Exactly How Much It Cost Me To Have A Dog For A Year

 pup

To this day, one of my most popular blog posts is the one where I broke down how much it cost to have a dog every month. So, of course, when I hit the one-year mark of tracking my spending, I couldn’t wait to take a look and see if my calculations, which were based on six months of data, held up over the year.

Before I dig into the details, let’s get one thing straight: I would have literally no idea how much it cost to have a dog for a year if I hadn’t been tracking my spending.

The First Step: Tracking My Spending

On a whim last year (and okay, in an attempt to come up with things to write about on the blog), I started tracking my spending as part of a monthly challenge. I kicked things off in September 2015 with a really simple spreadsheet to track my spending, my income, and my savings. It also served as a really great way to see how far I was from hitting my 50% savings goal in real life.

As of this September 1, 2016, I’ve officially got spreadsheets detailing my spending on everything for an entire year, since I kept the challenge going well past that first month. So I did what any personal finance nerd would do, and tallied up my spending on different things to share with you.

Now, Onto Dog-Related Business

Dogs come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, which is fantastic — but let’s be real, that also impacts how much they cost. To give you some context on my particular dog, who I can say without any bias at all is the best dog, here are his trading-card stats.

  • He’s an adult rescue dog we got from the pound about two years ago, and he’s what we affectionately call a labra-mutt. Decidedly not a purebred designer puppy.
  • He’s rumored to be about 4.5 years old, based on the information the pound had about him.
  • He weighs 75 pounds when I’ve been good about his diet, 85 pounds when I have been…uh…lax about the treats.

Those factors (size, age and breed) will account for a good chunk of the variation in how much a dog costs to own for a year. Another good chunk of the cost variation comes down to how much self-control you have about buying your sweet puppy all the dog toys. (Let’s just say I’m working on that one.)

So How Much Did It Cost To Have a Dog For a Year?

Even before I started tracking my spending, I referred to The Dog as my “luxury dog,” because when a surprise trip to the vet to fix up a cut paw costs you as much as a pair of Louboutins, you are in luxury territory. Luckily, we had no such emergency vet visits this year, but even without any major unexpected expenses, it cost me $1619.59 ($1199.83 USD) to have a dog this year — excluding my contributions to The Dog’s emergency fund. If you include my contributions to building up that emergency savings account, which rang in at $1762.64 ($1305.80 USD), the grand total cost jumps to $3382.23 ($2505.63 USD). AKA, more than I spent on my used car this year.

However, in reassuring news, I’m one automated payment away from fully funding The Dog’s emergency fund, and in a true worst-case scenario, I now know that his emergency fund could cover a full year’s worth of regular expenses, with money to spare. That’s reassuring, which is literally the only feeling you want your emergency fund to give you.

So What Does That $1619.59 Include?

Here are some of the most notable chunks of my dog-related expenses, so you can see all the factors that go into making dog ownership the luxury proposition it really is.

1. Routine Vet Visits

We take The Dog to the vet twice a year: once in the fall for his annual vaccinations and check-up, and once in the spring to get him his summer anti-bug meds. This is the table-stakes level of vet care that any dog will need every year, and we’re lucky that this was the extent of our vetting needs this year (again, that cut paw cost me so much money).

2. Annual Insurance Premium

Our first year of dog insurance with PetPlan costs us a grand total of $316.25 ($234.29 USD), and as I’ve written before, I’ve waffled on the issue of pet insurance. The only reason we got it is that PetPlan offers exactly what we want: true, emergency coverage with a high deductible and high coverage limits, so if there’s another cut-paw situation, we’re covered.

Everything you’ve heard about pet insurance being kind of sketchy and evasive about coverage is true, so we’re not relying on the coverage for any routine care or expected issues — but if The Dog decides today is a good day to eat a sock, that’s the kind of unforeseen issue our policy would cover. I know, because I read the ten pages of terms really closely.

3. Food and Treats

This is a really variable expense for dog owners, because there are a lot of factors that will impact your dog-food budget. For us, the size of The Dog means he eats way more than a tiny dog would, and after we were told his teeth were basically the worst, we switched one of his two meals to the fancy, vet-recommended dental diet. The other meal is still our standard Costco dog food, which gets surprisingly great reviews and is really easy on our budget, but there’s only so much you can do to offset the fancy vet food.

4. Supplies

Even though I’ve drastically cut down on our dog-toy budget, because I finally realized that The Dog is perfectly content with one bone, one squeaky ball and a few Kongs, that doesn’t mean our “supply” budget has gone down all that much. This year we replaced The Dog’s collar, bought him a new harness, invested in a sturdy new dog bed for his crate, and went a little nuts on the tooth-cleaning supplies after his November checkup, where we were told how much it costs to have a dog’s teeth professionally cleaned. The contrast made our $56 ($41.49 USD) spent on doggie toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental chews seem like a bargain.

What Will Next Year Look Like?

As of tomorrow, The Dog’s emergency fund will officially, for real, be fully funded based on the goal I set for it this time last year. So instead of planning for a grand total of $3382.23 ($2505.63 USD) for The Dog — or a monthly total of $281.85 ($208.80 USD) — I’ll be working from the $1619.59 ($1199.83 USD) it cost me to have a dog this year. That breaks down to about $135 ($100.01 USD) a month, which is less than the $150 ($111.12 USD) I have listed right now in my budget.

But as I learned when The Dog sliced open his paw at the dog park that one time, there’s only so much predicting you can do when it comes to the true costs of pet ownership. Which is why I’ve just renewed The Dog’s insurance policy for another year. Cross your fingers for me, friends.

Desirae blogs about money at Half Banked, and spends altogether too much time onTwitter. She takes “money nerd,” “no chill” and “crazy dog lady” as compliments. 

Image via Unsplash

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  • Awesome seeing another post of yours on TFD! It’s always crazy to me how much dogs can be. For us we budget about $50 per month to cover our 2 dogs. We’ll have some months where we don’t spend anything, and then some months where we spend hundreds (usually for dog sitting costs when we got out of town). They’re such a big part of my life, but that also means they’re a big part of our yearly spending.

    • Des @ Half Banked

      Thanks so much Matt! And omg, your dog budget makes me want to weep. But I know the out of town struggle – we’ve been lucky to have family around for most of our long trips, and they’ve comped us free dog sitting, but we kennelled him for one overnight trip and I was floored. He had a great time, and we were happy he was there, but STILL. Man oh man. I need to run a kennel as my next career.

      • Haha that’d be an awesome small business for you! But yeah, both our dogs are small so maybe that factors in to the cost. We buy a huge bag of food from Costco for like $30 and it lasts a few months. Other than that, just yearly costs like shots/licenses/checkups. Guess I should be more thankful it’s not more, but still feels expensive 😛

  • Tara

    It’s crazy when you think about how much pets cost you in the long run. Buying bedding alone for my pets runs me something like $250/year. It’s so egregious — you just wrap it up and throw it out at the end of the week! It’s literally throwing away money. Not to mention how many little treats and toys and stuff you always want to buy them that they will never even care about, but the things are cute to you, so you buy them anyway.

    • Des @ Half Banked

      Ooooooh what kind of pets do you have that have bedding?! I had a guinea pig growing up and he was the bomb dot com. (And the cute-to-you struggle is so real. After writing this, I got suckered into a two-pack of squeaky toys for the dog that he will – guaranteed – destroy in about five minutes, haha. I’m calling them his Christmas present.)

      • Tara

        I have guinea pigs! They’re adorable but total money sucks. Then again, what pet isn’t? Those cute little faces keep us hooked.

  • Samantha D

    I think this is so important to see… so many people get pets and then have to rehome them because they weren’t thinking it through in the long run. Creating a dog emergency fund is a great idea.

    • Des @ Half Banked

      Thank you so much Samantha! And that’s honestly why I share so often about how much he costs me – I love him to bits and pieces and I would spend 5x this amount to keep him happy and healthy, but it’s so important to me that people know that a dog isn’t a small commitment. Everyone always warned me about “Oh, they take so much TIME” but very few people told me how much they can cost. I’m forever grateful I waited until I had more wiggle room in my budget before getting him, because being a good dog owner is so important to me!

      • Diana

        Hi Desirae,

        If you love your dog and would spend 5 times the amount to keep him happy and health, you really should look into feeding him a species appropriate diet, which does not included dry dog food from Costco or even the vet “recommended” pet foods, which are more often than not of no better quality than supermarket brands. Canines are carnivores and feeding them as close to what they would feed themselves in the wild is our duty as companion animal caretakers (not “owners)– that means feeding them raw meat or as close to that as possible (high quality grain-free, meat based wet diets). We would never believe that any one food was “100% nutritionally complete” and feed that one food to our human offspring for their entire lives. It’s just not logical, but some how the pet food industry (read INDUSTRY) has convinced us through efficient marketing that dried biscuits are all our companion animals will ever need. Commercial pet food is full of artificial flavors, colors, sugars, species inappropriate carbohydrates (carnivores do not seek out carbs in the wild), and the diseased (tumors, etc) meat and organs of factory farmed animals that doesn’t pass inspection for human consumption. It’s disgusting and unhealthy and it’s a total scam (commercial pet food has only been in existence for around 75 years, before then, companion animals ate the healthy whole food table scraps from human kitchens) and harms our animals immensely. If you want to save on future vets bills, invest in feeding your dog the diet he was designed to eat and he will live a longer and much healthier life. Most veterinarians get no nutritional training in vet school. In fact, the pet food manufacturers, Purina, etc, supply veterinary schools with funding and curriculum in support of their own financial interests and against the biological interests of other animals. In other words, please don’t rely on the corner vet to tell you about species appropriate RAW diets for companion animals because most have no clue and were even trained to believe biscuits produced by multi-national companies are better for our animals than what nature designed, but a quick search online will get you started.

        • Diana
          • Des @ Half Banked

            This is really interesting information Diana, thank you! I’ll take a look!

          • Diana

            Hello again,

            Maybe you want to check with TFD and see why they flagged my comment. The only reason I can think of is because they are worried I somehow offended one of their sponsors and, if that’s the case, then I’m done with TFD.

            I specialize in species appropriate nutrition. Everything in my comment will check out.

            Thanks!

          • Diana

            Hi Desirae,

            If you love your dog and would spend 5 times the amount to keep him happy and health, you really should look into feeding him a species appropriate diet, which does not included dry dog food from Costco or even the vet “recommended” pet foods, which are more often than not of no better quality than supermarket brands. Canines are carnivores and feeding them as close to what they would feed themselves in the wild is our duty as companion animal caretakers (not “owners)– that means feeding them raw meat, or as close to that as possible (high quality, grain-free, meat based, wet diets). We would never believe that any one food was “100% nutritionally complete” and feed that one food to our human offspring for their entire lives. It’s just not logical, but somehow the pet food industry (read INDUSTRY) has convinced us through efficient marketing that dried biscuits are all our companion animals will ever need. Commercial pet food is full of artificial flavors, colors, sugars, species inappropriate carbohydrates (carnivores do not seek out carbs in the wild), and the diseased (tumors, etc) meat and organs of factory farmed animals that doesn’t pass inspection for human consumption. It’s disgusting and unhealthy and it’s a total scam (commercial pet food has only been in existence for around 75 years, before then, companion animals ate the healthy, whole food table scraps (meat and vegetable scraps) from human kitchens), and harms our animals immensely. If you want to save on future vets bills, invest in feeding your dog the diet he was designed to eat and he will live a longer and much healthier life. Most veterinarians get no nutritional training in vet school. In fact, pet food manufacturers, Purina, etc, supply veterinary schools with funding and curriculum in support of their own financial interests and against the biological interests of other animals. In other words, please don’t rely on the corner vet to tell you about species appropriate RAW diets for companion animals because most have no clue and were even trained to believe biscuits produced by multi-national companies are better for our animals than what nature designed, but a quick search online will get you started. 8)

  • DogYorkCity

    I would also add that your location and work schedule factor in, too. I live in New York City and because we do not have a backyard and work full-time, we pay extra for doggy daycare, access to a private and convenient dog run, and walkers. Our dog expenses add up to nearly $600/month.

    • Des @ Half Banked

      So much yes to this – I never even considered this, mostly because even in the downtown core where I live there just aren’t that many dog services available. I think you’ve just convinced me that I’ll never move to NYC with a dog, haha (or that if I do, I’m going to ask for the most bonkers salary ever to cover my dog expenses – because 100%, I would pay for all of those things. As it is, twice per week we drive 20 minutes to go to the only real fenced-in dog park in our city, and it’s by far the furthest I drive for anything all week, haha.)

  • srenee213

    Love this post! I adopted a puppy with my (long-term) boyfriend in July, and I’ve also tracked all of our expenses. Since we adopted our pup, I’ve spent $845 on her. We split all costs, so in total we’ve spent $1,690 on her. Wow! I didn’t even know the number till I calculated it just now. If anyone’s curious, here are some of the amounts I paid (to get the total amounts, double the numbers):

    – Adoption Fee: $64 (included microchip and initial puppy shots)
    – Crate: $28
    – Bed and First Toys: $24
    – Apartment Pet Fee: $105
    – First Vet Visit: $55
    – Second Vet Visit: $70
    – Third Vet Visit: $69
    – Giftcards (to thank friend for petsitting): $50
    – DNA Testing: $42 (a splurge, but we were curious because she’s a mutt!)
    – Play Pen: $13

    Our puppy is about 40 pounds right now, and the vet costs above include puppy shots, medicine when had coccidia, and medicine for an ear infection. In addition, we’ve spent smaller amounts on food, treats, bones, more toys, a harness, a leash, poop bags, a name tag, a pillow for her crate, nail clippers, a brush, a training clicker, food/water bowls, shampoo, etc. I highly recommend that anyone thinking about adopting a puppy looks long and hard at the costs beforehand! It blows my mind when someone spontaneously gets a dog/cat. Animals require a lot of care and will live with you for years.

    Also, I wanted to mention that some of the things we bought were absolutely not necessary. For example, I recently purchased an adorable plaid collar for my dog on Etsy. Did she need it? No. Will it look super cute during Christmastime? Absolutely. 😉

    • Des @ Half Banked

      Hahaha oh my goodness, the amount of “maybe not entirely necessary” purchases even I still make for the dog is unreal. That collar sounds AMAZING – I may or may not have bought a $5 pair of felt antlers to coax my dog into for Christmas photos this year, which he will like a whole lot less than a collar, lol.

      And YES to the thinking-long-and-hard! I can’t second that hard enough, or often enough. Pets are not impulse purchases!!

  • Diana

    Why would one of my comments be “Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by The Financial Diet”???

  • Diana

    Super disappointing that my point-on comment about the horrors of commercial pet foods was not “approved” but not really surprising considering Chelsea has bragged on multiple platforms about banning posters that are critical of her.

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