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Dogs provide immeasurable benefits to their owners’ lives including companionship, stress reduction, unconditional love, and more. It’s impossible to put a price on all your dog does for you. But you can put a price on what it costs you to own them. And it may be far higher than you expect. In fact, many people underestimate the expenses that come with responsible dog ownership. Particularly before you bring a dog into your life, know what you’re in for. Recent data from the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and LendEDU, a financial education website, will help you prepare a realistic budget for your pet.

Overall Cost Per Year

According to the APPA 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, pets are big business. In 2020, Americans spent $103.6 billion dollars on their animal companions, and that number is expected to go up by six billion in 2021. That includes the cost of food, supplies, veterinary care, and services like pet sitting, grooming, and training.

But what can you expect as an individual? When LendEDU surveyed 1,000 people and asked the dog owners what they estimate they spend on their dogs each month, the average response was $157.39. If you add that up, that equals $1,888.68 a year. It’s likely that estimate is on the low side though, especially considering an American Kennel Club (AKC) survey from 2004 concluded the average annual cost of dog care was $2,489.00. (Although those expenses included travel and dog events.)

If your dog lives 10 years, a reasonable life span for many breeds, you’re looking at almost $19,000 dollars committed to your dog. And that doesn’t include the cost of purchasing your dog in the first place. Of course, that number will fluctuate greatly depending on factors like your dog’s size and health status. For example, a toy breed simply costs less to care for on average than a giant breed. They eat less and all their supplies are smaller. The AKC survey found that giant breeds like the Great Dane cost $3,321 a year versus $1,831 for small breeds like the Shih Tzu.

Mother and daughter with their poodle puppy in pet shop.

Break Down of Expenses

There are many responsibilities when you own a dog and therefore many types of expenses. Some are routine like food, treats, and annual vet exams. Others are sporadic like licensing, training classes, and toys. Still, others are one-time expenses like fencing your yard or microchipping your dog. No matter the time frame, here is a breakdown of some of the different categories:

  • Food and Treats: According to the LendEDU survey, people estimate that just over half of their pet-related expenses go towards feeding their pet. According to the APPA survey, the approximate annual cost of food is $287 while treats cost $81. However, anybody who has browsed the food aisle at the pet store knows there is a tremendous range in price and quality for both food and treats, so monthly expenses can be much higher.
  • Toys and Accessories: This category made up just over 10 percent of the LendEDU survey participants’ monthly expenditures. The APPA survey listed the cost of toys at just $56 a year. Of course, the more destructive your dog, the more toys you’ll go through. The APPA also listed grooming aids and brushes at $47 a year. That cost will be far higher if your dog needs the services of a professional groomer. And don’t forget about accessories like boots and jackets for cold winter weather, or lifejackets for water safety.
  • Services: The APPA maintains Americans spent $8.1 billion on pet services in 2020. That would include groomers, dog walkers, pet sitters, dog trainers, and animal behaviorists. However, the only service category with a dollar value in the survey was kennel boarding, which cost $228 a year. Obviously, the more services your dog requires, be that professional help for behavior issues or a daily session with a dog walker, the higher your expenses in this category will be.
  • Health and Veterinary Care: In the LendEDU survey, respondents estimated health-related costs accounted for almost a quarter of their pet expenditures. According to the APPA survey, surgical vet visits cost dog owners $458 a year and routine vet exams cost $242. Then of course there are other health costs like medication or vitamins and supplements. The APPA lists vitamins as an $81 a year expense. A final consideration is pet insurance. According to the LendEDU survey, people spent an average of $76.76 a month for pet insurance. Although that seems hefty, just over three-quarters of the respondents said their insurance had been helpful with emergency expenses, and of those people, almost 90 percent felt the monthly insurance charge was worthwhile.
Golden Retriever puppy laying on the couch next to baby toys.

Plan for the Unexpected

Knowing about all these expected expenses will allow you to accurately budget for dog ownership. But don’t forget about unexpected expenses too. Your dog might fall ill, need emergency dental surgery, or develop food allergies and require a special diet. You don’t want to be caught without the means to care for your furry best friend. In fact, almost one-quarter of the pet owners surveyed by LendEDU went into debt because of their pet’s medical needs to the average tune of $1,566.96. Be prepared with emergency savings just in case.

And once you bring a dog into your life, you may want to include them in every aspect. Perhaps you’ll decide to travel with your dog and incur extra costs for their flight or your vacation home’s security deposit. Maybe you’ll take up a dog sport like agility or rally and need funds for training and competition entry fees. You never know where dog ownership will take you, so be prepared with a doggie reserve fund. Your dog is your best friend and loving companion, and their care is your responsibility. The costs can be higher than expected, but your dog will repay you in more ways than money can buy.

Related article: 75 Ways to Be a Responsible Dog Owner
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