What A Dog Actually Costs: An Update

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A while back, I wrote a post on the costs involved with adopting my precious Mona, which at the time totaled around 1200 dollars. That post remains true, and I still hold that the adoption/setup process was less expensive than I thought it would be. In fact, the whole experience was a pretty pleasant surprise in terms of “this seems like a really adult, put-together thing to do” and “I turned out to be capable of doing it.” Now that I am a Dog Mom In Her 20s, I feel part of a demographic that once seemed intimidating and now seems totally normal and manageable. If you feel that you want a pup but are uncertain about the responsibility, I am here to say that — at least in my experience — you really do rise to the occasion. Now, I can’t imagine a life without my little Mo.

That being said, the expenses that have cropped up since then have been a stark reminder that, no matter how simply anything starts off, you must always plan for the unexpected. First and foremost, being that Mona is a lil’ gal in a big ol’ city filled with male dogs, getting her spayed is of the essence. We haven’t done it yet (she just turned six months old), so it’s something we’re going to take care of in the coming weeks. Technically, we could get it done for super cheap when the SPCA truck rolls around, but that’s at odd hours and only in certain locations. We’re going to do it through our vet, and it’s gonna be between five and six hundred dollars. So there’s that.

And despite her being, overall, a totally healthy pup, we had a small health scare the other day that led to her in a vet’s office hooked up to an IV drip. (I have my suspicions that they saw me come in all nervous and realized they could get money out of me, but still.) The point is, I went in because she was refusing to eat, lying on the floor, and vomiting repeatedly. She got said IV drip, some pills, a little canister to test her poop for stuff, and firm orders to eat chicken and rice for the next few days. Today, she seems back to full form, and we are 300 dollars poorer. Oh, well. That’s what it means to love your dog!

The point is, with pet ownership comes an emergency fund specifically for the pet, on top of all your other emergency funds and savings. Yes, insurance is an option, but our research seems to indicate that, between many vets not accepting it and the high deductibles, it’s often not worth it. But even healthy pups can unexpectedly eat something sharp, or fall and break a bone, or just start randomly vomiting. It happens! And for some reason, when you first get your little ball of furry love, the idea that it might fall ill never really crosses your mind. It just seems so full of life and resilient, and it’s hard to picture what they might look like gazing up at you from the grip of two nurses administering a shot. (They look sad.)

Aside from the normal monthly bills — food, treats, pee pads, poop bags, etc — planning for incidentals is a must. I’ll be traveling with pup this summer, and that’s cost and constraint to consider as well. I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting a dog (if you have the time to commit to it, or the considerable resources to pay for constant dog-sitting). But remember that they are living, breathing things who demand responsibility in attention and time, but also in money that you may have wanted to be spending on other things. This year, in total, we’ll have spent a few grand on little Mona. And while I wouldn’t change her for the world, and her wagging cotton ball tail is the best part of my day, she is an expensive little shit. And you should probably know that before you get your own Mona some day.

  • jdub

    Yeah, we have two and they are both due for shots… and one needs a teeth cleaning this year. We’re looking at probably like a grand total, realistically. But they’re so squishy and lovey and CUTE, any cost is worth keeping them healthy and happy.

    • chelseafagan

      They said Mona may need PUPPY BRACES. What.

      • That’s hilarious! Since when have puppies cared about having perfectly straight teeth? I feel like some vets just abuse our natural, unwavering love for our fuzzy ones and try to get as much money out of us as possible.

      • Puppy braces? I think your vet may be trying to take you. They loose most of those teeth anyway by 2.

      • jdub

        How is that even a THING?! She’s going to lose those teeth anyway. Don’t let them hose you!

  • Annie

    Several years ago, my dog had a run-in with my live-in landlord’s dog (I won’t even get into how abundantly clear it was that my dog and I weren’t at fault, or what a senile lunatic said landlord was), and I had to take her to a DOG THERAPIST. I spent over a thousand dollars (that I absolutely didn’t have) on private lessons at our apartment for the dogs, and almost had to hire a lawyer to resolve the whole thing.

    On top of paying for their health, entertainment, and travel, always keep in mind that your pet can become a huge liability, even when you’re doing everything right. That being said, she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I’ve never resented a single penny spent on pet deposits, boarding, or training. You just have to be REAL sure you have a lot of love and money to give, and don’t just want a cute accessory or a way to meet cute guys at the dog park.

  • I love my little balls of fluff. Thankfully I live on a farm and the same vet that comes to take care of all the cows will visit my five fluffs “on the house” which includes shots and nail clippings. But anything else is pricey, like when they have loose poo for three days straight and you’ve already been feeding them chicken and rice. -_- One thing about my doggy children is that people are more than happy to watch them while I go out of town and they don’t need diapers, so they’re still cheaper than a kid.

    • Lauren Ver Hage

      Reporting (unbiasedly) here that Mona is indeed a little precious ball of fluff.

  • Did you adopt from a rescue? It’s really strange that they didn’t spay her prior to adoption. It’s actually required for all bricks & mortar shelters to do so in NYC (unless there is a medical exemption). At any rate, you can get a Muffins certificate for a private vet – http://www.muffins.org/spay.htm

  • And yeah, I have a few cats and I have a savings account for them for emergencies. I just contribute to that every month instead of insurance and it’s 5 figures at this point since I’ve been saving for so long. I have two older cats who are on steroids and that’s at least $60 per month plus their annual vet appointments.