How Much Does Owning a Dog Really Cost?

How Much Does Owning a Dog Really Cost?

March 07, 2024

We are serious animal lovers here at Truman Wealth, and we know our clients are, too. For us, dogs are truly a woman’s best friend - all three of our woman-run Truman team are dog owners. But while our pups definitely make our lives a lot richer, can we say the same about our bank balances? Did any of us really know the true cost of owning a dog before we em-barked (couldn’t help myself!) on owning one?

With more than 86.9 million homes with pets in the United States, our furry friends are more important to us than ever before, and hold an increasingly elevated status in American society. A recent study by Synchrony found that seven out of 10 pet owners consider their pets members of the family, yet nearly half underestimate the cost of care over their pets’ lifetime.

Last year my partner Kyle and I welcomed our first pup into the family - a long limbed, chocolate colored ball of trouble called Max (short for Maximum Destruction), who has filled each day since with a lot more dirt and hair, but also a lot more love and happiness. 

We already had two cats, so we felt we had a pretty good understanding of what we were taking on. We spent a lot of time discussing things such as what kind of dog we wanted. Did we have enough space? Who would walk him? What if we wanted to travel? We felt pretty confident we had all the details locked down, until we started researching the real sums behind owning a dog.

The Real Cost of Owning a Dog

Unless you are already years into parenting a dog, you’ll likely be pretty surprised to learn that on average, you’ll be looking at spending somewhere in the region of $1,270 to $2,803 per year to keep your pup healthy and happy. 

Assuming a 15-year lifespan and including everything from initial purchase to end-of-life care, the total lifetime cost of owning a dog can run anywhere from $19,893 to $55,132. Woof.

Unfortunately, the chances are high that pet-related expenses will at some point be a source of stress. According to the Synchrony study, 45% of dog owners (and 38% of cat owners) thought they were financially ready for pet expenses — but were not.

Unanticipated expenses make an impact. Our fur babies cost us an average of $150 to $1,200 each time they are sick or injured. Pets who suffer serious trauma, such as getting hit by a car, or serious illness that requires hospitalization, could cost several thousand dollars per incident.

So are you really clear on what you’ll be spending your money on when you decide to welcome a dog into your home?

A Ruff Outline of Costs

Through our personal experience, Kyle and I found that the cost of dog parenthood can be broken into three main categories: upfront costs when you first bring your pup home, annual and ongoing costs, and optional extras that vary based on factors like your dog’s breed, age, and lifestyle.

Assuming good health, smaller dogs generally cost less than large ones, and purebred, purchased dogs are more expensive than mixed breed, adopted dogs. A young puppy also generally costs more than an older puppy or adult dog because they have added veterinary expenses. 

Depending on your new dog’s breed, size and age and whether you purchase from a breeder or adopt from a shelter, first-year dog expenses could range from $1,565 to $6,925. This will then most likely stay lower until your dog reaches the latter years of its life, when age-related health issues will likely start to add up.

First-Time Costs for a New Dog

Breeder and Adoption Fees

We are big proponents of adoption. There are so many beautiful pups in need of love, and their lives literally depend on being adopted within a very short time of entering the shelter. Our founder, Mindy, adopted Rogue, her second chance mutt with a brindle coat and a heart of gold. When Mindy adopted her nine years ago, she tried to change her name, to no avail. She only answered to Rogue. It suits her.

According to American Humane, 56 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are euthanized. Only 15.8 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their owners. Each year, a staggering average of 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized (390,000 dogs and 530,000 cats) according to the ASPCA.

Not only are you saving a life, but you will also be saving a lot of money, with adoption coming in as low as $50. Puppy adoption fees are usually higher than an adult or senior dog, and include most vaccines and veterinary care received prior to adoption. Rescued dogs are typically spayed or neutered before adoption, which is included in the adoption fee or provided at a discount shortly afterward.

By contrast, purebred or “designer” breed mixes from a puppy breeder typically cost around $1,000 to $2,000. Since most puppies are around 8 weeks old when purchased, this range does not include initial veterinary costs, such as vaccines, deworming and spay or neuter surgery.

Vaccinations and Veterinary Visits

Puppy costs are higher than adult dogs due to requiring more health care, including multiple vet visits during their first six months. Your puppy will need various vaccinations, depending on their expected lifestyle. Each vaccine costs around $20 to $40, and each veterinary visit can cost between $50 and $75. 

For older dogs, especially rescues where you don’t know their full history, it’s always a good idea to ask your vet for a titer test. Animal vaccine doses are not altered according to the size of your pet - they are a one-size-fits-all medication. To prevent overloading your pup’s system unnecessary, a titer test will determine how many antibodies your dog has in their system. 

Puppies also require deworming and monthly preventive medications for fleas, ticks and heartworms, which can range from $120 to $440, depending on the products chosen and the dog’s size. You can also opt for additional procedures such as microchipping, which will cost extra.

If you choose to spay or neuter your fur baby, the cost will vary depending on when and where the surgery is performed. On average, total spay or neuter costs can range from $200 to $700. If you adopt a dog, surgery will likely be provided by the shelter and included in any adoption fees.

Supplies and Food

Supplies and food make up about one-third of total first-year expenses, ranging from $587 to $2,135 depending on your dog’s size and breed. A small dog will obviously need smaller-sized supplies, make smaller accidents and eat less than a larger dog. 

Your pup’s personality and trainability will also impact costs. Dogs who like to chew will go through more toys (and furniture, shoes, bedding… you name it!).

According to MarketWatch, the average first-year puppy food and supply costs will include:

  • Food and treats: $200 to $900
  • Food and water bowls: $12 to $80
  • Collars, leashes and other safety supplies: $20 to $110
  • Dog beds: $20 to $150
  • Crate: $100 to $200
  • Potty supplies (pee pads and poop bags): $50 to $200
  • Cleaning supplies: $75 to $125
  • Toys: $100 to $300
  • Grooming supplies (e.g., brushes and shampoo): $10 to $70

Annual and Ongoing Costs

After the first year, your dog’s maintenance expenses will likely decrease but may go back up as your dog ages and develops age-related medical conditions. Keeping your dog active and healthy will help reduce your ongoing costs in the long run, and provide both you and your pup with a better quality of life as you enjoy walks and activities together.

Routine Veterinary Visits

Your adult dog should visit the veterinarian once or twice per year for routine care, including a physical examination, vaccine boosters, and intestinal parasite and heartworm testing. The total annual costs for basic vet care may range from $80 to $250 per year.

Some dog vaccinations are administered once every three years, while others are repeated annually. If your pet needs all their vaccinations in a single year, assuming an average vaccine cost of $30 to $40, this could be an additional $200, bringing your annual total to $280 to $450. 

Older dogs like Ellen’s gorgeous Mr. Mugsy will start to incur additional costs as their health inevitably declines. Issues like cataracts are a common but costly consideration to plan for.

Pet Food and Supplies

Adult dogs require more complex nutritional needs than puppies and some dogs need more expensive, specialty foods as they age, while others do fine on regular food. Generally, dry food is the least expensive, followed by canned food, fresh food and raw or specialty diets.

Ongoing supplies for adult dogs, which most commonly include treats, poop bags and toys, can cost anywhere from $150 to $830.

Flea, Tick and Heartworm Prevention

Parasite prevention is key to maintaining your dog’s health because these pests can transmit serious or deadly diseases to you or your pet. Parasite preventives are typically given as a monthly oral or topical medication, one for fleas and ticks and another for heartworm.

The size of your dog impacts the cost of parasite preventive treatments. Depending on the medication and your dog’s size, annual parasite prevention may total $120 to $440. You can lessen this cost by opting into pet insurance plan that covers flea and tick preventative options.

Additional Expenses

It’s important to factor in additional costs that you are likely to incur from time to time. Most of these, though infrequent, tend to be very expensive. I love to travel, as do our clients, so that means that dog sitting will always be an extra consideration. Saving towards this monthly can help make the expense feel a lot less daunting.

Pet Sitting and Boarding

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend or family member to watch your pet, you may save on these expenses, but sometimes dog owners need outside help. Pet sitters will typically come to your home to care for your pet a few times a day or stay with your pet 24/7 or overnight. Alternatively, some sitters will have your pup come and stay with them in their own home.

Boarding your dog in a larger kennel facility is typically less expensive than a pet sitter, but your dog may have less one-on-one time with staff members, and kennels can be a stressful environment for your precious fur baby.

Dog Training

All puppies should receive basic obedience training during their first year. Some dogs will need additional specialized training or may develop behavior problems that require in-home consultations and private sessions to resolve.

After Max’s first vet appointment, we knew he was displaying aggression and we needed to start working with a trainer ASAP. We needed to muzzle train him and work on his impulse control. 

Private dog training sessions could cost $40 to $250 each, depending on the problem. Basic puppy manners or easily resolved issues, such as jumping or counter-surfing, will likely require only one visit. But more serious problems, such as stranger aggression or separation anxiety, may require more sessions.

Dog Walking and Daycare

Doggy daycare and dog walking services are good options if you work long hours and need someone to take your pet outside during the day. Regular dog walking or doggy daycare will cost about $20 per visit. If you need this help three days per week, year-round, it adds up to $3,120 annually.

Emergency Illness and Accidents

It’s safe to say that you can expect the unexpected when it comes to emergency veterinary visits for your pup. Take Mindy’s dog, Rogue, for example. She needed stitches in her ear after attacking a barbed wire fence, because she was protecting Mindy from the cows behind it. She is imperfect, and true to her name. And for that reason she often ends up in the proverbial dog house.

The average dog owner spends $150 to $1,200 each time they visit the veterinarian with a sick or injured pet. Pets who suffer serious trauma, such as getting hit by a car, or serious illness that requires hospitalization could cost several thousand dollars per incident. As pets age, they are more likely to incur higher vet bills, but young pets can also develop serious diseases or experience an accident. 

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance may seem like an extra bill you’d prefer to avoid, but it’s important to factor in your personal situation. Can you afford not to have the financial fallback the insurance provides? How would you cope if your pet needed life-saving treatment that couldn’t be paid for?

Pet insurance is there to cover a risk that you cannot potentially afford, and as a sort of “forced savings” in the event of a claim. If your beloved pup required $20,000 for surgery, would you be able to pay it? Would you have cash in an emergency fund you could tap to pay the bill? 

Essentially, by having pet insurance you are building that emergency fund via an external third party; the insurance company collects the money you might otherwise be setting aside for a potential major medical vet claim.

However, you could also consider saving monthly into your emergency fund an amount, say $100, that you would allocate to pet care.

End of Life Care

Your dog’s death may be one of the most expensive times, particularly if you live in an apartment or rental property where you can’t bury your dog in our own yard, so require cremation or burial arrangements. 

The cost to put a dog to sleep will typically range between $35 and $100 for pet parents utilizing local animal shelters, between $125 and $250 for pet parents visiting their primary veterinary provider during normal business hours, between $200 and $400 for urgent-care, and between $300 and $475 for pet parents seeking in-home euthanasia.

Build Your Pup into Your Financial Plan

Not every dog will incur extra costs like grooming, emergency stitches or dog sitting, but you should budget for the possibility. It’s a pretty safe bet that your dog will require additional expenses in one way or another each year. Even if it’s just to replace your favorite pair of shoes that they chewed while you were out.

We understand how important your dog is to you. That’s why we help our clients build their pup’s needs into their financial plan, ensuring that all of the initial, ongoing and unexpected costs are well prepared for. So if your dog comes out on the losing end of a fight with a barbed wire fence, you know you have the funds, or carefully selected insurance, ready to cover it.

If you already have a dog, or are thinking of welcoming one into your heart and home, get in touch and we will help make sure your financial plan is ready for anything your pup brings your way. Tattered stilettos included. Because one thing is for sure, that no matter the literal price, the joy they bring is priceless.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for real-life advice, so make sure to consult your tax, legal, and accounting professionals before modifying your investment strategy for tax considerations.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. 

Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. 

FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.