?I want a puppy for Christmas,? my granddaughter moaned last year. She?s a wise girl of 10, one with whom you can reason. And she?s got a loving heart and nature, so it tugged at the heart-strings to see how much she wanted to have a pet. My wife and I had ?adopted? the terrier dog her family had because their schedule just didn?t work for an animal with severe separation anxiety. Her parents also helped her understand the commitment and responsibility that comes with bringing an animal into a household. Which zeros in on the question, how much does it cost to own a dog?
Our Pet History
We?ve been married 44 years. Out first pets were parakeets, ?wedding presents? from my older sister. They were really no problem and certainly were entertaining (but we could never get them to talk). When our son turned 8, he began begging for a dog. You know, the normal desire of a kid to have something to take outside and romp with. And we didn?t want to crush that childhood rite of passage. A neighbor led us to a vet with a complete litter of abandoned puppies. We let Bryan select the one he wanted, and we were on our way.
He did a great job caring for her, though being in school he wasn?t able to handle the regular feeding, but he did take her out to romp most every day. Sandy and I walked her, but it was because we were walking for our own exercise, too.
Panda lived almost 12 years. When she died in November of 2000 of massive internal and unchecked cancer, it was devastating to us all. We waited February 2001 before we adopted Sasha, who has been with us ever since.
It is dealing with loss and death, though not unique to having a pet, it still has an impact on your emotional life.
My mother had two dachshunds she adored. She had to have both put down by herself, but she always said she just ?knew? when it was time to do it. I honestly dread the coming time when we?ll have to say goodbye to Sasha, but for a 15 year old Australian shepherd, she?s doing pretty well and looks like she?ll be with us for quite a while.
So you don?t get the impression our grief was unique, here is an email from a former neighbor:
I hate to even type this, but I had to send Sugar home to Jesus last Saturday. I think she had cancer, but did not have the money to have $500 worth of tests run so they could tell me. She could no longer keep food down and was loosing weight so fast, she weighed 42 pounds when she died. She was around 12 years old, and she was in such trauma, even if I were rich, I was not going to put her through a lot of tests and treatment just to keep her here for selfishness.
We buried her in the back yard.
You may remember we got Maggie the first year we were back and here’s a photo of her. She keeps looking for Sugar, and is alone during the day now, which is weird to her. But she’ll adjust. We work so much and there is no time or money for another dog.
Hope Sasha is doing great! I remember what you said about Panda and how she suffered. I took your advice and ended it. I figure she’s in Heaven with Kelly waiting for me to get there too.
Love you all of you!
How Much Does it Cost to Own a Dog?
What families need to consider, aside from the psychological and emotional investments, is the practical and realistic dollar and cents burdens of having a dog (or any four-legged pet). Just to give you a heads-up, here is an estimate of the outlay:
The Cost of a Dog
|EXPENSE||FIRST YEAR||EACH FOLLOWING YEAR|
|Adoption||$0 - $500||N/A|
|Food||$120 - $500||$120 - $500|
|Nutritional Supplements||$0 - $100||$0 - $100|
|Food/water bowls||$10 - $40||$0 - $25|
|Treats||$20 - $200||$20 - $200|
|Dental/chew toys||$20 - $200||$20 - $200|
|Routine Veterinary Exam||$45 - $200||$20 - $100|
|Vaccinations||$60 - $150||$60 - $150|
|Emergency Veterinary Care||$0 - $2,000+||$0 - $2,000+|
|Heartworm Test||$0 - $35||$0 - $35|
|Heartworm Prevention||$24 - $120||$36 - $132|
|Fecal Exams||$10 - $30||$10 - $20|
|Worming||$10 - $25||$10 - $25|
|Flea/Tick prevention||$200 - $500||$200 - $500|
|Spaying/neutering||$35 - $200||N/A|
|Professional teeth cleaning||$60 - $500||$0 - $500|
|Collar(s)||$7 - $50||$0 - $40|
|Leash(es)||$10 - $50||$0 - $50|
|Training||$30 - $250||$0 - $200|
|Grooming tools||$20 - $250||$0 - $25|
|Professional grooming||$0 - $1,200||$0 - $1,200|
|Shampoo||$5 - $50||$5 - $50|
|Fence||$0 - $2,500||$0 - $2,500|
|Stain/odor removers||$10 - $100||$10 - $100|
|Doggy bed(s)||$25 - $100||$0 - $100|
|Crate(s)||$20 - $250||$0 - $250|
|Toys||$10 - $200||$0 - $200|
|Boarding, per day||$15 - $50||$15 - $50|
|TOTAL||$766 - $10,350||$526 - $9,352|
Fitting Your Dog Into Your Lifestyle
There are other considerations. What do you do with your pet when you go on vacation? Though the landscape is changing, there are not many 4-star hotels that let you waltz into a three room suite with a bulldog. That means you must either board your buddy or pay someone to ?pet sit.?
Bringing a dog into a family also introduces social considerations. Where will the pooch sleep? And there?s no guarantee that the pet will stay on its pallet next to your child; before long it will be snuggling down with the kids. Think about the health concerns and the laundry requirements.
Sasha also still has a habit. She is a dog of consistency, of routine. She knows every night at a particular time she is going to go outside, get her nightly treat and go to sleep upstairs. We?ve had instances when company still sits in our den when her internal alarm clock goes off. Not to worry; she simply starts going around the room and noses each person, encouraging them to find their hat and coat and leave. If they don?t take the hint, she will go to the door and start barking. Say goodnight, Sasha.
Dogs and Medical Costs
The greatest cost (other than the food) are the medical expenses. Again, your heartstrings tug when you realize your animal is suffering, and those big, round, brown eyes look at your pleadingly for some relief. You keep your dog in the house and only take it outside on a leash, so having to pay for the annual rabies vaccination and other legally required injections makes your hackles rise. Having that tag on the collar does give you some comfort that you might get your pet back should they get lost, so you have to swallow hard and make that annual trek to the vet?s.
The website care2.com looked at the issue of pet expenses and asked, ?are your pet?s expenses tax deductible?? Their answer is a bit discouraging; ?As important as our pets are in our lives, nothing raises an accountant ?s hackles more than seeing ?four dependents? listed on the tax return of a single man with a dog, two fish, and a ferret. So, you?ve heard it before, and you?ll ask it again this year and probably again next year, but here is the answer you don?t want to hear: Your pets are not deductible.
Their healthcare is not deductible. Their food, leash, sweater, exercise equipment, and bones are not deductible.? Actually, only your costs for a service animal or a guard-dog (if you have a home-based business) would get by Lois Lerner if she were still working at the IRS.
Dogs and Insurance
Yes, there are ?per medical insurance companies,? and more of the major carriers are offering it. Most plans seem to be in the mode of ?reimbursement,? which means you?ll have to be concerned about negotiating coverage ?after-the-fact.? Honestly, considering all the work that would be involved in handling all that, I wouldn?t recommend it. But then, I?m not a fan of most insurance, anyway.
Speaking of insurance, no matter what kind of dog you have, your homeowner?s rate will go up. You can really look for an escalation if you like pit bulls or mastiffs. If you can, stay with the safe shiatsu or chihuahua (if you can endure the ?yipping? and trembling.)
I guess this is sounding like I?m down on having a dog as a pet. Maybe so, but all this negativity can be countered by the faithfulness, adoration, and trust a dog shows you. Nothing melts your heart faster than the loving stare from your pet as you prepare their evening meal.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Do you have a family pet? Share some of the tenderest memories you have with us. Did you get the pet in response to a child?s instance? Which are better, cats or dogs? (On that point I?ll share a funny line I once heard: ?Call a dog and he?ll come to you; call a cat and they?ll get back to you.?)