Aspiring dog owners often underestimate the cost of dog ownership over a lifetime, sometimes either focusing only on monthly or yearly costs, or overlooking the figure entirely. Statistics show that not being able to afford dog care costs are one of the main reasons pets end up in the shelter. To save you from putting unexpected strain on your budget (and getting ready to adopt a dog appropriately), here's a financial overlook of the lifetime cost of parenting a pup.
Note on calculations: you will notice below that each category has its own separate costs number and they're broken down into two dollar numbers, minimum and maximum. For “minimum,” we assume the cheapest and only essential products bought, the minimum amount of vet visits, no training classes, no unexpected expenses and similar. For “maximum,” we assume highest quality dog supplies, a larger number of vet checkups, private training classes, and so forth. For set monthly costs, averages were chosen.
The First Year
(min: $420 – max: $3,250+)
During the first year of your dog’s life, you are going to incur quite a few expenses that can really mount up. Other than an unexpected expensive surgery somewhere down the line, the first year is going to be the most costly. Fortunately, most aspiring dog owners understand that these expenses will occur and are prepared for them. Here's what you need to consider during the first year of your dog’s life.
Purchase or adoption costs:
- $25 – $500 adoption fees depending on where you adopt your dog from.
- Paying breeder fees, however, can range into the thousands depending on the type of dog, the pedigree of the dog, and the particular breeder you are purchasing from.
First veterinary exams and vaccinations:
- $100 – 300 for your initial visit and exam
- $100+ for follow-up visits for vaccinations which will occur every few weeks resulting in two to three additional visits on top of your initial visit.
- $0-$300 for uncomplicated spaying/neutering depending on whether you use a free clinic or a private vet. Note that any complicating factors will increase this cost.
First dog bed:
- $25 for a basic bed
- $75 – $100 for a mid-range bed
- $100+ for a luxury bed
- $10 – $25 each for quality and durable toys. Expect to purchase 5 or 6 toys for your new puppy and know that some will need replacing due to chew-damage.
- $50-$125 One course of basic puppy classes in a group with other dogs
- $240-$600 One course of private training classes
- $1,000-$2,500 One course of boot camp boarding training classes
- $12.99 for two stainless steel bowls
- $25.99 for a raised feeder with two stainless steel bowls
Collar and leash:
- $12-$20 for a basic collar and leash set
- $24-$68 for a basic wire crate with a bottom tray
- $10-$20 for a crate pad
Car restraint system:
- $10-$40 for a harness and belt system
- $180 for a crash-tested car safety seat
- $10-$50 depending on the type of harness
- $10-$20 for a canned cleaner
- $99-$150 for a portable carpet cleaning vacuum
- $90-$300 for a full-sized carpet cleaning vacuum
Dog Grooming Supplies
(min: $22 – max: $60+)
You don’t need to have a long-haired dog or a fancy Poodle to require at least the most basic dog grooming supplies. There are some areas of grooming and maintenance that all dogs need caring for not only for their looks but overall health.
- $6-$15 for a set (toothpaste will need replenishing every month or so with daily brushing)
- $13-$15 (expect to buy one bottle every three months or so)
- $9-$20 (pre-moistened wipes will last about a month)
Preventative Veterinary Care*
(min: $370/year – max: $2,100+/year)
Preventative veterinary care is a must. It doesn’t just protect your pup from becoming ill, but it also detects illnesses and injury (hopefully) before they develop into something much more serious and costlier.
Annual veterinary exams:
- $300-$700 (as a senior, your dog will require bi-annual veterinary exams)
Annual dental exams and cleanings:
- $70-$400 for healthy teeth
- $1000+ if extractions or surgery are required
* Veterinary care prices will also vary, sometimes widely, based on where you live.
Dog Food Costs
(min: $100/year – max: $400/year)*
Same as for us, this depends on your individual dog and their diet. The cost of feeding your pooch will also vary depending on what exactly you choose to feed them, what diet you pick (dry kibble, wet food, homemade meals, raw feeding, etc.) as well as how large your dog is and the health condition.
- $1-$1.50 per pound of food
Prepared raw food:
- $5.20 per pound of food
Premium dry kibble:
- $2.97 per pound of food
- $1.83 per pound of food
- $1.23 per pound of food
* Assuming a 30-pound dog food bag bought bi-monthly.
** See a better dog food prices breakdown for different budgets here and here.
*** Homemade meals will depend on your location, where you shop, what products you buy, and it's easier for you to calculate the costs based on your own personal budget and how much you spend on meat and produce.
(min: $234/year – max: $324+/year)
Similar to veterinary preventative care, to avoid serious illness and to be a responsible pet owner (and to save yourself money in the long run), it’s crucial that you keep your dog up to date on their monthly preventatives and keep parasites, fleas, and ticks at bay.
- $7.50-$12.00 per month
Flea and tick preventative:
- $12.00-$15.00 per month
(min: $168/year – max: $420+/year)
These are items that you will find yourself purchasing throughout the month for your dog. How often and how many will largely depend on your dog and the specific items you purchase (e.g. some dog toys can be destroyed faster than others).
- $10-$25 each for quality and durable toys (expect to buy one per month or more if you want to spoil your dog)
- $4-$10 per bag (expect to buy between one and two bags of treats per month)
(min: $200/lifetime – max: $450+/lifetime)
These are things that will need replacing at some point during your dog’s lifetime, but that won’t need replacing too regularly. And if you choose the highest quality product, it's possible that you may never need to replace them (e.g. Big Barker bed with a 10-year warranty).
Replacement pet beds:
- $75 – $100 for a mid-range bed (basic beds will most likely no longer be good enough to support your adult dog)
- $100+ for a luxury bed
- $12-$20 for a basic collar and leash set (expect to go through a minimum of 2-4 collar and leash sets throughout your dog’s life)
- $10-$50 depending on the type of harness (expect 2-3 harness replacements as your dog grows and wears out their adult harness)
Dog license fee (depending on your district):
(min: $192/year – max: $540/year)
There are many different pet insurance companies out there and each has their own level of premiums and their own idea of what should and should not be covered (more here).
It’s also important to know that unlike with our health insurance, all pet insurance companies have exclusions to their policies and even when conditions are covered under your policy, it’s up to you to pay for the procedure and you will later be reimbursed by the insurance company. Pet insurance policies will never pay up front for your pet’s care.
Accident only coverage:
- $15.84 per month
Accident and illness coverage:
- $44.66 per month
Accidental and Emergency Vet Care
(min: $0 – max: $50,000+)
It’s wise to budget for at least one accidental or emergency veterinary visit per year. As time progresses you will be able to get a better idea of how “accident-prone” your dog is and how well you are going to get to know your emergency vet.
For example, our “million-dollar dog” a Labrador Retriever named Jet, by his second year of life, we were already getting to know our emergency vet quite well and during his lifetime he racked up more than $8,000 in accidental and emergency vet care visits. Obviously, your expenses may be nowhere near this figure (and we hope for your sake they aren’t!) but it’s important to stash away some money each year into a pet savings account for these types of “just in case” visits. The average accidental or emergency vet care visit costs are as follows.
Emergency vet visit:
Surgery to remove an obstruction:
Surgery to relieve bloat (gastric torsion):
Surgery on a broken leg:
Mass removal surgery:
- $180-$375 Simple mass removal
- $1,000-$2000 Complex internal mass removal
- $1000-$2000 Simple repair
- $2500-$3500 TPLO surgery
- $200-$800 Depending on what poison is ingested
- $50-$75 For the stay alone
- $300+ For the stay alone
(min/max varies widely)
Assuming that your family takes one 1-week vacation per year and three four day stays to account for holiday events, the cost of boarding/pet-sitting services can really add up. Even a dog walker once a day can add up to an annual bill that you wouldn’t believe! The average cost for these services is as follows.
- $35-$65 per night
- $75-$85 per night
- $15-$30 per 30 min walk
(min: $50/session – max: $200+/session)
Grooming costs will vary depending on the area where you live and on your dog and the upkeep requirements of their coat, but here are a few figures.
- $40-$100 depending on the size of your dog and the cut of their coat
- $20-40 for a basic bath with no other services
Anal gland expression:
(min: $240/year – max: $420/year)
In the very least, your middle-aged and senior dogs require joint supplements, although we recommend beginning these at an early age to help to slow down joint deterioration. Most other supplements aren't necessary or even useful (waste of money), unless there's a very specific health condition and they're recommended by your vet.
- $20-$35 per 30 day supply
(min: $0 – max: $20,000+)
Medication costs vary wildly, but there is little doubt that at some point during your dog’s life they will require medication. The older the dog, the more (and more expensive) pet meds they will need. Here are a few costs to consider.
A single course of antibiotics:
- $5-$20 for basic antibiotics, heavy duty antibiotics may cost more.
Pain management medication:
- $25-40 for 30 day’s supply
- $35-$45 for 30 day’s supply
- $20-$90 per month
- $20-$400 per month depending on which medication is used and the severity of the seizure disorder.
- $30-$40 per month
Heart disease medication:
- $20-$250 per month depending on the medication and the dose.
* For tips on buying cheap pet meds online to save on costs, see this article.
Chronic Condition Management
(min: $0 – max: $1,000+)
Sadly, most of our beloved pets are overcome by chronic conditions in their later years and if we are particularly unlucky, those conditions strike sooner. Managing chronic conditions in dogs is costly, but a necessary part of caring for your pup. Consider some of these chronic condition management costs.
- $250-$500 required every 6-12 months for heart disease.
- $100-$200 used to monitor thyroid function and adjust thyroid medications.
- $50-$300 used to monitor the heart size and arthritis progression.
End of Life Care
(min: $100 – max: $400+)
No one likes to talk about that last veterinary visit, but it’s a cost that all pet parents need to squirrel away funds for because the last thing you want to worry about when your beloved dog’s time comes is how you are going to afford to give them peace. Below are the average costs for end of life services for dogs, but keep in mind that these can and do vary wildly depending on your vet clinic and the area you live in, the size of your dog, and the type of service you require (e.g. buying vs cremation).
- $50-$150 This cost varies based on the size of your dog at the time of their euthanasia.
Cremation without the return of your dog’s ashes:
- $50-$100 This cost refers to a communal cremation where your dog’s ashes are mixed with those of others during cremation and are spread by the cremation home.
Private cremation with the return of your dog’s ashes:
- $150+ This cost refers to a private cremation where your dog is cremated alone and their ashes are returned to you to keep or to scatter where you see fit.
* A better breakdown of dog cremation service costs can be found here.
A Final Note
As you can see from the various dog care lifetime costs noted above, being a dog parent isn’t always as simple as paying an adoption fee and making a once a year vet visit. Keep in mind, though, that the costs cited in this article are only ballpark prices that will vary based on a number of factors, such as your location, vet clinic, pet size, breed, and how advanced or serious a condition is.
You should also keep in mind that not all pets are going to be “million-dollar” dogs, and neither are they all going to be dogs that are “healthy as a horse”. When you bring a dog home to join your family, you roll the dice on their lifelong health and associated costs, but as with our human relatives, if you truly love your pup, you roll with the punches and find a way to get your dog the best care every time.