Bow-WOW, that's a lot of money!

Puppers, doggos, pooches, puppies (yes, at any age they're still called puppies!), or simply, man's best friend. No matter how you choose to refer to them, dogs are essential to the everyday lives of many families across the U.S. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates 43,346,000 American households own a dog - that's a lot of tail wagging! But how much does that dog cost these families, and how do you know if your family is ready for the financial investment that comes along with adding a four-legged friend? Keep reading to see the average cost of owning a dog and how this will affect your budget.

Average Lifetime Cost of Owning a Dog

There are many different factors that affect the costs involved in pet ownership. This can include, but is not limited to, the size, breed, age, and overall health of your pet. Other costs that should be evaluated are whether to adopt or purchase the dog, because adopting can save a lot of money. Not to mention any unexpected vet bills or medical costs that (unfortunately) can happen. All in all, these costs can add up quite significantly if you don't prepare for them.

Many different sites estimate the cost of owning a dog differently, but the American Kennel Club (AKC) breaks these lifetime costs down by size of dog:

Small Dogs

$15,051 over a 15 year
average life expectancy

Medium Dogs

$15,782 over a 13 year
average life expectancy

Large Dogs

$14,480 over a 10 year
average life expectancy

Wow, probably a little more than you thought, right? Well this is just the average and those numbers don't include one-time costs like spay/neuter fees, purchasing a carrier, unexpected medical bills, licensing fees, etc., but we'll cover those later on.

So where is all this money going, you ask?

Here is the average amount spent on necessities to keep your pet in tip-top shape, according to the AKC:

  • Medical costs

    Not surprisingly, health is #1 on the list, taking home the largest expenses per year for pet owners. The AKC estimates that $700 - $1,500 a year is spent on routine check-ups, lab tests, vaccinations, and dental care depending on your dog and where you live. Want to know something else? This number is not taking into account any emergencies, medications, or chronic illnesses. Ouch.

  • Grooming

    This can easily be the second largest expense, depending on breed. Some breeds do a good job of keeping themselves clean and all they need is a brushing here and there. With the average cost of a brush being $25, that's a steal! However, some breeds have much more hair and need the attention of a professional groomer, which can cost upwards of $1,400 annually.

  • Food

    Ah yes, commonly thought of as one of the most expensive costs associated with a pet, food can run pet owners $120 to $900 per year, depending on food type, dietary restrictions, and size of dog.

  • Toys and Treats

    These may seem like unnecessary costs, but your pet will love and cherish these gifts when you get them a new toy or treats. That's why the average pet owner spends $35 - $250 every year on these goodies for their pups.

Extra Costs

So now that we have a better understanding of typically what a dog can cost a pet owner, let's look at those unexpected costs or additional fees that may not have previously been factored:

  • Additional medical costs

    Unlike routine health cost considerations, we are talking about spaying/neutering, to chronic illness, to the unexpected medical expense. Spaying/neutering usually costs around $200, but can be up to $300. Emergency vet trips can range from $100 to $1,000+. Chronic illness expenses for a pet varies widely based on breed, age, and illness type, including check-ups, surgeries, prescriptions, etc.

  • Crate, leash, collar, and beds

    These typically onetime costs can run you anywhere from $40 to $350. This is not including replacement fees if Fido decides to chew up his collar or bed, which, depending on age, could be a real possibility. Yikes!

  • Rental fees

    Although this may not be something homeowners need to factor in, many landlords require some sort of monetary insurance on your pet. This can include pet deposits, pet fees, pet rent, or any combination thereof. A pet deposit is usually a refunded (even if only partial refund) payment to cover any damages to property, much like a security deposit. This runs as little as $100 to as high as 1 month's rent! A pet fee is usually non-refundable and covers things like maintenance and cleaning after you and your pet move. This fee costs anywhere from $100 to $500 (or more). Pet rent is a monthly, non-refundable fee that can vary based on breed or size, but usually ranges from $10 to $100 dollars per month. Check your renter's pet addendum for more on the individual policies and procedures of each leasing agent.

Tips on Budgeting for a Dog

Although we can't always predict what will happen in our lives, particularly when it comes to our pets, we can still try to add them into the budget or savings. Below are a few tips to help you budget for the cost of owning a dog:

  • Keep an Emergency Fund for Your Pet

    A good rule of thumb is to keep about $1,000 to $2,000 of your savings for your pet, because you never know when they may need it.

  • Consider Pet Insurance

    Although this may mean another $225 annually, it could really cover some larger expenses that you may not have budgeted for. Make sure your vet accepts the insurance provider of your choice!

  • Find Second-Hand Supplies

    Many swap sites or yard sales offer exactly what your furry friend needs, without breaking the bank. The best part? He'll love these new-to-him items just as much!

  • See What Medical Costs Your Adoption Group Will Cover

    Many groups include initial vaccines, spaying/neutering, and deworming in their adoption fees. Talk with them to see what all is included and what you'll need to cover out of pocket.

  • Find Deals on Pet Food

    Try finding coupons for new pet parents or shopping sales on pet food whenever you can. If it's a bargain, stock up so you can save overall on price per pound over time - we know your pup will need it!

We hope we didn't scare you off with these numbers, but we wanted to get real about the costs associated with pet ownership. Many new pet owners don't consider what the cost of owning a dog really is and sometimes they have to choose between keeping the lights on and feeding their new companion. But we wanted you to be the most informed you could be and see that pet ownership can be a reality, as long as you budget and shop smarter, not harder. When you're budgeting for your new pal, be sure to add a line item for cuddles and kisses. Bonus: they're 100% free!