The Real Cost of a Dog

A while back I wrote about getting pet health insurance, and how it was an extra expense that we probably won’t be adding soon. Since then, I’ve quickly realized that the total cost of owing a pet is worth its own post, so take a look at all the expenses we’ve occurred in just two months.

The Cost of a Pet

DogWe bought a chocolate lab a while back and spent $400 on it. The male puppies were $300, but we wanted a female because my wife suggested she might be a little less aggressive. Truffle (or Truff for short) is a cool dog, and we treated the cost as a big Christmas gift to each other. Little did I know how much she would really cost. (Hint: It’s not $400)

The Bed, Crate, and Toys

You can’t just buy a pet without stopping at PetsMart on the way home. We knew she’d grow like a weed, so we bought the ‘large’ sizes to avoid spending all this money again to upgrade (beds, crates, etc).

  • Fluffy dog bed: $40
  • Crate (for house-training / sleeping): $150
  • Toys, food, leash, collar, and treats: $100

Yep, we spent nearly $300 in accessories that first day. If you think $100 is way too much for toys, food, a leash, a collar, and treats, think again. (Don’t worry, I thought that too.)

  • Food: $40
  • 4-5 toys: $30
  • Treats: $10
  • Leash: $10
  • Collar: $10

Vet Bills

I should have gone to school to be a vet . . . . We walked out the first time with a bill of $87. That included the cost of the exam, booster shots, and flea treatment.


Vet Bills (Round 2)

You guessed it, one month later, she needed another examination so we dropped another $80 bucks.

Vet Bills (Round 3)

This was a doozy. This month she was spayed, micro-chipped (in case she’s lost) and had her third boosters and all sorts of flea/mite/puppy treatments that definitely aren’t free.

Total cost for this bill: $353 (Ouch!)

Monthly Costs

I calculated that she’d go through about a bag of food a month, and it’ll cost us about $30 just in food. Treats aren’t that bad as a box can last two months, so that’s like $4-5 a month. She is pretty rough with her toys (better than my furniture) and we can spend about $5 a month on a toy or two.

Total Costs so Far

About $1,245 . . . in just two months. Ouch that hurts!

If you’re trying to save money and get out of debt or save up for a small car, don’t get a pet. We love our dog, but she’s not cheap!

What kind of expenses will come next? Do you have a pet? How much do you spend on it each year?

This article was originally published on

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  1. Wesley Wiley

    Great post Tim. My wife and I got a cat from the local shelter about a year into our marriage. I had many of the same revelations…only $89 for the cat…then vet bills…boarding while away…then the real crazy money came when our cat was diagnosed with kidney failure. She was only seven, and in the course of a weekend we spent $1200 on vet fees only to end up needing to put her to sleep. Looking back I don’t regret any of that, but definitely agree if you’re trying to get out of debt make the pet reward for getting out of debt and delay it until then.

  2. Keith

    Another expense of having a dog is kenneling or paying someone to dog-sit when you are away for the weekend or longer for vacation. When our dog was young, we had her stay a few days at the kennel. But that can add up quickly and it was impersonal. Now we leave her with friends or family or have a neighbor drop by to feed her and take her out.

  3. Michelle

    Pets are definitely expensive! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. We spend around $50 on dog food for our two dogs, and around $10 on treats and toys each month.

  4. Brad Andres

    A couple other costs to include can be cleaning materials for any inside potty accidents. Examples are urine-be-gone or steam cleaning costs.
    Also another possible expense may be any sort of damages from a curious dog who may like to chew on tje houss furniture. (Hopefully not in your case, but is rather common.)

  5. Jim

    Your list sounds about right. And if you get a hypoallergenic breed (e.g. poodle mix), don’t forget about grooming costs. They don’t shed, so you have to get the trimmed at least a few times a year (maybe more depending on how pretty you want the dog to look!). About $40-50 a shot minimum in my area at a chain store, more at private groomers. So that’s several hundred $$ per year ongoing for the life of the dog.

    • Edie

      I found that spending $150+ for a professional clipper, scissor, brushes, combs (I have a Maltese )has saved me a fortune in grooming costs over the past several years. It is a minimum of $45 to have her groomed. There are lots of YouTube videos on how-to. I hate every minute of it though, but we are in debt payoff mode, so we do what we have to do.

  6. Sheila

    We are up to almost $10,000 in six years for our two dogs. I would have never, ever done this had I known. Our lab has issues with his joints which has resulted in 3 surgeries and requires pain/anti-inflammatory medicines on a daily basis for almost four years now at almost a dollar a day. Once these two are gone, I will never have another.

  7. Phil

    We recently rescued 3 dogs (first time ever as a family having dogs) in May of this year. So our dogs were free but not shots, spaying, neutering, and all the accessories you covered

    I justified the costs of the dogs because we have alot of cats in the area

    So far we have spent about $1000. We are looking into fencing the area for our future orchard next but we have over an acre … fencing is expensive.

    Also our cat problem … is still there the cats just stay where the dogs can’t get them LOL

    • Alison

      We were able to get free cedar wood for our fencing needs from old telephone/electrical poles that were being replaced down our long country road. Hubby split them for re purposing for split rail fencing. Easy enough to build, lots of styles of split rail one can research on the internet. Its a very strong fence style, and it looks cool.

  8. Viki

    Maybe I am out of line here, and if I am, I apologize in advance . . . but the same could be said of having children. “If you are in debt/saving money, don’t have kids.” This is NOT to equate children with dogs, but to remind that “getting” a dog is another way of adding to one’s family, and any time one’s family size increases, so do your household expenditures.

  9. Liz

    As an adult I have had 5 dogs, each with its own personality. I have learned a lot from each of them and they have my life much richer. They have also brought me closer to my heavenly father, especially when it comes to unconditional love. I can’t put a price on that

  10. Liz

    Also, mutts/mixed breeds often cost less in the short term and the long term.

  11. Holly Wolf

    Pets fall into the “it’s just” categories…it’s just a dog, it’s just a trip to the movie, it’s just a take out pizza. These little expenses sabotage the overall plan to get out of debt. When there is no wiggle room in the budget and you’re in credit card debt, you have to make tough choices.

    Few folks look at the sanitary issues too…..they drag in dirt (or worse) on the carpets, dog hair all over the house, accidents and then some folks allow pets in bed (YUK). That’s all extra work and expense.

    • Jane

      You sound like a very cold person (YUK).

  12. Leeanne O

    We recently invested in a small puppy and even though the costs are higher than we thought, the joy she is bringing us makes it more than worth it. I am happier and less stressed out because I am always googling over her. We also plan to get her certified to be a therapy pet so she can bring some joy to those in need, and who can put a price on that?

  13. Kathy

    My husband and I rescued a puppy that at the time was 12 lbs and 8 months old is now 90 lbs! Levi not only cost us the same items as you have written about, but a used
    SUV at $ 5000.00 and the trade in of our Malibu so that we can have him with us
    when we travel. I also make my own dog and cat food so feeding this family can get
    quite costly. We have never had children and so our furry children mean the world to us and yes; maybe we spend more than we should, but the joy and unconditional Love they show us is worth all that and more. Just remember that a dog can bring much love into your home, but if you can’t afford the expense; please think twice before getting a dog, only to have them fall in love with you, and then soon end up in a shelter.

  14. LLS

    Pets are expensive, so is pet odor removal. We own a carpet cleaning co, and yes it is expensive. The key is training, and not letting them potty all over the house. If you adopt an older pet, it can be hard to know if they are well trained or not.
    While it’s true you shouldnt adopt one if you truly cannot afford it, pets are a blessing from above. God hand picked each of our pets over many years. Not only proven to reduce blood pressure, but pets provide therapy to the elderly or people who adopt them. Our rescue dog has lifted depression from our home, and there is no denying God sent her. Our business and line of work has been struggling greatly in this economy but you wouldnt ever find us giving away our wonderful gifts from the Lord. They are not objects, they are family. There are reduced rate shot clinics, and all sorts of deals on foods and supplies. You dont need expensive beds or sweaters. Not every pet is an extreme expense, but every pet should be needed and loved. If you have the attitude that they are simply objects of little importance, you probably shouldnt bother adopting one.And for the record, an unbeliever in the family sees this one dog as a direct gift from God and credits Him for it. Another elderly member comes over to have her pet therapy weekly. It has healed her depression.

    • Susie

      I am shocked at some of these responses. My two dogs are the joy of my life. I would NEVER be without a pet. It is true someone struggling to pay the bills should not have a pet for sure. But to say it is just a dog! What, are you just a human? As LLC said we are all God’s creatures. Give the pet animals the respect they deserve. I will spend whatever it takes!

  15. Jennifer

    I totally agree, LLS! I truly believe that my dogs have been gifts from God. And while they are expensive (by the way, your vet sounds CHEAP compared to mine!), love doesn’t have a price tag.

  16. Randy C

    Our choc lab will be 15 yrs old this Christmas (2013). She has not been to a vet in at least 8 yrs; no shots, no vaccinations, no heartworm pills, etc. Just water, food, and family love. She has out-lived her litter-mates twice. She will probably be our last dog for a while. We are now struggling with the “when to put them down” issue, trying to define “quality life”. But for now, we will enjoy having Cappie around for the rest of her days…….

  17. Tammy

    Yes, dogs do cost money. I will continue to pay for my sweet furbaby. We got him when he was 5 1/2 wks. old. He is 11 1/2 years old now. He is part lab. He was the runt of the litter, but he is 100 lbs. now. He is awesome! He was there for me when I had my miscarriages before I had my sons. He’s always there for us. He’s had 6 surgeries…2 on his hind legs…torn acl…He has a plate & 6 screws in each of his hind legs. He loves our boys so much, too! He is cheaper than a therapist and a gym since he needs to be walked. He loves his walks! We will rescue a dog when our sweet boy passes to doggy Heaven.

  18. Kristin Smith

    What about adoption? You should write about that because not only does it save money, it also saves a life. The rescue I volunteer with ( adopts out dogs of all ages for $195. They come up-to-date on shots, spayed/neutered, and microchipped. Pretty amazing deal. We get pregnant dogs in all the time of all breeds–purebred and mixed. Also, in the long run you’d probably save with a mutt since they are less likely to have the genetic disorders of pure breds. Might want to educate your readers about that option. Adoption is a fantastic way to go since so many dogs–even young puppies–are euthanized every day. Also, you can get stuff for dogs much more cheaply online. I got a large kennel (same as in the store) for $50 on eBay.

  19. Pamela

    Compared to a human’s doctor, a vet visit is a bargain. I pay far more for just a dental cleaning.

    But I also save lots of money by having a dog.

    No cable television–what’s more entertaining than a pooch? No gym membership–but lots of hikes, walks, and kayaking with my dog. No long distance calls to friends or family–my dog is a better listener anyway. No need to own fancy furniture–it will just get dog hair all over it.

    The way I look at it, I’ve saved thousands by having a dog. 🙂

  20. Dena

    Wait until you have to board Truffle when you go away on a week’s vacation. We typically board our dog around the same time he is due for his annual physical exam which in itself runs just shy of $200.00.

    The boarding, if you don’t want to impose on family runs anywhere from $14.00 to $25.00 a night depending on your area and services offered while at the kennel.

    This last time, we opted for convenience and boy did it cost us!! While we were on vacation, the “new” vet called us and said that he was concerned that our dog “Ducky’s” gums were pale which is an indication of a low blood value. He said he took it upon himself to do a simple hematacrit test which turned up low and wanted permission to do full bloodwork and urine to check for kidney damage. In the end….all was fine and he doesn’t know why his blood is a little low, but everything checks out and he’s fine. So……drum roll for the final bill which includes the boarding for 7 days….$686.00!!!

    So NO, they are definitely not cheap, but they provide love beyond measure and has been a wonderful addition to our family. Unlike your $400.00 lab, he was free….someone dumped when he was about 1 out our road and he has been the best dog ever!

  21. Pam

    I give my dog her shots except for rabies. You can buy the shots at the feed store and either have a nurse give it or someone who knows how to give shots. The med comes in a syringe and you give it in the skin behind the dogs shoulder blades. As for toys I get them at garage sells or the dollar store. I avoid Petsmart and other pet stores as prices are high. Pets can be very expensive and it helps to have an old time vet that doesn’t have a cat scan machine and does know how to take care of a dog with minimal tests and equipment.

  22. Kellyj

    We have 2 rescue dogs that found their way to us, so no cost there, but the article is spot on with all the other costs. Another cost is dog obedience class, which runs maybe $150, but is a good investment and can help make your pet so much more enjoyable.
    A way to save on dog toys is to give your dog your empty water bottles – this is a new toy for them, at no cost to you, (if you happen to buy bottled water). But I have to say, I think it’s all worth it. The dogs bring so much enjoyment.
    If you’re considering getting a dog, remember small dogs will cost less. (less food, cheaper to board, smaller bed, smaller crate, etc.)

  23. Ron K

    A friend gave us a stray mut which he picked up along side a rural road. A little pup. I thought it would be excellent for the grandkids since we didn’t have a dog. First trip to the vet to get it checked was $300+. A learning experience ensued. None of it fun.

    A nephew let his house dog outside briefly. Neighbor’s dogs thought the little fellow was a toy to play with apparently. Or, a living morsel of meat. He and his wife shelled out $500+ for vet charges.

    But if you live in a rural area and want to really cost yourself a fortune—get a horse.

  24. Linda

    We signed-up for Banfield program at PetSmart.. $39.00 a month and covers office visits, but not meds, all vaccines, dental exam and dental cleaning under anesthesia, but not extractions, etc. etc. We have saved lots of money but also taken better care of our dogs than every before! these will be the last dogs as we are retired now and don’t want to go through training and paying for any more dogs.

  25. Cherie

    Great article!!!

    Some tips for those that would like to love a dog but not necessarily take on the full responsibility of a dog:

    Foster with your local humane society or rescue group. Many of those groups cover the costs you are not able to donate. You just provide the home, love, and socialization. Just be careful not to be a Failed Foster and adopt if your budget isn’t ready.

    Work with service dog groups that need puppy raisers to care and socialize the puppies until they are ready for training. My puppyraising club in California would reimburse for food, provide appropriate-sized crates, required in-club puppysitting when you need to travel without the puppy, and other support. You only donate your time.

    Pets can be a blessing as long as you are prepared for the responsibility and costs.

  26. Paula

    I grew up with all kinds of animals. In 2009, I rescued my first dog, which led to another. I started researching holistic health care, nutrition, and training methods and writing a pet blog,

    In my experience vets care about mainly 1 thing, money and scare you if you don’t do this or do that. Holistic care, such as flower essences, herbs are much safer, healthier, and cost effective. I also use holistic kibble, no wheat, no soy, no preservatives. Please read your pets ingredients. If it starts with corn, not good! Meat should be the main ingredient. People food such as raw carrots, bananas, strawberries, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, green beans, blueberries, and more are good for your dog.

    I am not saying all vets are bad, but look for one that truly cares about your pet and not the bill, preferably a holistic vet. And if your pet needs surgery, you cannot cure that with holistic care.

    Some illnesses are genetic, but a lot are from poor diet. Vaccinations are another cause of illnesses. Did you know that all these vaccines are actually more harmful, than helpful and diminish your pet’s natural immune system? Topical flea control such as advantage, front line, contains toxins and that is from the EPA.

    You don’t need to go to petsmart and spend a fortune on toys or bedding. I believe their prices are ridiculous! Many things can be made at home. I made a tug o war toy out of scrap material which lasted much longer than any store-bought toy. I bought an orthopedic pet bed (lg) for$20 at a grocery outlet, that petsmart would have charged me $80.

    I have rescued pets, pet sit and am a foster dog mom for 3 years. Please read my blog or do research for yourself about these topics! They are God’s creatures and much more than a dumb animal. The shelters are full of dogs and cats where owners are not willing to put up with a behavior or medical problem they will not deal with. Thanks

  27. JJ

    This article and these comments are very interesting. Yes, not only are dogs huge time commitments, but they are expensive and this post just covered the beginning!

    Someone once said “Dogs are a privilege, not a right” –so if you can’t afford vet bills, food and the unexpected, don’t get a dog. Your dog shouldn’t be punished because you can’t afford the treatment they need, yet you still think you are entitled to have a dog.

    But I will say, that doesn’t mean you can’t save money when appropriate. Example: My dog tore his ACL at an old age. That surgery can run anywhere from $2,000-$4,000+. Now, of course, that price would terrify anyone, but my dog wasn’t a good candidate for surgery either. I had to research alternative methods and bought a Woundwear brace instead. Worked for us and I saved some cash (although, my primary reason for going with an alternative method was because of his age and heath.) I also love Pamela’s response about how her dog has saved her money in gym memberships, long distance calling and cable bills. LOL what a great perspective!