Owning a dog can be both the most rewarding purchase and life experience one could imagine while the full implications of dog costs and puppy costs can also be one of the most poorly and misunderstood family purchases one makes in a life time. Would you be surprised if I told you that raising this dog below could cost close to $100,000 over a lifetime? Using realistic and reasonable assumptions and calculations, you’d be surprised to learn what buying a puppy now can cost you over a lifetime – Read on.
Meet Jack. Jack is a beautiful friendly yellow lab who is excellent with our children, loves us to death and makes us laugh constantly. We love Jack like a child, and he was sort of our first child when my wife I first got hitched. Well, after my wife returned from the vet recently having spent $200 without even bringing in and animal (all medicine and Frontline, etc.), I decided it was time to reflect on the true cost of owning a dog from puppy purchase all the way through when Jack leaves us for happy dog land in the sky.
This article will serve two purposes: First, I will highlight many common dog costs that people may not consider early on. I’ll tackle some of the hidden costs we’ve seen and I’ll also ask readers to comment on your common dog or puppy costs that you feel I’ve omitted and I can adjust from there. I’ll also cover how our approach may not have been the cheapest and how you can mitigate costs by taking a different approach in your decisions. Next, I’ll calculate a Net Present Value (NPV) model for our dog in particular – actually, a Net Present Cost (NPC), but same concept with more popular title. While this preliminary model will be applicable to our dog specifically, it can be easily adjusted and altered to fit your circumstance. What this NPC does is gives you a real time snap shot of not just what a dog will cost over its lifetime, but in today’s dollars, just how much are you paying for that puppy? i.e. what is it worth today in future discounted cashflows out? You’ll be surprised.
Our Puppy Cost / Dog Cost History:
Dog Adoption vs. Purebred from a Breeder: We chose to buy a purebred dog from an AKC champ father knowing that we’d eventually have children and we wanted the best the the Labrador retriever breed had to offer. While it’s rare that lab mixes or adopted labs actually end up having aggression problems (but we actually have one in our neighborhood that’s extremely aggressive, so it is possible) or other problems that are insurmountable, the breed is prone to hip dysplasia and other maladies that we didn’t want to suffer with a few years down the road by saving a few hundred dollars up front. So, we sought out a small breeder (not a puppy mill!) with a pedigree line and great looking parents/puppies. We chose Jack from the litter, as he was the biggest and most voracious eater and was all over us, licking us and whatnot. It wasn’t really a choice – he chose us in hindsight. But he wasn’t cheap – $800.
It’s not uncommon to get a rescue/adoption dog either for free or less than $100 to account for some initial canine vaccines, etc. If your situation is different from ours, there are thousands of needy dogs and cats that would benefit from adoption though. So, please consider that as an option as well. To highlight places where that option is cheaper or not required, I’ve marked those items with an “*”.
Puppy Costs Early On: Right off the bat, there were several purchases and modifications we had to endure which were not cheap. We need things like:
- dog bed
- water/food bowl
- a crate to potty train him
- dog gates for the house
- puppy food
- puppy toys
- early vet visits and so on.
All in all, probably another $400.
Puppy Costs First Year
Aside from just getting Jack acclimated to our house and family (we had a lovely cat at the time too), there were several expenses we underwent during his first year including the following:
- neutering/spaying cost – ~$200*
- repairs to walls and cabinets from chewing – could be any range, but assume at least $200* in damages from your dog early on. While some things just can’t be replaced, it’s inevitable that your puppy will either destroy a wall or property of a friend or family that you have to repair.
- dog training cost – a must, especially for large breeds. For decent training on a sustained basis, we spent a few hundred dollars – $300*
Routine Dog Costs
- Ongoing medication on an annual basis:
- Heartgard – A 12 pack (1 years supply) is $68
- Frontline – A year’s supply is ~$150 for a dog our size. You’ll pay less for smaller dogs.
- Cosequin – Jack takes this twice a day to reduce the likelihood of hip/joint problems later in life. It’s pretty expensive at ~ $400
- Pet-sitting cost -While we’re not paying for this now since my wife’s home with the kids, early on, while we were both working, we didn’t feel it was right to leave Jack alone in the house 10 hours at a time. So, we had tried both doggy day care and a visiting pet sitter. For a minimalist approach, if you assume 1 petsitter visit per day for each working day at $12 per visit (this can vary dramatically depending on your location), and assume 250 work days per year, that’s $3000. Doggy day-care will likely run even more.
- Vacation – who’s going to watch the dog? While we take Jack on the vacations we can, sometimes, we go somewhere that doesn’t allow dogs and we need to find a place for him. We have either a friend for a bonded and insured petsitter that takes him in. We usually pay between $25 and $35 per night. So, if we do 2 vacations per year for a week each at $30 per night, that’s $420
- Food – Jack is a big guy and eats a lot. He also has a bit of a sensitive stomach and my wife talked me into paying more for a higher quality feed with better ingredients than what you get in some of the generic brands (like horsemeat or leftover grease), so we pay about $40 per bag for a 40 pound bag and that lasts probably a month. $480
- Gifts, Holidays and other silly stuff -because Jack’s part of the family, of course, we need to include him in celebrations and get him the occasional dog treats, toys, dog ice cream treats in the summer, etc. Probably $200 per year.
- Dog Vaccination Costs and Vet Visits – These costs easily amount to $500 per year. In our case, probably more given Jack’s various bowel/vomiting issues, poopy issues and other strange maladies that seemed to pop of over the years. We’ll go with $500 for now.
- Dog grooming costs and more – While we don’t pay for this, it’s pretty common, especially for certain breeds, to have a routine grooming arrangement. On top of that, there are nails to cut and anal glands to drain and it can add up. Conservatively, perhaps $250 per year.
One-Time Dog Costs
- Unexpected Vet/Medical Procedure Bill – We’ve all faced it as a pet owner – the dog swallowed a bag, ate an entire container of chocolate (heart risk), has an unexplained malady that requires x-rays and surgery…at least once in a dog’s life, it’s likely that you’ll have to shell out a bundle on a series of exams and treatments totaling ~$1000. While it sounds like a lot, each dog I’ve known in my family and extended family has had one such issue.
End of Life Dog Costs
- No different than humans, a large portion of all health care expenditures will occur in the final months of life. If you choose to prolong your dog’s life by fighting cancer, anemia or whatever other canine malady may exist, there will likely be some hefty vet bills toward the end. Plan on at least $500
- When your beloved friend is dying, you’ll want to do the humane thing and put them to sleep. You may also want to have the remains cremated. This will likely run a few hundred dollars. $400
Total Dog Costs Analyzed
With the assumptions I listed here and based on our experience with Jack, a Yellow Lab from puppy to the end, here’s what I calculated as both the total cost and the Net Present Cost using a 4.5% discount rate (see my prior NPV article to understand more about NPV/NPV calculations). Since Pet-sitting comprised such a prominent cost factor, I also calculated what the costs look like if you don’t utilize petsitting.
Lifetime Dog Cost (with Pet-sitting): $96,000
Net Present Cost (with Pet-sitting): $70,000
Lifetime Dog Cost (without Pet-sitting): $45,000
Net Present Cost (without Pet-sitting): $33,000
If you’re interested in seeing how this compares with raising a child, check out this article on Child Costs I wrote at Everyday Finance. Again, if you want this model to structure if differently based on your dog’s specifics, feel free to leave a comment here or request via my contact form.
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