There's a saying in the equine world: The cheapest part of owning a horse is buying one. In reality, the same holds true for household pets. And generally, the bigger the pet, the more they cost, so dogs naturally top the scales. Before you welcome a puppy into your home -- and your heart -- consider the costs of being his caregiver. It's often a lot more than people expect, or budget.
The Initial Plunge
The American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals estimates that in the first year a new dog will cost -- at a minimum -- between $1,314 and $1,843, depending on his size. This includes food, spay/neuter, vaccinations, pet insurance, toys, collar, leash and other supplies, but not the initial adoption or purchase fee, nor the often pricey sums associated with kenneling, pet sitting and/or dog walking services. And while this number drops roughly 50 percent in subsequent years, it still adds up to the equivalent of a down payment on a modest home over a dog's lifetime: an average of 12 to 14 years. If faced with unexpected illnesses or accidents, these numbers can skyrocket.
If you're still ready to add a puppy to the family portrait, consider options to help take some of the bite out of your budget. Ideally, adopt from a shelter or rescue group where healthy, happy puppies -- both mixed and purebred -- are less expensive than a purchased pet, or even a giveaway, when you factor in the costs of vaccines, sterilization and other services included in the adoption fee. If you must purchase, avoid pet stores and backyard breeders. Responsible breeders only produce puppies from parents that have been cleared of congenital health and behavioral defects. Purchasing from these breeders costs more upfront, but likely will save money, and heartache, down the road. For those unplanned emergencies or illnesses, pet insurance can often be the difference between life and death. Annual premiums vary based on the breed, age and health of the pup. Finally, the old adage "prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies for pups as well. Exercise and quality, nutritious food, combined with regular checkups and vaccinations have proven to be keys to a long and happy life.
Barbara Cozzens has been writing for more than 20 years. Her work has appeared in publications of the Nature Conservancy, the World Bank Group, National Geographic Society, Duke University and others. Cozzens holds a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Colgate University and a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.