Your $38,000 Dog

I’m really swamped with work so you’ll have to pardon the deluge of guest articles. I’ll get back to writing my own content shortly. In the meantime, this is a guest article by Lewis Bennett, who writes about finance for a number of websites including Remortgage.com. Lewis owns a 10-month-old German Sheppard named Frank that eats about $340 worth of dog food every year (and $165 worth of shoes). :)

Your dog could end up costing you $38,000

Most Canadians would have a hard time trying to calculate the actual cost of their dogs. Dog lovers would likely say that the love and companionship that comes from their pet is priceless and could not be put in dollar form.

Other prospective pet owners do look into the costs of owning a dog but what they’ll end up doing is adding the price of food with the cost of the dog. By using a calculation like this you would be greatly underestimating the real cost of your furry friend. It might peek your interest to know that, over it’s lifetime, a dog could end up costing you $38,000 or more.

Food

A number of factors are important when calculating the cost of a dog: where you live, breed of the dog, health, and size are a few important factors. Size definitely plays a large part in the cost of the dog’s food over a lifetime. It’s common sense that a bigger dog is going to eat more food but when you look at these numbers over 10 or 15 years it will start adding up fast.

For example, over it’s lifetime a Bull Mastiff eats as much as $7500 worth of dog chow while a Chihuahua would only end up costing you around $1750. That’s a significant difference, but it’s something you might want to keep in mind before choosing your pet. If you’re buying pricier food or you live in a more expensive city than those numbers could end doubling or even tripling.

Health

A dog is much like a human in that it needs exercise and proper eating habits in order to stay healthy and happy. Dogs are also at risk of many unforeseen diseases and conditions that could end up being very costly. Like humans, they are susceptible to epilepsy, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, as well as a number of viral diseases such as rabies.

Veterinarian costs can add up and pet surgery and medicine can cost you thousands of dollars. Picking a healthy pet is mostly a matter of luck but you can often find out about a dog’s family’s history of health. If a dog comes from healthy genes then you’re more likely to also have a healthy dog. This isn’t always the case but it’s a safer bet.

Sinking more and more money into medical bills for your dog is worth it for most families – but your accountant might not agree.

Breed

A cloned Labrador retriever sold for $155,000 at an auction last year (CBS story here). Most people aren’t in the market for a cloned Labrador so you’ll likely end up paying less than that but the breed of a dog will determine how much you end up spending.

It’s quite normal to spend anywhere from zero to a couple hundred, or even thousands of dollars. If you’re trying to keep under that $38,000 cap then you’re going to struggle to make it happen. In most cases people who spend a lot of money on a dog can afford to cover the food, toys, and medical bills that come along with it.

Some people have no problem spending $1000 on a dog but they might soon realize that they can’t afford the payments that come along with it. Don’t be one of these people. There are enough neglected and abandoned pets in Canada as it is.

I did a quick Craigslist search and there are 10 to 15 dogs per day being offered up for homes in Vancouver alone. Adopting a pet from someone else or finding a pet at your local SPCA is great way to rescue a dog while saving money.

“Spayed or neutered”

I’ll quote Bob Barker from The Price is Right on this one and say that you should “Help control the pet population and have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Unfortunately, we’re not all sitting on a pile of money that we’ve made from 114 years of hosting a popular television program. But that doesn’t mean we can avoid the responsibility of getting our pets fixed.

Of all the costs for your pet, this is one of the most important and it’s not that expensive when compared to how much you could end up spending. The stress and financial cost of having to deal with a litter of puppies is significantly higher than the vet’s fee to get them spayed or neutered.

Additional costs

There are literally hundreds of small costs that we don’t think about when we’re calculating the cost of a pet.

If your dog makes a mess on your carpet you might need to purchase stain cleaner. What about flea control or chew bones? Or treats, beds, collars, bowls, grooming, dental care, deworming, crates, leashes, waste disposal, boarding, vitamins, shampoo, vaccines, etc. The list could go on.

At the end of the day, you probably shouldn’t put a value on your dog but it’s very important to understand that they do come with a cost and a responsibility.

Thanks Lewis! I had a dalmatian as a kid and he had this funny habit of chewing the walls. Yes, the walls. He would press his lips up to the wall and then just start chewing. When he was younger, he slept in his own room and one morning he had chewed straight through to the bricks!

Preet Banerjee
Preet Banerjee
...is an independent consultant to the financial services industry and a personal finance commentator. You can learn more about Preet at his personal website and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.
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  • The Person that wrote the article

    The 2 shih tsu’s we have don’t cost much in food, but their grooming is quite expensive.

    We did try to shave them ourselves…ended up with a dog embarrassed about how he looked (hid under things) and people asked me what I did to him. lol.

    We also tried to let his hair grow…apparently one of my dogs has a bad back and when he is always trying to lick himself he puts his back out and then we have a vet bill.

    Now we just pay the $100 every 2 months.

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