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dog parent basics

The true cost of keeping a dog in 2020

Know exactly how much money it takes to care for a dog responsibly, from adoption to emergencies

Updated June 30, 2020

Created By

Ella Jackson, , , Andy Bowen

The bond with a furry friend is priceless. But exactly how much money does it cost to care for them well? For this report, our team took an itemized approach to help you wrap your head around the costs of being a pet parent and plan your budget accordingly.

According to Money, the lifetime cost of a canine companion generally comes to around $15,000 — and that’s pretty conservative compared to our research. Our figures show that it costs anywhere from $150 to $300 per month to care for your dog responsibly.

If subtracting $150 from your monthly cash flow you sweat, think long and hard about whether you should sign up for the responsibility. If you’re not in the position to be able to afford it, that’s OK — well done for researching! It means you’ve taken the first steps in your journey of becoming a responsible pet owner.

If you can afford the state of care that a dog deserves, then let’s move on and see a breakdown of where your money’s going.

At a glance

The costs of owning a dog

The upfront costs It costs around $750 to adopt a dog and prepare your home
The essentials On average, you’ll spend $2,175 per year to keep your dog happy and healthy
The unexpected costs It’s likely you’ll pay at least $200 per year that you didn’t plan on spending. You’ll pay $500+ if your dog is injured or hospitalized.

The upfront costs

👉 On average, the total startup cost of rescuing a dog and preparing your home is around $750.

So you’ve made the decision to adopt a dog, what an exciting time. Soon we’re sure you’ll be playing fetch and taking your furry companion out on walks. But before all of that, there are a few integral steps to take.

First, you need to pick which dog you could see yourself taking home. At betterpet, we believe that there’s no better place to find a new member of your family than an adoption shelter. Places like the ASPCA and The Shelter Pet Project are just a few options, because like people, all dogs deserve a second chance at love.

👉 To get started with an adoption, read our step-by-step guide.

Typically, adopting a dog will cost around $4001, but this may vary depending on the breed and state you live in. Often, during the adoption process, microchipping is included in the fee, however, if it isn’t then typically the procedure would cost around $50.

And, of course, you can’t have a dog without the essential supplies. This includes:

We listed the average price for each, but due to the individual needs of every dog, you may find these prices vary. Additionally, toys are something that dogs love — sometimes a little too much — so you may find yourself needing to replace some or add more to an ever-growing collection; our estimation of $10 per toy can in some cases end up around $70 per year2.

The last crucial cost you need to account for is vaccinations. A few of the core ailments that vaccinations would protect your dog from include: rabies, distemper, parvo, and hepatitis. The total cost for these four vaccinations would be around $75, and while the cost may be eye-watering, to ensure a long life, it is imperative that your dog receives these vaccinations.

Upfront Costs

The initial costs of dog ownership

Type of expense Average upfront cost
Your pet $400
Spaying / Neutering $75 - $100 / $50 - $75
Microchip implant $50
Vaccinations $75
Essential gear (bowls, leash, harness, etc.) $100

The essentials

👉 It’s easy to spend over $2,000 a year to keep your pet happy and healthy. 

Now we get into the cost of food, routine health care, pet insurance, and grooming. All of these have dependent variables, like the brand and type of food you purchase (wet dog food, kibble, fresh meal delivery, etc.). But as a baseline, you could spend in the ballpark of $240 a year on dog food alone3.

But if you want your dog to live a happy and healthy life (you do), then you also need to consider a visit to the veterinarian’s office. If this is your first time visiting the vets, then here’s a guide to help you prepare. In terms of price, you can expect to spend around $500 in any dental fees4 when anesthesia is necessary, while any recurring medication such as flea treatments may cost about $15 per month, with an additional heartworm test costing around $45 or more. 

So, now that you’ve protected your dog’s inside, how do you care for the outside? One word: grooming. This will be another variable figure, however, we’d advise leaving aside $50 per month5. This is an essential treatment, especially, in the summer months for any long-coated dog breeds.

Last but not least, is pet insurance. The monthly necessity comes out at around $360 per year, and while it may feel like a waste of money, we promise you that if any unfortunate accidents do happen, you’re not going to want to be worrying about the price to save your dog’s life.

The Essentials

Annual costs of dog ownership

Type of expense Average annual cost
Routine veterinary care: checkups, etc. $100 - $300
Groomer $600
Dental cleaning $175 - $300 ($500 - $1,000 with anesthesia)
Pet insurance $360
Flea, heartworm, and tick preventative care $305
New toys / replacing old toys $70
Food $240

The unexpected costs

👉 The most expensive unexpected cost is a trip to the vet hospital, which could cost $500 or more.

Picture this: You’re going on vacation with the family — and while your dog would definitely get a kick out of a visit to the beach — the hotel you’re staying in isn’t pet-friendly.

Unfortunately, that means your dog needs to take a trip to the kennels instead. On average, you’ll pay around $25 per night6.

If by some luck your dog can come on holiday with you then great, here are a few of the best dog travel crates for you to transport your four-legged friend safely. But before you take your family pictures, remember that it also costs to get your pet on a plane, approximately $250 for a domestic return flight.

Be careful though, the last thing you want is for your dog to get into an unfortunate accident that may result in emergency treatment. Not only is the emotional worry draining, but so is the $500 bill you’ll get charged with.

The Unexpected Costs

All the things you forgot to plan for

Type of expense Out-of-pocket cost
An injury or illness $500+
Pet travel (return domestic flights) ~$250
Boarding your dog ~$25 (per night)

👉 Read our complete guide to veterinary care for an exhaustive list of the different types of vet visits and how much they cost.

At the end of the day, your dog will become part of the family and it’s crucial that when the time comes, you know you’ll be able to afford to keep your pet through sickness and health.

Adopting a dog isn’t a money-saving investment, but what you lose in cost, you gain in love. And that’s always free.

Am I financially ready for a dog?

It’s helpful to have a ballpark idea of what owning a furball will cost, but there are always unexpected twists and turns. At betterpet, we believe buying a pet insurance policy and setting aside $1,000-$3,000 for unexpected emergencies is part of being a responsible pet owner.

Andy Bowen, one of our co-founders, spent two consecutive Christmases in the waiting room of a vet hospital while Hadley, his Yorkiepoo, slowly recovered from a nearly life-ending bout of pancreatitis-induced seizures. “It was crazy and exhausting,” Andy said.

“She lived off an IV for about five days in total. Ultimately, those visits cost me over $6,000 out of pocket. I didn’t have a pet insurance policy at the time. Thankfully, I had several thousand dollars tucked away for stuff like this, but I never expected to spend nearly that much money keeping my dog alive.”

The odds are, you’ll find yourself in Andy’s shoes at some point. According to Dr. Louise Murray, vice-president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, in New York City, owners will probably incur “at least one $2,000 to $4,000 bill for emergency care at some point during their pet’s lifetime.”

It’s not fair to your or your pet to have to choose between saving your pet’s life and paying your rent. That’s why we strongly recommend establishing an emergency fund before getting your pet.