How Much Do You REALLY Spend on Your Dog?


Do you know how much money you spend on your dog every month? How about every year? Do you even WANT to know?

I bet a lot of you Googled “how much does it cost to own a dog” or “puppy costs for the first year” before adopting your last pet. A lot of websites estimate how much it costs to own a dog, and the numbers vary dramatically. But every dog owner knows that between food, supplies, regular medications like heartworm and flea-and-tick preventives, training, grooming, and veterinary bills, expenses really add up.

Jager. (Photo by Jackie Brown)
My dog, Jäger. (Photo by Jackie Brown)

Recently, veterinary students Kelly Giffear and Brittany Scott at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (class of 2016), calculated the average first-year cost of owning a dog at $3,085 (small dog, $2,674; medium dog, $2,889; large dog, $3,239; and giant dog, $3,536). They estimated the average lifetime costs of owning a dog (across all sizes) to be a whopping $23,410. That’s about $2,000 per year for a dog who lives to be 12. Sound crazy?

I recently found out how much we’ve spent on our dog in his lifetime. My husband is meticulous about recording all of our finances. When he was preparing for our taxes this year, he ran a report to find out exactly how much we’ve spent on our 6-year-old Miniature Poodle, Jäger. The number was … well, it was big. It was staggering, really. Had we actually spent that much on a dog? According to our records, we have spent just under $20,000 on our dog in his lifetime. That averages out to just over $3K per year. WHAT????

We are not part of the one percent, so how could we spend so much on our dog? As I looked a little closer at the numbers, I could see where the majority of the money went.

The first year was the most costly, obviously. Factor in Jäger’s purchase price (we bought him from a reputable breeder), all his first-year medical expenses (including all his vaccines and neuter), buying all the pet supplies we needed (crate, bowls, collar and leash, etc.), and training (two puppy classes, followed by a general obedience class), and you have a pretty big number. We also added expense of building a fence for our yard ($1,000), and I had purchased grooming supplies so I could I groom my dog myself (about $600). The final tab for the first year? Just under $6,000. Yikes.

The following year was only slightly less at $4,000, BUT Jäger had two costly medical problems that year totaling $2,000. That’s the thing about dogs: You just never know when they are going to have an accident or get sick. We have pet insurance (another annual expense) that helps tremendously, but we still end up paying a portion out of pocket.

Jäger and I wait our turn at the vet. (Photo by Jackie Brown)
Jäger and I wait our turn at the vet. (Photo by Jackie Brown)

Most of the estimates you see about the cost of raising a dog are for basic care only, NOT for medical emergencies. But our highest dog costs by FAR are for vet bills. In our dog’s lifetime, we’ve spent $8,000 on veterinary care. That’s almost half of all the money we have spent on our dog thus far.

That $8,000 has paid for minor illnesses like ear infections, diarrhea, and a skin issue, and also four major medical issues, including a broken molar, which resulted in a root canal; eye surgery for ingrown eyelashes (a congenital condition); treatment for swallowing a foreign-object; and a growth removal on his paw. Don’t forget the cost of annual teeth cleaning ($400), vaccines or blood titers ($100), and flea, tick, and heartworm preventives for the year ($200).

Now, some of the money we have spent on our dog is what I would categorize as “non-necessary.” Before I started working from home, we used to spend $1,000 per year on doggie day care. Was that mandatory? No. But did it make me feel better knowing my dog was having fun with other dogs and people all day rather than sitting home alone while we were at work? Yep! It’s something I splurged on for him. Some people spend $1,000 a year on their Starbucks habit; I spent it on doggie day care (we make coffee at home). And now that I am working from home, we don’t spend that money anymore.

Jäger is worth every penny. (Photo by Jackie Brown)
Jäger is worth every penny. (Photo by Jackie Brown)

I also buy premium dog food ($300 per year). Yes, it’s more expensive, but I feel like it’s worth it for his health. I don’t eat McDonald’s every day. Sure, I could live on it, but I am a firm believer in the old adage “you are what you eat.” I don’t want my dog to eat cheap food, either.

When I look at the numbers, I see that the costs associated with first two years of my dog’s life account for half of the total we’ve spent on him in the last six years. Now we spend a lot less. Last year, we spent $1,500 on the dog, and the majority of that was spent at the vet (no surprise there!).

Learning just how much we spend on our dog was eye-opening and a little shocking. I know many people spend less than we do, and others spend more, if you can believe it. But as my husband said to me just the other night, “He’s worth every penny, isn’t he?” He sure is.

How much do you think you’ve spent on your dog? Tell us in the comments!

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