Considering a dog? Ten Expenses You Need to Budget For

mini schnauzer money

They say that the best things in life are free, but if you’re including dog ownership on your “free best things” list, you need an update on the price tag. As invaluable an addition as a pet may be to your quality of life, it’s important to do your research and fully understand what you’re getting into. Dogs require a lot more than love, and even the humblest shelter dog represents a significant outlay of cash from the day they become yours ‘til the day you inevitably have to say goodbye. 

Dog ownership is one of life’s great joys, but it’s far from free. To help you determine whether you can afford dog ownership we’ve assembled a comprehensive list to help you budget from your initial outlay and general annual expenses to the extra, out-of-the-blue costs that every pet owner should anticipate.  We believe wholeheartedly that the total investment a pup represents is well worth it, but it’s best to be prepared rather than surprised. We’ve also included some cost-saving tips we hope are helpful.  


Initial Dog Expenses


Paying for your pup

When you’re trying to figure out what your initial costs will be, remember that your expense will go far beyond the cost of the dog itself.  While those who choose a purebred dog are probably prepared for spending as much as $2,000 for their pup, even opting to rescue from a local shelter will come with administrative, handling and veterinary costs. Depending on your geographic region, the shelter’s policies, and the specifics of your adoption, you can pay as little as $50 and as much as $400 to adopt. Rescues that charge the highest fees have generally already addressed many of the initial costs of ownership, such as the cost of spaying or neutering, deworming and heartworm tests, flea treatment and vaccination, microchipping, and even a month of pet health insurance.

Some shelters will waive their adoption fees for animals with age, health or behavioral challenges to allow adopters to use financial resources for the animal’s care or offer promotions to encourage adoptions when the shelter is full.


Preliminary dog medical costs

If you’ve purchased or adopted a puppy, your first year will be spent going back and forth to the veterinarian’s office, as there are numerous services you’ll need, and they add up quickly. While a routine checkup will cost roughly $50, sick visits and visits requiring laboratory testing will cost more. These include:

  • Vaccinations (Bordetella Bronchiseptica, Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Coronavirus, Heartworm, Kennel Cough, Leptospirosis, Lyme Disease, Parvovirus, Rabies). These are generally administered across four appointments during the first year of your pup’s life. Total costs for the dog’s first year vaccinations average about $100, plus the cost of the visit itself
  • Medications (if needed)


Dog Supplies Cost

Though you will purchase supplies throughout your dog’s life, your first year will feel like you’re doing nothing but pulling out your credit card. From food and toys to training supplies, a bed and a crate, the costs can add up quickly:

  • Leash and collar – Between $20 and $50
  • Bed – Between $25 and $200 based on size and type
  • Crate – Between $25 and $400 based on size and type
  • Baby Gates and Play Pens – About $40
  • Toys – Between $4 and $40 each
  • Food and treats – Your pup will start off eating puppy kibble, then eventually move up to adult food. Treats are an additional expense that are particularly important during training. Expect to pay between $20 per month and $80 per month depending upon the animal’s size and the quality of the food you choose. Take note that some dogs will end up with food sensitivities that require specialized kibble that can cost even more.
  • Puppy pads – Not everybody uses puppy pads for house training, but it’s a good idea to start with at least one package to avoid stains on your carpets. A package of 25 will cost about $10.


If these expenses have your head spinning, keep in mind that used crates and dog beds may be found at garage sales or on sites like CraigsList. 


Expenses on Dog Training and Books on Care

Training can be done at home with the help of a good website or book, or you can opt for obedience classes led by professionals. The fees vary widely based upon whether you choose a group class or individual training and the length of each course, but it’s a good idea to budget at least $25 per class, and up to $300 for the first year of your pup’s life.


Dog Lifetime Expenses

Though the initial expenses of dog ownership are to be expected, the costs will continue long after your pup has been settled in, and it’s important that anybody considering dog ownership fully understand that dogs incur costs for medical care, including emergency care, furnishings, food, entertainment, education, travel, grooming, and even insurance — just the same as any other member of your household does. Let’s take a closer look at each.


Dog Medical Care Expenses

Beyond initial examinations for overall health and puppy vaccinations, your dog will need to be seen on an annual basis by a veterinarian. During these visits the vet will conduct a physical examination check overall wellbeing and provide annual vaccinations and boosters. These visits cost an average of about $50, though vaccine boosters that are administered will add on about $20 and an annual heartworm test will cost an additional $40-$50. Fecal exams will also be performed to detect parasites, and generally add another $25-$40.

Beyond the basics, you can expect that your medical bills will include additional expenses over the years, including:

  • Spaying or neutering, which costs anywhere from $50 to $500 depending upon whether it is performed by a private veterinary practice or a nonprofit organization or pet rescue center
  • Flea and tick medications protect your pet against the discomfort of infestation and the risk of Lyme disease. Your annual cost will depend upon where you live, how much time your dog spends outside, the weather, and the size of your pet. The cost is generally about $150-$300 per year.
  • Senior visits – As your pet ages he’ll need more attention and care. Older dogs frequently suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, kidney problems and other chronic conditions requiring bloodwork, diagnostic imaging, medication, and appointments with specialists. These costs can add up quickly, with each appointment, prescription and test costing between $80 and $100.
  • Dental costs – Your dog’s teeth need care in the same way that yours do. Owners who regularly brush their dog’s teeth will be able to minimize the costs of dental care, as cleanings cost between $70 and $400 depending upon the amount of work that needs to be done, and extractions add on additional costs.
  • Emergency and medical surgery – No matter how careful you are with your dog’s health, unexpected medical issues and emergencies can arise. Treating a dog for broken limbs, injuries, and cancer or other serious conditions can easily cost thousands of dollars per episode.
  • Euthanasia costs – It’s hard to think about when you’re anticipating welcoming an animal into your home, but the end comes for all of our pets. Making sure that your dog’s life ends humanely and with a minimum of pain is part of the unspoken contract. The cost for a veterinarian to euthanize a dog can range from $50 to $300 depending upon several different factors. Some vets will come to your home and euthanize the dog there, then remove it and take care of cremation as well. 


Dog Insurance Cost

Pet insurance has only been available for the last forty years or so, but it has been a financial lifesaver for many families confronted with unexpected medical conditions. Every policy offers something different in terms of coverage — some limit coverage to accidents and illnesses while others reimburse expenses for alternative care services like hydrotherapy and acupuncture. Pricing depends upon these variables, as well as your pet’s age and breed and the deductible and reimbursement level that you choose. Starting when your pup is young means paying for the longest period of time, but also buys the lowest rates.  You can expect to pay about $50 per month, or $600 per year.


Dog Food Lifetime Cost

Once your dog has passed the puppy kibble stage, it’s time to identify a high-quality food that will meet his nutritional needs. Your veterinarian may have a recommendation or you may choose to do your own research. Most dog foods cost between $20 and $60 per month depending upon the size of your dog and the brand that you choose. You can usually save on this expense by purchasing bulk-sized bags from a pet food supplier that offers discounts for subscriptions, but it’s a good idea to make sure that your pet really likes your selection before investing in a 55-lb bag that he won’t eat. 

Treats are an important part of life with a pet. They can be used for training, as rewards, as distractions when a visitor is in the house, or simply because you want to show your pup extra love. Most people keep at least two or three types on hand, and the cost adds another $20 or so per month.


Dog Toys Cost

Toys may seem an unnecessary or extraneous expense, but just as you need to be kept from boredom, so too does your dog. Investing in a few toys (and replacing them as they get damaged or overly worn) can protect against behavioral issues and damage to your furnishings. It’s also just plain fun for both of you!  There is a wide variety from which to choose, including balls, stuffed animals with squeakers, tug toys, Frisbees, and chew toys. You’ll quickly identify your dog’s favorites, an can expect to spend between $25 and $200 per year depending upon how destructive your pet is and your own ability to resist.


Dog Grooming Cost

Not every dog needs regular grooming, and you may be able to groom your pup yourself if you have the facilities, the time, and the willingness to get messy! Grooming costs vary based on the size of the dog and whether it simply needs bathing or elaborate styling, but plan on each visit costing at least $30, and getting nails clipped costs about $10 per visit. If you start your pup early you can take care of these needs on your own, using special shampoos and conditions and tools such as clippers, nail clippers or a grinding device such as a Dremel. These cost between $5 and $30. 


Dog Travel Care and Walking Services Cost

The amount you’ll spend on boarding and dog walking services is largely dependent upon your own habits and lifestyle. If you work out of the home five days a week then you will need your dog walked at least once a day. At about $20 per walk, you can expect this to add on about $400 per month, or $4,800 per year. 

Similarly, if you travel (whether for business or pleasure) and don’t have a family member who can care for your pet while you’re gone, you’ll need to pay boarding fees. These vary dependent upon the service you choose. Some services are highly personal, taking your dog into their own home or staying at your house and treating the dog like their own pet. Boarding facilities run the gamut, from kennels that provide the basics, with each dog having its own area and run and being fed and kept safe and fed, to luxury options with pools, video cameras, “lap time” and gourmet meals and treats. Expect to spend anywhere from $50 to $100 per night depending upon which option you choose. 

Another option for travelers is to bring your dog with you. This has its own expenses and restrictions, which will depend upon your mode of transportation and the accommodations you choose. Flying with your dog in the cabin generally costs about $150 and requires an airline-approved dog carrier, which will cost additional money. You can bring a small dog on Amtrak for $26 per trip.

Dogs should be retrained while traveling by car. Depending upon the size of your pet, these restraints can cost as little as $15 and as much as $100 depending upon whether you choose a leash/harness or a basket/booster type. 

Hotel stays for dogs vary in price. Many welcome pets for free, and even offer treats, beds, and “Yappy Hour” services, while others charge a $10 or $20 service fee.  Some charge as much as an additional $100 per night to have your dog on the premises.


Lifetime Dog Ownership Cost

As much joy as a dog brings, it is important to consider all of these costs before deciding whether you can afford a pet. Some people will spend less and some will spend far more, and the annual cost of ownership may shift from year to year based on your dog’s age and health. You can assume an average of an additional $1,500 per year and a lifetime cost of between $15,000 and $30,000 depending upon the size of the dog, how many years it lives, and your personal lifestyle, needs, and decisions.   

Knowing these costs ahead of time is important, as once you’ve brought a dog into your life you are permanently responsible for their needs.