The real cost of pet parenthood: How to avoid the financial doghouse

Woman sitting with two white dogs.

Family pets bring joy into our lives, whether it’s a wagging tail greeting you at the end of a long day or a loud purr after some good scratches. However, it can be easy to look past the less fun—but fundamental—financial costs associated with owning a pet.

How much does a pet cost? Generally, the first year of pet ownership is the most expensive. For example, for a new dog, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,330 to $4,290 in the first year of ownership. The following years can cost anywhere from $600 to $4,400/year.

Consider these four pet-related expenses ahead of time so you can focus on bringing home your new pet and not new debt.

Upfront costs: Cost of the pet

The amount you pay for your pet will vary depending on the pet you plan to bring home and where you get them. For example, if you plan to adopt a cat or dog, you might consider going through an animal shelter or breeder. Both options have their own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to consider which option and which animal is right for you. 

Whatever animal you plan to get, it’s essential to do your research to get a better understanding of the costs that are associated with caring for it. It’s important to confirm the pet’s total cost (including any deposit and potential medical expenses) and transportation costs if the pet comes from another province or country.

Preparation costs: Getting your home ready

Before you bring your new pet home, you must prepare a safe and comfortable living space for them. Your shopping list will depend on your type of pet. Still, you might need to purchase a bed, crate/carrier, litter box, aquarium, cage, toys, food, collar, licenses, litter, or other specialty items. These costs can add up quickly. Pet stores sometimes offer coupons for new pet owners or rewards memberships to help offset costs. You can also purchase some of these items second-hand if they’re clean and in good condition.

If you rent, you might be required to pay a pet deposit to your landlord. It’s also important to consider the long-term cost a pet might bring to your household. For example, if you have an aquarium, how much will your water and electric bill increase? Or, if you’re getting an especially furry friend, it might be worthwhile to buy a vacuum cleaner built for pet hair. All these costs can make a new pet parent’s first year more expensive than expected.

Future costs: Medical care

Just like humans, pets need access to healthcare for both routine and emergency services. Call your local veterinary office and ask what services they recommend for your pet and how much they cost. Depending on your pet’s breed and age, some routine services, such as vaccines and spay/neuter, can range from $75 to over $600.

You should also consider how you’ll deal with emergencies. Accidents happen to even the best pets and pet parents; if something happens, you’ll want to get your pet the help they need. Owners can prepare for emergencies in various ways, but the most common methods are with a savings account or pet insurance.

If you decide to purchase pet insurance, read your policy entirely and make sure it will cover the type of treatments/conditions your pet might face. Some pet insurance plans work by reimbursing you, meaning that you will have to cover the total cost of your pet’s care at the point of service, and the insurance company will pay you back later. If you don’t have a lot of savings or credit available, those costs can be challenging to cover, so finding an insurance company that pays at the point of service might be worthwhile. Alternatively, you can set up a designated emergency fund for your animals.

Variable costs: The extras

Grooming, training, pet walking, and boarding are all things to should consider when calculating the long-term cost of your pet. These might not be necessary for every animal, but doing your research is still important as these additional services often have options at different price points. For example, dog training can range from online obedience classes to board and train programs. Make sure to consider what works best for your time, pet and budget.

If you’ve looked over your budget and find that debt is keeping you from the future you want, it might be time to get help from a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT). LITs are federally regulated debt professionals who help you negotiate better terms with your creditors to relieve financial stress. So, if debt is holding you back, book your free consultation and start your path to debt freedom today.

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