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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Going to the Dogs - What Does it Really Cost to Own a Dog?

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay
Having owned numerous dogs over the years, I can attest to the fact that it isn’t a cheap proposition anymore.  While you can adopt a dog from a friend or the animal shelter for next to nothing, what most would-be dog owners don’t factor in are the expenses involved in caring for a dog these days.  Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool dog owner or are considering buying or adopting a dog, this blog is for you.

Purebred or Mutt?

When I was a kid, my dad brought our family’s first dog home one Saturday afternoon.  While all three of us kids had been begging him for a golden retriever, he decided instead to buy an Irish setter.  While beautiful, the breed has a tendency to grow quite large.  They also like to run nonstop for most of the day and it wasn’t long before my mom’s flower bed was trampled into the dust.  At the time I was the oldest child of ten, with my brother being two years younger than me and my sister two years younger than him.  Having an 80-pound racehorse of a dog thundering around the backyard took a little getting used to for the entire family.  Eventually, my mother decided that the setter had to go and she gave it to a family friend.  Six months later, my dad brought home a beagle mix that was a lot more family and yard friendly.

The reason I’m telling you this is because you need to shop carefully for the right dog.  Some dogs have either social issues or physical ailments that are common to the breed.  Some breeds are good with children and some aren’t.  As my mom found out, a large dog not only eats a lot more than a small dog, but it can do a lot more damage to the home and garden. One time when my family went out for the day, we came home to find that our Irish setter had torn a chair cushion to pieces.  Dogs are particularly prone to separation anxiety since their social structure is a pack.  If the pack kicks you to the curb in the wild, that’s like being banished.  Separation anxiety can lead to bad behavior in any dog.  Some dogs tend to chew on furniture to express their angst, while others will soil the carpet to express their displeasure.  Until a dog is truly housebroken and content with its role in the pack, expect to keep your local carpet cleaning company on speed dial.

Veterinarians like to drive fancy foreign cars too.

Image courtesy Pixabay
Another big expense is veterinary care.  While routine visits to the vet may only set you back a few hundred dollars a year, should your dog sustain an injury that requires a trip to the animal ER, prepare to shell out thousands of dollars.  Even the cost for pet medications has skyrocketed in recent years.  While flea treatments will only set you back $10 or so a month, medications for ear infections, de-worming, urinary tract infections and other common dog maladies can run hundreds of dollars alone.  If a condition becomes chronic requiring a veterinarian to intercede, the costs quickly jump up.  Just like your own family physician, vets have a battery of diagnostic tools and tests that can be brought to bear to help cure what ails your dog.  But these tests and subsequent treatments, while not as expensive as those of human doctors, can still cost a dog owner thousands of dollars before it’s all said and done.  That’s why some dog owners opt for pet insurance to help defer the costs and reduce the financial risk of ownership.

How much do they eat?

If you’re going to own a dog, you’ve got to feed your dog.  Since dogs come in a variety of sizes, what you can expect to shell out for in dog food and doggie treats depends on how big of a breed you get.  According to the Dog Food Project, the average cost to feed a dog in the US is between $100-$300.  The difference is due not only to the size and appetite of a breed, but it also depends on what you choose to feed your dog.  While a 40-pound bag of Purina Dog Chow will only set you back around $20, the same size bag of Purina Pro Plan for dogs with sensitive skin costs two and a half times as much.  Some gourmet brands and senior care dog food can cost upwards of $90 for a single bag.  Depending on how big and hungry your dog is, it won’t be long before the bag is empty and you have to buy another.

Club Pet

Image courtesy flickr
Another thing that most neophyte dog owners fail to take into consideration is how much it costs to board a dog while the owner is away.  While bare bones kennel care can usually be had for $25-$50 per night, stays at more elaborate pet spas can cost as much as $60-$90 per night.  While doggie day care usually costs about half that of an overnight stay, if you need to board your dog for the day while you’re at work, expect to pay $15-$30 per day. 

While there are pet-friendly hotels and motels that will allow you to take your pet with you on vacation, some charge a fee and others have restrictions on certain breeds.  Some hotels also have restrictions when it comes to your pets climbing onto the furniture. If your dog’s barking upsets the guests, you could be asked to leave.  If your dog bites another pet or a guest, you could wind up being sued.  This means you should bring and use a muzzle on your dog when you are on hotel property.  The bottom line is if you intend to take your dogs with you on a trip, make sure you find out the rules and restrictions before you make your reservation.

Dogs need to be walked regularly.  While you can do the task yourself, if you wish to outsource the job, expect to pay $15-$30 depending on the length of the walk.
Miscellaneous Items
If you don’t want your dog sleeping on your bed, you’ll probably opt for a dog bed.  Dogs need to keep themselves entertained, particularly while you and the family are out and about.  This means buying a doghouse if you plan on keeping your dog outside while you’re at work and lots of dog toys if you intend to leave your dog inside during the day.  Speaking of letting your dog wander in the backyard, if you don’t have a chain link fence around your property, expect to spend some money to acquire one.  The last thing you want is for your dog to get out of your yard while you’re away.  Not only is your dog’s safety at risk, so too is that of other dogs and your neighbors.  The last thing you want is for your dog to bite anyone.

While I’m not trying to deter anyone from owning a dog, everybody needs to understand the reality of dog ownership.  Depending on the breed, health and age of a dog, the yearly cost of dog ownership ranges from $1,500-$9,000 a year.  And that’s a lot of doggone money.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at


  1. Dogs are like 4-legged family members to many who own them. It's no wonder why the pet industry has turned into a multi-billion-dollar behemoth.

  2. Everytime I take my dog to the vet it cost about $160. Not to mention the two knee surgeries he has had as well ($800 each). Owning a pet can be very expensive.


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