Why You Probably Can’t Afford a Dog

September 21, 2017

Dogs can bring all sorts of joy to all sorts of people. They won’t discriminate or hold grudges. They just love endlessly and without reservation.

My parents own a yellow lab name Charles that I miss from time to time. However, the Cash Cow Couple will not own a dog and I’ll tell you why.

The financial side of dog ownership is a whole different animal (please laugh). You should consider a dog a luxury – yes, a luxury.

Why you ask? Well, unless you’ve stashed a mound of cash in the doggy fund, you should probably take a good hard look at the total cost of owning a new pup.

I’ve done some subjective research and I think I’m ready to share the true cost of owning a puppy.

One Time Expense:

We will begin with a young, pure bread chocolate lab – just like that lovable guy above – $300 (often higher than this)

Bed, crate, toys, treats, leash, name tag – $200

Training Classes? – $100

Vet Bills:

1st exam (vaccines, booster shots, flea treatments) – $75

2nd exam (vaccines, booster shots, flea treatments) – $75

3rd round (spayed, micro-chipped (if the dog gets lost) third booster shots, and all sorts of flea/mite/puppy treatments) – $250

Recurring Costs:

Food – $40/month

Treats – $5/month

Possible (likely) Expenses:

Sickness or surgery – $100-5000

Dog boarding during vacations or trips – $100/trip

Grooming – $100/year

More toys/stuff/junk – $100/year

Flea/Worm medicine – $100/year

Carpet Cleaning – $200?

Total:

$1000 up front, $45/month recurring (almost $8,000 compounded over 10 years), with a high probability of spending more.

If the dog lives more than 10 years, it will cost you well over $10,000 .

The Bottom Line:

If you love your dog, that’s great. I understand that pets can be valuable companions.

But if you are in debt, struggling to get by, or trying to save more money, AVOID owning a dog.

Are my listed expenses accurate? Can you afford a dog? Please let me know with a comment.

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48 Comments on "Why You Probably Can’t Afford a Dog"

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DogLover
DogLover
As somebody who has owned dogs for nearly 40 years, I can tell you that they are a luxury and even rescue dogs should not be adopted by people without good cash flow and the desire or ability to spend it. Here are some more points: 1. Dogs cost dramatically more as they age. Special diets for kidney disease, premium foods, surgery, intensive care at veterinary hospitals, etc. Advanced vet care can easily cost you $5000 to $15,000 + in the dog’s last years. Think you wouldn’t spend that? think again…. after 12 years, you will be closer to that… Read more »
Joy Cummings
Joy Cummings

Don’t forget grooming… even just getting nail trims add to the cost of dog ownership. Dental cleaning can be a huge expense. plan on spending about $300 annually. Responsible dog ownership is a LUXURY!

Pam
Pam
I bought my husband a puppy last January as an early graduation gift for finishing his MBA. We are in our mid-20’s, have no debt (including student debt), and are (at least I would hope to think) financially stable. I’m very particular about my spending habits and sadly, I’ve spent over $3,000 for the dog in the past 6 months. $1,000 for the purchase, $1,200 for vet bills (shots, neuter, diarrhea over and over again), $400++ for supplies (puppy destroys his toys all the time), and $500++ on boarding since we went on a month-long international trip. The $3,000++ doesn’t… Read more »
Camille
Camille

Why are you against buying cats, yet bought a (really expensive) dog? Shelter dogs are wonderful pets too. … I’m sensing that you don’t like dogs very much; any person who wholeheartedly bonds with a dog can tell you why a cat could never fill a dog’s paw prints.

Maybelline
Maybelline
I think it depends on the dog breed and size. Your calculations for a dog are 3 times more expensive than my calculations for 2 Chihuahuas. I got stuck (or was lucky, depending on how you see it) with 2 Chihuahuas (6~7 lbs. each) after my parents divorced. The initial costs to get them both fixed with all of their shots was ~$300. That’s the cost for 2 dogs. I went to an inexpensive vet though. There are also options to get them fixed for free depending on nearby nonprofits (with a limit of 2 per household). Shots cost about… Read more »
Chels
Chels
Hello, I am relatively new to the site, not so new to owning pets as a kid. I was wondering if there is any way to budget a pet fee/percentage into a monthly budget? My husband and I just started new positions (out of college, minimal debt) and are looking into the realities of owning a pet. Besides adding on rent fees into the budget, would pet fees be included in an “entertainment” category? We are trying to keep things in perspective because we do want to be able to provide the needed care and love to any pet we… Read more »
Dog owner of 3
Dog owner of 3

You are absolutely correct. I can’t even begin to count the money that I have spent on my dogs. I have three. They are 12 and two are 11 years old. The price goes up when they have issues and have to have special shampoo and conditioner, and only natural food. After them I wont have any more dogs for a long time. People want the smaller breeds, but those are the more expensive ones.

SK Hutcheson
SK Hutcheson
All you say is absolutely true! I had to put my wonderful companion/protector down last month. She was 13 and over the years cost me a terrible investment in money. It was ok for awhile but got to be more than I could really handle as I became a senior. Logically, I have no business getting another dog. Cats are great and cheaper. But, there is a viable very real side to owning a dog of a certain breed or mix: they can be extremely good watch/guard dogs in addition to offering love and companionship to people who are along… Read more »
A Frugal Family's Journey
A Frugal Family's Journey

Thanks for the reminder. 🙂 Aside from the fact that our kids are too young to help take care of a dog, the costs you’ve mentioned are definitely reasons why we will not be getting a dog any time soon. 🙂

KC @ genxfinance
KC @ genxfinance

Yeah, they can get really expensive but we try not to spend too much. We don’t get the most expensive feeds out there. Their cuteness and the happiness they brought to our family makes it all worth it.

Anastacia Maness
Anastacia Maness
No pets for us! Well, except our pet fish that my husband bought us around Easter time. He’s a Betta and requires no vet bill, only 3 or 4 pellets of food twice a day. Minimal upkeep. I let my husband freshen his water as I’m afraid the rest of us might pour poor Peachy down the sink if we tried it. I bought his fish bowl in the craft section of Walmart for less than a Dollar. We may eventually put him in one of those giant pickle jars. We just need to have a major craving for pickles… Read more »
Revanche
Revanche

*hysterical laughter* Oh our adopted Doggle has already nearly cost us $10,000 it seems. But we are comfortable now so it wasn’t a hardship to take that on. No more for a while, though, I cry mercy! Also his new budget for the year is much more modest.

Karen KinnaneKaren Kinnane
Karen KinnaneKaren Kinnane
Lucky the Doberman was $140. from the humane society, altered, medical exam and all shots included, a gorgeous purebred dog with no papers. He was an 8 month old puppy who had some later medical expenses which we paid without question. We also paid to take a series of training classes which were fun for both of us, good exercise, and helped build a strong bond between handler and dog, and a pet therapy dog class. I kept Lucky with me at all times, never left home without him. The dog was welcome at the local hardware store, the bank,… Read more »
Anne @ Unique Gifter
Anne @ Unique Gifter

I really wish more people would acknowledge the costs prior to having a pet. Considering them a luxury is definitely the right way to go. I’m not an animal person, but I completely understand why some people love them. However, there is a real, non-trivial cost to them. My brother is a vet and it is frustrating how ridiculously frequently people cannot afford to provide for their animals like they should. They turn around and blame the vets for trying to gouge them, but the costs of medical care really are high.

Mrs. 1500
Mrs. 1500
Jacob, I think the commenters Tammy, Justin and Laurie are right on the money. The intent of the post was to think before you spend, wait until you can afford a pet and make sure you consider all the costs of pet ownership. So many people feel their pets are a member of the family, and why wouldn’t you spend whatever you had to make them better. I would do this for a child, but not for a pet. I have wanted to write a similar post, but have shied away because of the reactions I would get. I am… Read more »
Vanessa
Vanessa

Mrs. 1500, I couldn’t possibly agree with you more. The story about the homeless lady in Chicago cracked me up! And the story about your friend is saddening. I think she is unfortunately not alone in her weakness to take on more pet than she can afford. I would encourage you to write the hard facts, despite the reaction you might get. Who knows, maybe you can get through to someone before they make a long term money mistake!

Laurie @thefrugalfarmer
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

Jacob, what I love about this post is that you’re getting people to think before they act. Although I’m a huge dog fan, I think a pet is one of those purchases people don’t calculate the ongoing cost of before they jump into , and I think that’s exactly your point. Great post!

Justin
Justin

I agree that people in debt without savings etc.. should not have a pet. So many times when the pet gets sick the vet bills can become pretty astronomical. So, when you’re debating over saving for your future or healing a pet, that you probably couldn’t afford in the first place, people often choose the pet. Saying, “I’ll save for retirement later.” But when does financial independence come? Often never.

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