5 Unexpected Costs of Adopting a Dog
I’m excited to share with you my post today because it’s about one of my favorite things to talk about lately, my new dog Penny. In June of this year, my husband and I adopted Penny from the San Francisco SPCA.
My husband and I talked about getting a dog for a loooong time. We visited the animal shelter every few months to see the available animals and imagined our lives with the ones that caught our eye. In the weeks before we adopted Penny, my husband spent hours browsing online listings to see what dogs we might like. We couldn’t wait to have a dog of our own!
Our conversations about having a dog centered around fun things like the road trips and hikes we would go on together. One thing we didn’t talk about much is the cost of owning a dog. According to the ASPCA, the annual cost of caring for a dog runs over $1000 a year. That’s not including adoption fees and things you need to set up your dog at home. The cost of annual vet checkups and shots, emergency vet visits, medications, food, and toys really do add up.
We’re fortunate that we can afford to have a dog. We knew that we’d have to pay for vet visits, food, and more, but there have been some unplanned expenses too.
1) Premium food and treats
The SF SPCA gave us a bag of dry food and a can of wet food when we adopted Penny. My husband researched dog foods and found he wasn’t happy with the quality of the food she received. We opted to upgrade her diet to a premium brand of dog food, which runs about $36 for a 13-pound bag ($2.77/lb). The conventional brand she received at adoption costs about $12 for a 20-pound bag ($0.60/lb).
One thing to note about a higher quality food is that the dog doesn’t have to eat as much of it because it’s so dense with quality ingredients. Our dog is small-to-medium size, so she eats less than two cups of kibble a day. A 13-pound bag lasts about two months. I read about a woman who had two Great Danes. When she upgraded their diet to premium dog food, they practically ate her out of a home!
2) Medical treatment
Soon after we adopted Penny, we noticed that she scratches herself a lot. A visit to the vet confirmed that she has allergies. We paid for allergy medication that she continues to take to this day. We bought special medicated dog shampoo to see if that would help her too.
Right now we’re trying diet modifications to determine if she’s allergic to any specific food items. We’re considering getting an allergy test for her. I don’t know how much that would cost, but we would pay for it out of pocket.
3) Health insurance
We decided to play it safe with our dog’s health and purchase health insurance for her. My previous pets didn’t have health insurance and made it through their lives without expensive medical needs. We decided to purchase it for Penny though because she’s a young and active urban-living dog. She’s a scavenger with a real nose for food too. While we keep a close watch on her, we never know if she’ll eat something she shouldn’t or get into some kind of trouble.
I’ve heard of dogs getting intestinal blockages because they ate something bad like socks or toys. Those dogs needed surgery that costs thousands of dollars. If our dog ever finds herself in a similar situation, we’ll only pay a fraction of the cost for the emergency medical care. That’s worth the $40/month we pay for the insurance.
4) Dog walking & sitting
My husband and I work full-time, which means we’re not available to take our dog out during the middle of the day. We hired a dog walker at a cost of $25 per walk. That’s $125 a week to walk her Monday through Friday. Dog walkers in San Francisco cost about $25-$28 for a 30-minute walk, so the price isn’t unusual for the area.
We also tried out doggy daycare a few times. The rate at our nearby daycare is $45/day. You can imagine how quickly that would add up if we enrolled the dog there daily. After a few sessions, we decided not to pursue daily daycare for her in part due to the high cost of it.
When we went out of town for an extended weekend, we had to hire a dog sitter for Penny. That was $70/day, which is on the low end of pricing for professional dog sitting around here. You might ask why we didn’t have family take care of her. Our dog is skiddish and needs someone experienced to take care of her. Plus, our family and friends are busy people with full-time jobs and families of their own.
5) Everything she's destroyed!
The most unexpected expense of owning Penny so far has been then things she’s destroyed around the house. My dog loves shoes! I don’t mean wearing them either. She loves to chew them up. We’re careful to store our shoes out of reach now, but that wasn’t before she destroyed a few pairs. She’s grabbed them from right under my nose or when I’ve forgotten to put them away. The cost to replace the shoes she’s destroyed: at least $200.
Besides shoes, Penny tore apart a sofa pillow and her new hairbrush. I have to laugh because we came home to this mess below. She sat down by the mess wagging her tail because she didn’t know it was wrong.
I estimate that our dog has cost us at least $1000 in unexpected or unplanned expenses so far. Despite this, we love her immensely and have been overjoyed with having her in our lives. She has a gentle, affectionate nature and aims to please us all the time. We couldn’t ask for more from a dog. I sometimes catch my husband making comments like “I love our dog” and “I was meant to own a dog.” I don’t know who has gained more from Penny’s adoption – her or us. It’s safe to say that our furry friend is worth the expense, expected or not.
Pet owners, What kind of costs have you encountered in caring for a pet? How did you manage to pay for it?