Don’t let puppy love blind you to the expense of a dog

  • Jun. 21, 2018 4:45 p.m.

How much is that doggy in the window? More than you may think.

New dog owners can expect to shell out $1,200 to $2,000 in the first year , and as much as $14,500 over their pup’s lifetime, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And that’s just for routine costs. Emergencies will happen — and they will be expensive.

Budgeting for the expected costs, and saving for the unexpected, will protect your pet and your pocketbook.

“A good rule of thumb is the bigger the dog, the bigger the budget,” says Sarah Javier, president and executive director of the Animal Protective Association of Missouri.

FOOD

This cost is obvious, but often underestimated, especially when it comes to larger dogs. Owners of Labradors, shepherds and other big dogs should expect to spend $400 a year, on average, for premium brand dry dog food, according to the ASPCA.

How to save:

– Use autoship. Online retailers like Amazon and Chewy, which sells pet products, will knock a few dollars off the food bill if you opt for automatic shipments.

– Don’t overfeed. Feeding your dog too much can have a ripple effect. Not only will you have to buy more food more often, but you’ll also have to deal with medical expenses if your dog is overweight. Not sure how much is too much? The portion guide printed on your dog’s food label is a good place to start.

GROOMING

That fluffy goldendoodle will require regular grooming. The same goes for any breed with a long, thick coat. Dogs with shorter coats — Labs, dachshunds and others — still need regular baths, brushing and nail trims.

A standard groom at Petsmart costs from $30 to $130, depending on the breed.

How to save:

– DIY groom. Baths, nail trims and haircuts can all be done at home. The ASPCA’s dog grooming guide has detailed tips for owners.

BOARDING AND WALKING SERVICES

Busy pet owners will inevitably need help caring for their pooch. If you don’t have someone to call on when you’re not home, you’ll need a dog walker and pet sitter from time to time. A 30-minute walk with Wag, a nationwide dog-walking service, is about $20. Overnight boarding with Rover’s large network of pet sitters typically runs $25 to $35 a night, but can be as high as $75 in some places. Local walking and boarding services are also available in most cities.

How to save:

– Buy in bulk. You can often purchase a package of walks or boarding stays at a lower rate.

DENTAL CARE

A professional teeth cleaning costs $200 to $300, on average, but can vary depending on where you live. Your dog’s dental health will determine cleaning frequency, but annual exams and cleanings are generally recommended.

How to save:

– Regular brushing. Brush your dog’s teeth at home with a pet toothbrush and toothpaste to cut back on the number of professional cleanings. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends brushing at least three times a week and has a video tutorial.

VACCINATION

Puppies need a round of immunizations in their first year, and when they’re older, they’ll need regular boosters every year or few years. These vaccinations are necessary to prevent more serious, and expensive, illnesses. A round of vaccinations for your puppy costs $75 to $100, on average, according to the American Kennel Club.

How to save:

– Adopt. Your adoption fee typically includes the first round of vaccinations, along with other medical services, like deworming and a spay or neuter.

– Vaccination clinics. Local chapters of the Humane Society and similar organizations often run weekly or monthly clinics where vaccinations are offered for a fraction of the usual cost.

EMERGENCY CARE

Unexpected vet visits — for injury or illness — will happen no matter how careful you are. And the resulting bills can cost pet owners thousands of dollars.

“You absolutely must plan for emergencies,” says Vicki Stevens, senior manager in the companion animals division of the Humane Society of the United States. “Start saving right away, so you have a little cushion for emergency care.”

How to save:

– Pet insurance. Similar to human health insurance, pet insurance can help defray the cost of expensive medical treatment, including for chronic conditions like cancer or arthritis. Most plans reimburse 80 per cent of eligible expenses after you meet your annual deductible.

Need help paying for services? The Humane Society maintains a list of organizations that offer discounted services or financial assistance .

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Kelsey Sheehy is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: ksheehy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.

RELATED LINKS

Understanding Pet Insurance: 10 Things to Know Before You Buy

https://nerd.me/pet-insurance-101

ASPCA pet care costs

https://www.aspca.org/sites/default/files/pet_care_costs.pdf

Are you having trouble affording your pet?

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/trouble_affording_pet.html

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