvious expense, food. This is an area that will be completely personal to you, therefore the financial impact will greatly vary. Only you can decide what you would like to feed your pets, and only you will understand what your pet’s individual needs are. Our dogs' breed is commonly known for being at high risk of severe health complications due to their size and weight, along with genetics predisposing them to cancer. For this reason, diet is our primary priority with them and we would like to decrease these risks as much as possible, so we feed our dogs one of the cleanest, highest quality food commercially available in our area. Bow also suffers from a chicken allergy, limiting our food selections - we feed them a salmon formula. This formula averages out to $0.95 per cup. Bow eats 4 cups per day, and Brooke eats 3 cups per day. Our cost per month is $199.50. We have chosen to feed Toulouse a veterinary diet, again, as an attempt to limit potential health risks as well. One thing that came as a surprise to us is that cat food can be more expensive than dog food. His dry food averages to $1.15 per cup, and he eats one cup per day. His wet food averages to $2.71 per can, and he eats one can per day. Our cost per month is $116.00. Keep in mind, that is two 120-pound dogs vs. one 15-pound cat.
Our second highest expense for them is their insurance. While I know everyone feels differently about pet insurance, we have personally decided to obtain insurance for each pet. As mentioned previously, our dogs are predisposed to some severe health complications, some of which almost every dog in their breed experiences throughout their life time. The need for a hip and elbow replacement is almost a guaranteed with this breed. Where we live, these surgeries range between $6,000 - $13,000. Not to mention that those are only two of the common health complications. For us, we preferred to pay the monthly premiums so that when we are faced with the tough decision about their medical care, we are able to make those decisions based on what is best for them vs. what our finances will allows. Their insurance premium is $110.02 per dog, per month, bringing our cost for insurance to $220.04 per month. Again, this will greatly vary based on location, insurance company, dog’s breed, dog’s health, and age the dog is enrolled at. The cat’s premiums are $48.23 per month.
Medical expenses, including annual check ups and vaccines are not covered by insurance. Neither are neutering and spaying procedures. The cost of these services will greatly vary based on your location and your veterinary. The annual exam for the dogs costs us $70.00 per dog, and their annual vaccines cost $120.00 per dog. The cat’s annual check up costs $60.00, and his vaccines cost $50.00. Additionally, the spaying procedure for Brooke costed $460.00, neutering for Bow costed $1,873.70 (Bow had an accident which lead to him having to be neutered during his emergency surgery), otherwise it would have costed $370.00, and Toulouse’s neutering costed $240.00. Keep in mind these will likely not be the only medical expenses your pets require throughout their life time. Accidents are common and quickly add up between veterinary visits, tests, procedures and medications. It is common to find yourself at the vet for an unplanned visit one or two times a year (eating things they are not supposed to, stomach issues, broken nails, etc.).
Grooming is another common expense that comes with pet care. Your dog’s breed will determine the amount of grooming necessary, and costs can widely vary based on location and services required. Our dogs require extensive at home brushing, but surprisingly they do not require constant visits to the groomer. Our breed has incredibly sensitive skin which can lead to dry skin and other skin conditions from excess bathing and blow drying. It is recommended to groom them only every 3-4 months. Brooke gets mats in her belly and leg area despite our brushing efforts at home, so she goes to the groomer every 4 months where they can safely remove those. Bow does better with at home baths and brushing, so he only visits the groomer once a year. Each grooming appointment costs $104.00.
Treats and toys are well-known ways to reward your pet’s positive behaviour, as well as providing mental stimulation. When our dogs attended puppy school, we purchased treats for them costing around $36.00 a month for the dogs, and we would also purchased cat treats costing around $6.00 a month, depending on the treat selection. We have since stopped buying treats, as we found that all three of our pets are strongly food motivated and will be happy to eat anything – regardless of whether it’s a treat or not. Additionally, Bow has food sensitivities which were triggered more often when using treats. We now keep a separate container with their regular food and use this as “treats”. We also give them bananas, apples, and organic sugar-free peanut butter on occasion, which are staples in our household already. Toys is also something we no longer spend much money on. Our dogs will destroy just about any toy they have access to, even the though nylon trim ones. We would buy each a toy costing around $13.00 and they would last around a month. We now buy their toys at the dollar store for the price of $2.50 and have 4-5 toys available to them to rotate between. We replace them as needed. Our families also gift each dog a higher quality toy for every celebratory occasion, which has decreased the number of toys we have to purchase. The cat toys we also purchase from the dollar store and buy them as needed; they last a long time as long as the dogs do not have access to them. Our annual cost now for dog and cat toys is around $70.00.
Training your dog must also be a cost you consider. There are many available resources through YouTube or literature to guide you through training methods should you wish to forgo formal training classes. However, we personally believe that puppy classes are not only beneficial for training purposes, but for socializing the dog from a young age. We enrolled both our dogs in puppy school, each class costing $167.00. Please keep in mind that puppy school is not a substitute for in-home training. Training your dog is a daily commitment rather than just something you do only at your once-a-week class.
The last expense I am going to cover is day care, dog walking, boarding and/or pet siting. We have been fortunate enough to have family step in and watch out pets every time we have had to travel, our dogs only require one or two walks a day, and they can be left at home while we are at work without destructive behaviours (low energy dogs). Our cost for these categories has been negligible thus far. However, if your dog requires more frequent potty breaks or mental and physical stimulation, day care or dog walking services may be in your future. We researched these services in our area and for our dogs the cost would be $18.00 per walk plus $10.00 per additional dog, or $39.00 per dog for a full day of day care. Boarding our dogs would come at a nightly price tag of $53.00 per dog and $14 per cat, or $40 per night plus $25 for an additional dog plus $10 for an additional cat through pet sitting. Daily walks would be an additional $12.00 per dog for the pet sitting service.
So, how much does owning a pet cost? I have taken our lowest associated cost, I assumed 10 days of travel annually, and I assumed no day care or walking services will be necessary to come up with the following summary I also allocated an additional $200.00 for miscellaneous expenses such as a dog bed, nail clippers, brushes, leases, tags, shampoo, etc.
Annual expenses per dog
Food $ 1,206.00
Insurance $ 1,320.24
Exam $ 70.00
Vaccines $ 120.00
Grooming $ 104.00
Toys / Treats $ 744.00
Boarding $ 530.00
One-time expenses per dog
Neuter/Spay $ 370.00
Training $ 167.00
Miscellaneous $ 200.00
Annual expenses per cat
Food $ 1,392.00
Insurance $ 578.76
Exam $ 60.00
Vaccines $ 50.00
Grooming $ -
Toys / Treats $ 108.00
Pet sitting $ 100.00
One-time expenses per cat
Neuter/Spay $ 240.00