Can you afford to own a dog? Well, just what does it cost to own a dog, anyway? According to the ASPCA, on average, the first-year cost of owning a dog is more than $1000.
Many single adults and newly married couples adopt a “fur-baby” without considering the financial responsibilities that come along with them. Once you have fallen in love with that cute little face and held his wriggling, tail-wagging body in your arms, it is too late.
You are sunk. That pup is going home with you whether or not you can afford to own a dog. Thinking about what you can and cannot afford needs to be done before you go face to face with furry, bundles of love.
Being prepared to meet the new family member’s needs is a big responsibility, and, as a human, you are where the buck stops. Please ask yourself if you can afford to own a dog before you take one home.
Your heart may be ready to love that new pup, but is your checkbook healthy enough to handle the costs?
What does it cost to own a dog? Can you afford to own a dog?
Let’s start with the purchase of the pup. Do you plan to:
- Purchase a registered, purebred dog?
- Adopt a pup from a local shelter?
- Foster a pup from a breed rescue shelter until you fall in love with “the right one”?
- Take a pup from a litter born to a neighbor’s dog for free?
- Find a free or “cheap” pup in the ads either online or in the local newspaper?
The first-year costs for owning a dog are usually the most.
The financial investment of adopting a dog is much more than the initial amount spent to bring him into your home and hearts. Purchase prices can range from totally free to thousands of dollars.
A breakdown of the average, first-year cost of pet ownership for one medium-sized dog usually costs a little over one thousand dollars. And, the following year’s cost is about half of that, in general.
The first year’s costs are considerably more than in subsequent years. The primary, major difference is the one-time event of purchasing the dog. The following years’ costs will vary a bit from region to region and whether or not there are emergencies that arise in a given year.
A little research into this topic will help you decide if you can afford to own a dog or not.
In addition to food and basic veterinarian care, medical emergencies can arise. Many adoption fees include vet fees to neuter your dog. If you are not planning to show your dog, you should give this serious consideration.
There are clinics that provide periodic free or reduced-rate neuter clinics. Ask your vet or local shelter if they can recommend one to you. If you cannot afford to neuter your dog, the answer to “Can you afford to own a dog” is NO.
Furthermore, if you travel frequently and do not plan on taking your dog with you, be prepared to pay for pet sitting or kennel services. If you do not own your own home, you will most likely have to pay a no refundable pet deposit or cleaning fee. This is assuming that your landlord allows you to have a dog. Be sure to check on your home owner’s or renter’s insurance policy to see if it is allowed and if there are additional fees to do so.
There is also the option of pet health care insurance to cover large ticket items you may not otherwise be able to afford. Pet healthcare insurance is a hotly debated topic.
The average cost of emergency care
Dr. Louise Murray, vice-president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City, said: “Owners will likely incur at least one $2,000 – $4,000 bill for emergency care at some point during their pet’s lifetime”. This was, unfortunately, true for my husband and I in the first year of joint dog ownership. We had never heard of this kind of insurance at that time.
Shortly after we married, we fell in love with the cutest German Shepherd puppy you have ever seen. We named him after a famous German philosopher. His purchase price included all of his so-called “puppy shots,” and he appeared healthy in every way.
We had him long enough to become extremely attached when he fell ill with the Parvovirus. In spite of our going into debt to pay for the best care his vet could provide, he could not be saved.
The Texas Society of CPAs has designed a pet budget worksheet to help you estimate pet ownership costs. Although this worksheet is intended to help parents teach kids the expense involved in pet ownership, it can be useful for you as well.
This worksheet takes into account the cost of health care insurance for your dog. Without such insurance, should your dog become very ill, vet bills can run into thousands of dollars. Even moderate dental work can quickly run up into hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Untreated dental disease can lead to more severe problems, like cardiac issues. One alternative to purchasing pet insurance is keeping an emergency fund of at least a few thousand dollars tucked safely away.
How to prepare for the unpredictable
Like many things in life, the costs of pet ownership can be somewhat unpredictable. While there are elements of dog care costs that we can predict, it is best to have a safety net in place for back up.
Can you imagine the horror of finding yourself in a situation where you have to choose between saving your pet’s life or placing yourself into serious debt? What if the medical emergency was serious enough to be life-threatening?
Here are a few steps for making sure you can afford to own a pet:
- Use a budget sheet like the one mentioned above to work out monthly expenses for owning a dog and determine how it might alter your current budget. Can you afford to own a dog? Not just the day to day costs. How about emergency medical costs? Will you need to make changes or cut back somewhere to keep your newest family member healthy and happy? Are you willing and able to do so? If the answer is not a resounding “yes,” you may need to rethink the idea of adding a dog to your family at this time.
- Save and keep on hand between $1000 and $2000 for an Emergency Vet Fund and hope you never need it.
- Think about how you would feel if your furry family member needed potentially life-saving vet care that you could not afford. Do you have a backup plan in place, or would you be forced to make a life or death decision with which you could not live?
- Consider pet health insurance. Ask your vet about this topic, but do not fail to do your own research into this as well. Several companies are offering such services, and they are not all alike. Some are much better than others. If your dog has chronic medical problems and will need expensive medications for life, prescription insurance might be worth having.
Finding Funds to Pay for Your Furry Family Member’s Vet Bills
We all want to be able to provide the best veterinary care for our dogs. Sometimes, however, we might not have the funds necessary to pay for the vet care our furry family member needs.
Below are several options available for your consideration when you need help to afford the care that your pet needs and deserves.
You need to have either pet insurance or an emergency savings fund designated for vet bills in case of an emergency or serious illness. Insurance coverage for dogs is less expensive than insurance for humans. Policies vary widely, and you should compare plans.
Check to see if it covers dental care as not all policies do so. Some insurance policies have a Wellness rider, but the expense may or may not be worth the additional premium. Most policies require you to pay the vet bills upfront, and then they reimburse you for those expenses.
One exception to this is when your vet is associated with Trupanion Express, AND Trupanion covers your dog. In this case, the insurance company pays the vet directly. Scratchpay also pays the vet directly but is not insurance. It is an online payment plan. (see below)
Lines of Credit.
- carecredit.com/ is a financing credit card designed to be used for both humans and veterinary bills. It does cover dental bills, as well. Be sure to look into exact details as much as possible before assuming that all care is covered, just as you would with any other credit card. Reportedly, they approve up to $2000 for instant use. The loan is interest-free if you make minimum monthly payments AND pay off your balance within the promotional period. The promotional period can be anywhere from 6 months to 24 months. Creative clients have been known to have more than one family member apply for an account to be used on one dog.
- Scratchpay can be used for any species and is an online payment plan to be used for paying the vet directly. Most applicants get approval, and it is not a line of credit or a credit card. Your credit score is not involved in any manner, nor is it affected by your application for it. They offer several payment options, including at least one that is interest-free.
- Wells Fargo offers a credit card for healthcare financing that is suitable for paying for vet care. And, you can obtain in before you need to use it as a type of backup plan.
We love our furry family members and can become quite emotional when they are ill or have a medical emergency of any kind. If your dog sick or injured, it is a very stressful situation all by itself. When vet bills become more than we can manage, it may be overwhelming. Sometimes you cannot handle this crisis alone.
Fortunately, if you need a helping hand, there are several charitable organizations you can call upon for help. These organizations have, as their mission, the desire to help those who are genuinely unable to pay for the vet care that their dogs need.
Two such organizations that exist are the Brown Dog Foundation and The Pet Fund. There is an application process. Funds are not available for emergency care, and aid is based on your income.
The GoFundMe website has a list of organizations designed to help cover veterinary bills for people in need. YouCaring allows you to create a personal fundraising page for pet medical care. They do charge a small percentage of funds raised, as does Go Fund Me.
Waggle is a pet-dedicated crowdfunding solution. Waggle sends funds directly to verified veterinary providers to guarantee that the donated money goes only to pay for the pet’s care.
Ask your Vet
Try to work out a payment plan with your vet. If you are a client in good standing, they may be willing to work out a payment plan. They may be willing to consider allowing you to perform a service for your vet in place of cash, like cleaning kennels, answering phones, or other work.
- Check out local veterinary schools. The AVMA website and VeterinarySchools.com have lists of veterinary schools by state. Many of these programs run low-cost clinics for limited income clients.
- Some veterinarians have funds set aside to provide emergent care for pets whose owners cannot afford it. Also, they may know of local organizations that donate funds for pets in emergency need.
Still looking for help?
Contact your local animal shelter. Some are affiliated with low-cost veterinary clinics or work with local vets who are willing to reduce their charges.
Dog breed-specific veterinary care assistance programs:
- Labrador Lifeline
- Pyramedic Trust(Great Pyrenees)
- Special Needs Dobermans
- WestieMed(West Highland White Terriers)
Organizations offering help on a case by case basis:
Red Rover Relief
Best Friends Animal Society
Actors & Others for Animals– in Southern California only
The Pet Fund – for domestic animals
Guide, hearing & service dogs – emergency financial assistance
Banfield Charitable Trust -– assists struggling pet owners with pet care needs
Elderly, disabled, handicapped pets
Cancer treatment support:
Veterinary Cancer Society
Magic Bullet Fund
Helping Harley Cancer Treatment Grant
Many of these are funded by donations. Assistance is usually offered on a case-by-case basis. When funding is no longer available, programs may be discontinued without notice. Make sure to read the organization’s eligibility guidelines. These guidelines are available on their website. Be sure to provide all the required documentation needed to prove that you meet the eligibility requirements for assistance.
No dog should suffer from untreated pain or illness due to a lack of money.
It could happen to anyone. Until now, you have managed to give your dog the medical care they deserve. However, now, due to unexpected circumstances, you cannot afford the medical care recommended for your beloved dog.
No one wants a furry family member to suffer or, possibly, to die because they do not have the money to pay for the needed medical care. Don’t give up yet! Financial aid is out there. There are several ways you can manage to cover an emergency vet bill.
The cost is more than just financial.
Please remember, depending on the severity of your pet’s illness or injury, you may still lose your dog even after great expense. Discuss the prognosis and various treatment options with your veterinarian.
Be sure to ask whether or not the recommended surgery or medical treatment would give your dog the quality of life they deserve. What are the odds that your dog would even survive the procedure or treatment?
Our emotions often drive us to make decisions that may not be in our furry best friend’s best interest. None of us want them to suffer needlessly, but we do not want to see them cross that Rainbow Bridge one moment too soon, either.
Try to have someone less emotionally involved help you to ask the tough questions of your vet and to analyze their answers. After all, your dog trusts you to make these medical decisions in his best interest.
Photos courtesy of Pixabay