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budgeting considerations before getting a pet

The Four Expenses to Consider Before Getting a Pet

Jan 4th, 2021 • Kristen A.

Last weekend I was sitting in the lobby at our Veterinarian’s office. We were waiting for a consultation appointment for my male dog. (Don’t tell him but the consultation was about his upcoming neuter appointment). While waiting in the lobby I could hear the vet speaking in the exam room next door. The owner was receiving the results of testing. Her dog had slipped a disc in its back. The dog would need several days of hospitalization, laser therapy, and maybe even a wheelchair. As a dog lover and self described “dog mom” my heart broke for her. Then, I heard something that made my financial heart hurt as well. “I’ll need to call and make sure my CareCredit is active.” The vet was empathetic to her situation. She told her to go home and call about her account and then leave a message with the receptionist. They left the office visibly upset. 

Unfortunately this is the financial (and emotional) reality of dog ownership. Dogs can be extremely expensive. Food, annual vaccines, preventative treatment for things like heartworms, fleas, and ticks; it adds up so quickly. If you are considering purchasing or adopting a dog or other pet it’s important to understand this impact on your financial life. When assessing whether or not you can afford to take care of this new family member, start by adding the monthly costs to your budget. Here are four expenses to consider as you plan for your new pet:

1. Preventative Maintenance

Ok, I know your dog isn’t a car, but the analogy kind of works.

Your dog, at a minimum, needs food, water, shelter, and the medicines recommended by your veterinarian. Most offices will recommend a monthly preventative for heartworms (and the like), fleas, and ticks. Your dog’s size and age will determine how much they eat and how much their preventative medications cost. These monthly expenses can quickly equal $60 or more. If your dog has any chronic conditions you’ll also need to plan for medications and required supplements.

2. Annual Care

Though less frequent, it’s important to have funds available for annual expenses . An annual wellness exam is widely recommended and can cost hundreds by the time you leave the office. An exam fee, vaccines, and any required testing can add up quickly. Though if you’re adopting or purchasing a puppy these costs will be very “front loaded.” Puppies require multiple rounds of vaccines. In addition, you should plan to spay/neuter your pet. The consultation visit from my story above? The quote for the procedure was ~$400. Note that there are often lower cost options in your area but availability might be limited, and you’ll need to make your schedule accommodate the local offering. For example, your local humane society might offer a low cost spay/neuter clinic once/month. The humane society might offer discounted vaccines as well.

3. Infrequent But Necessary Care

Much like children, dogs seem to get into things they shouldn’t. Sometimes these mischievous acts can wreak havoc on your bank account. Emergency visits can cost 2x a traditional office visit (or more). It’s vital that you establish emergency savings for these potentially hefty bills. If you need help building emergency savings for your pet or otherwise check out this article. Some owners choose to hedge this risk with pet insurance. Though the industry is new(er) many find pet insurance to be a great investment.

4. The Obsessive Pet Parent

As a culture, we’ve become increasingly obsessed with making Fido a member of our family. If your intent is to spoil your new furry family member, you’ll need to increase all aspects of your budget. You might need to increase your monthly budget for things like vitamins, probiotics, extra treats, and toys. You might have more miscellaneous expenses like a dog walker or an orthopedic dog bed. (I know an orthopedic dog bed sounds extreme but my dogs love theirs, totally worth it.) Just know, the more you intend to spoil, the more money you need to plan to spend. 

I don’t say any of the above to discourage you from owning a dog. I’m just here to ensure you’re aware of this financial reality. If you’re going to adopt or purchase a dog be prepared for more than just potty training, dog parks, and cute pictures for social media. Often we see persons who must re-home their dog as a result of the financial burden. It can be a heartbreaking thing for both the dog and the owner. So please, before you decide to bring home Fido, ensure you’re aware of the financial liability he brings. 

Talking through these kinds of question is what Hey Money experts specialize in. While buying a home or car is a bigger financial commitment, we believe that all financial decisions you make matter. No question or issue is too small! To start your Hey Money subscription, click here.

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