May 18, 2012

Can You Truly Afford To Own a Dog?

How much is that doggie in the window (arf, arf)
The one with the waggley tail. . .

Patti Page made that novelty song a hit back in the 1950s. But today, she might be wiser to ask:

How much are the actual costs of owning that doggie in the window?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my two Belgium sheepdogs, Carlos Santana and Sammie. However, most people don’t think about the actual cost of owning a pet, and they tend to make emotional decisions when choosing one. (People do that with investments, too, but that’s another blog.)

Reality is, though, that the cost of owning a 50-pound dog throughout its 14-year lifespan could add up to the price of a down payment on a house or even a college education. Doggone it!

In “The Cost of Owning a Dog,” an article on www.peteducation.com, the writer (a veterinarian), aims to educate potential dog owners about how pricey dogs can be. He gives low, medium and high costs associated with owning a mid-size dog. He starts with the initial purchase price and breaks down the costs year-to-year over a 14-year life span. Costs include visits to the vet, food, supplies, and boarding.

Total estimated costs for a 50-pound dog throughout its 14-year lifetime:

  • Low estimate: $4,242
  • Medium estimate: $12,468
  • High estimate: $38,905

I should mention that the writer lives in the Midwest. If you live in an expensive city like New York or Los Angeles, expect the costs to be even higher. Of course, most of us won’t end up spending $40,000, but some might spend even more. As your dog ages, it’s not uncommon for it to develop a hip problem, allergies or some other illness. This veterinarian wrote that he routinely saw clients who spent over $2,000 on a single veterinary incident.

Sure, having pet insurance can reduce your out-of-pocket costs, but you’ll pay up to $30 a month for it. And like human insurance, you’ll have deductibles and co-pays.

One thing, however, not factored into the cost analysis (most likely because you can’t place a value on it), is to me the single most important item on the ledger: your time. Plain and simple: dogs take a lot of time. Walking. Feeding. Cleaning up after. Home repairs. Training. And if you’re not willing to spend a significant portion of your free time with your dog, you may want to consider a goldfish instead. It’s just not fair to the dog.

Make no bones about it (I couldn’t resist), owning a dog can add up to big investment dollars. Before putting your finances at risk, make sure that you can truly afford a dog. And if you’re willing and able to commit your time and money to a dog, the dividends are substantial. Like Josh Billings said:  “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”


Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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