The Hidden Costs Of Pet Ownership

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Brown dog

Deacon may come with some hidden costs, but that face is priceless.

I never really “understood” pet people, likely because I was not a “pet person” growing up. (Just someone who used a lot of quotation marks, apparently.)

However, 6 months before our wedding, my wife and I started talking about getting a dog. Soon after that, an 8-week-old puggle named Deacon officially joined our family. (By the way, awful timing on our part. New puppy + wedding planning = major stress.)

Now, I have a much better appreciation of the mild obsession that develops when you get you get a pet—as well as all the hidden costs that go along with them.


Before we adopted Deacon, my wife and I did our research and put together a preliminary budget of the annual expenses (e.g., food, medical, toys/treats) we believed would accompany our newest addition.

Our projections were not completely off—we assumed roughly $800-$1,000 for the first year, factoring in that puppies typically cost more. However, since we’ve had Deacon, we’ve discovered several “hidden” expenses.

If you’re considering getting a pet, be sure to account for these costs before you do.

Day Care

Day care for dogs. Who knew? Not us. But apparently, it’s quite the thriving industry, with projected spending of almost $5B for 2014.

While doggie day care is not a necessity, my wife and I both work full time, and sometimes, coming home during the day can be a challenge. Not to mention, we found Deacon was much less rambunctious on those days he attended day care. After some back and forth, we landed on a day care about 10 minutes from our home, which Deacon attends 1-2 days/week.

Based on our research and experience, this expense can run you between $20 and $30/day. The good news: Many places offer discounts for purchasing a certain number of visits up front. Be sure to ask about such options. If you are looking for a slightly cheaper alternative, dog walkers (about $15-$20 per half-hour) might be your best bet. Or, recruit your favorite neighbor/friend/family member who works weird hours—you know they’ll be bored.

Vet Visits

We budgeted for vet/medical expenses on an annual basis. However, our projections turned out to be low for a couple reasons.

First, beyond normal check-ups, Deacon has had several sick visits, resulting in additional costs and follow-up medication expenses. I never thought I’d spend large sums of money on a pet, but of course, once yours gets sick, your mindset changes.

Second, while not required, we gave Deacon a couple common preventative medications (Lyme disease vaccinations and flea and tick medications). The upfront costs for these was high (Lyme disease vaccination was roughly $200), but dogs that contract Lyme disease (besides being terribly uncomfortable) typically take medication the rest of their lives—resulting in a much greater long-term cost.

Unexpected medical expenses can quickly bust your budget—and drain your bank account. So, be sure to have an emergency fund ready to cover these costs.


I’m a big proponent of paying attention to the “other” category in your budget, but this one still snuck up on me.

Toys, beds, leashes, collars, crates, shampoo … the list goes on. While some of these items were necessary, more of them were driven by our strong emotional connection with Deacon which, unfortunately, sometimes gets in the way of making rational decisions.

After some alarming credit cards statements, we adjusted our spending plan to better account for these additional expenses, which keeps us on track. Yes, it’s OK to add money to a budget line—provided you adjust somewhere else and stick to it.

Also, remember that your pet may destroy or ignore whatever you buy relatively quickly. I don’t endorse buying the bottom-of-the-barrel merchandise; however, ask yourself if your pet really needs the Cadillac of collars? Probably not.

Pet owners: What costs surprised you? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: Jonathan Sparling)

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  1. Judi June 27, 2014 / 3:16 pm

    I would highly recommend that anyone with a pet investigate pet health care insurance. I’ve had my pets insured just for those emergency trips for a number of years and it is well worth the minimal cost. Emergency vets can be very costly; with pet insurance you pay the upfront cost, but, in my experience, reimbursements are usually fairly quick and relatively painless.

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