Having a pet costs money, sometimes a lot more than you think. You may see a special advertised at the pet store or even at a rescue shelter but before you get a dog please consider all the hidden costs, (well they are not hidden but they are far from your mind when you are looking at a cute puppy at the pet shop window,) that are a direct consequence of pet ownership:
Most first-time pet owners never think about this one but the time you will spend caring for your dog –besides playtime- is not negligible. This includes time feeding your dog, taking it out for walks, picking up poop in the backyard, washing its bowls and driving to the veterinarian/trainer/pet supply store/groomer.
Additionally, you will have to arrange for someone to take care of your pet if you are gone from home for more than ten hours. (That is the maximum time a dog can spend in its crate, according to some experts.) But even that is only when you have an adult pet. A puppy can hold its bowels for one hour for each one month in age until it reaches adulthood. Therefore, a three-month-old puppy can only be left alone for three hours, that is, unless you don’t mind cleaning up a big mess when you get home later than that.
This can range from economy to specialized to veterinary grade. The less you spend on food, the more likely you are to spend on veterinary care later because your pet’s diet will have direct consequences on its health, especially for pure breeds, so there are really no “good deals” in this department. In fact, most supermarket dogfood brands are considered “junk food” by the experts (breeders and veterinarians alike).
A must, especially if you are getting a puppy. Until your dog is used to its new home and is old enough to be trusted to spend a few hours unsupervised, a crate will be an expense that will actually save you money. Unless you don’t mind your furry friend chewing on your shoes, bathrobe, the TV remote control, your leather couch, the sound system’s wiring…
Only a few dollars (the average across Canada is $40) but has to be renewed every year. Good news, in most jurisdictions you get a small discount if your dog is neutered/spayed.
Collars, leashes, harnesses, blankets, cushions, bowls, toys.
You think you have to get just one of each right? How much wear and tear are we looking at here? Surprise! Even the best quality gear has to be replaced, quite often, especially for active dogs. And this is only the basics. Add extra for the special bicycle harness if you want to ride with your dog, the fluorescent gear for dusk visibility, the extra blankets to protect your car seats, a dog seatbelt for your car, the grill to separate the back seat from the cargo area in the van…
Remember that in most jurisdictions you are legally responsible for everything your dog does, so this expense is actually life insurance for your dog. The ability to obey commands like Sit!, Stay!, Lie down! and Come! can actually save your dog’s life and ensure that no harm comes to it and to the humans that may interact with it. You may think that you can handle this one yourself but unless you are an experienced dog owner and in order not to cause any psychological trauma to your dog, it is recommended that you attend training classes with a certified professional trainer who uses a positive reinforcement system. An untrained dog, no matter what size or breed, is a danger to itself, other dogs and the people around it.
Either you take the time to do it yourself or you have to pay a professional to bathe, shampoo, cut nails, clean ears, trim hair, etc.
These procedures are an intrinsic part of dog ownership. They help reduce overpopulation and abandonment as well as protect your pet from some forms of reproductive cancer. Not cheap to begin with, these surgeries get more expensive as your puppy grows (in the OR everything goes by weight,) so you best do it while they are young. You will also have to decide if you spring for the extra expense of laser surgery, which is less painful for your pet.
Nature walks and even dog runs will expose your pet to Lyme disease carrying ticks, fleas, mosquito borne heartworm, roundworm infested fecal debris and bodies of water. Parasite prevention treatments are not one time expenses. They have to be administered monthly or seasonally and vary in price according to the size of your dog. Here you get what you pay for and the good brands are usually veterinarian prescribed.
These are life-saving treatments that protect your dog, especially if a puppy, against mortal diseases like Rabies, Parvovirus, Distemper and Canine Hepatitis. Some of them require a second shot and considering how important they are, they are a great value. Also, you will not be able to send or take your dog across an international border, on a commercial airplane or to a trainer, a day care, a pension or even some dog cafés if it is not fully and certifiably vaccinated.
No matter how well you care for your dog, accidents or illnesses may one day affect its life. Since you will develop a strong attachment to your furry friend, heart rending decisions may have to be taken at some point. If affected by a treatable condition, will you have the financial means to help your pet regain a good quality of life? What about a chronic disease? How about a terminal illness? Will you spend money on palliative care? Fortunately (and unfortunately) veterinary science has advanced greatly in the last few years. Diagnostics that used to be grim at one time hold today a better than 50/50 chance and the vet is obliged to tell you everything that can or could be done to treat your dog. Only you will know, deep in your heart, how much money you will be willing to spend when the moment comes. And believe you me, it never comes at a convenient time.
Your dog is the only being that will love you more than it loves itself and when the end comes, the final act of love you will do for your pet is to make sure it doesn’t suffer needlessly. You will have to decide if you have the strength to hold it in your arms until the last second. After all is done you will have to decide how to dispose of the remains. Communal or private cremation? Will you attend? Burial maybe? What kind of urn, if any? Memorial plaque or photo? All these services are provided with care and compassion, but they cost money too.
Having a dog is one of the greatest joys in life. The kind of love a dog will give you has no equal. Being a responsible owner means providing for your dog’s needs and that means having the means to take care of it. Because once you get to the bottom line you will know that a dog’s love is simply priceless.