Money

How much does it really cost to adopt a dog?

Expect to spend up to $2,000 during your first year as a new pet owner.

A pet owner with his adopted dog Credit: Getty Images / supersizer

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With plenty of Americans shifting to work-from-home routines amid the coronavirus outbreak, you may find you have more time to dedicate to a new furry roommate.

Animal rescue centers across the country have reported a huge spike in pet adoptions since stay-at-home orders began in March.

It may come as no surprise that people are turning to pet companionship during the outbreak. Dog owners are generally happier, exercise more, and have lower stress levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But adopting a dog comes with a price tag.

“It’s important to understand the costs associated with owning a pet before adopting,” says Kelly DiCicco, manager of promotions at the national American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Adoption Center. “We estimate that the average dog owner spends approximately $1,100 to $2,000 within the first year of owning the new pet."

Beyond the upfront cost, you might spend up to $1,154 annually—and that’s not taking emergencies into account. Your own costs will vary depending on the breed and other factors, but you can use this list as a starting point to figure out whether you’re financially ready to adopt a dog.

Expenses to adopt a dog
Credit: Reviewed / Naidin Concul-Ticas

What are the typical adoption costs?

These costs fluctuate depending on where you adopt the dog, what’s included in the adoption fee, and your own dog’s needs. Here’s how upfront costs break down:

Adoption fees

Depending on the shelter or rescue organization, the average adoption fee ranges from $118 to $667, according to the Animal Humane Society.

Many adoption centers microchip animals, provide a veterinary exam with shots and testing, and even provide spay and neuter services. These fees “typically cover a fraction of what the shelter has actually spent to prepare the dog for adoption,” says Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at Chewy, an online retailer of pet products. Of course, you’ll need to cover any important services not built into the fee.

To help you afford the cost of adoption, some animal shelter and rescue groups are waiving adoption fees during the coronavirus pandemic. Ask your local center whether it can help you out here.

Dog supplies

Your new BFF will need some basic supplies to get comfortable in your home. Our favorite leash will run you $24, while our best overall pick for a dog bed is around $70.

You'll also need items like a collar, food and water bowls, toys, crate, and hygiene supplies. Plus, you’ll need to stock up on your dog’s first bag of food and monthly prevention medicine. (And maybe you'll even be in the market for a vacuum that can handle pet hair.) All told, expect to pay about $500 for the dog’s upfront supplies.

What are some recurring costs if you’re a dog owner?

Once your pet is settled in, you’ll need to budget for some routine costs. These may reach $1,154 a year—plus extra, depending on your needs.

Medical care

Routine medical treatment can help keep your dog healthy and may even prevent costly diseases. Expect to pay about $212 for an annual vet exam and between $250 and $315 a year for flea, tick and heartworm prevention medicine.

Surgical vet visits can add another $426, though your dog may never need one. Doggie dental care is important, too. A dog toothbrush and toothpaste costs about $20 a year.

Food, toys, and registration

Food is a necessary expense for your dog, running about $259 a year, but you may be able to keep costs low on things like treats and toys. And don’t forget licensing fees, which some local governments charge every year. These typically cost $10 to $20 a year and keep city shelters running, pay for certain services, and make it easier to find your dog if it’s ever lost.

Grooming

Regular DIY baths and nail trims can keep your dog clean on the cheap. But you may need to visit the groomer a few times a year, especially if your dog has long hair. This may cost $160 to $300 a year, depending on the dog’s size and the groomer.

Landlord pet fees

A pet deposit protects your landlord in case your dog causes damage to the home. Some landlords charge an upfront deposit ranging from 40% to 85% of one month’s rent, while others charge monthly pet rent around $50 to $100.

These costs may or may not be refundable. You can try negotiating these costs, especially if your dog is a little older and past its destructive phase. And if you have an emotional support animal or service animal, landlords typically can’t charge these fees at all. Check local laws and your lease for details.

Dog walker

You may be working from home now, but consider how your routine will shift once social distancing rules are lifted. If you work long hours, you may need to hire a dog walker at about $10 to $35 per walk. And if your pooch is misbehaving, expect to pay $30 to $50 per class for group dog training.

Pet gear

You may think pet owners get carried away with pet gear—after all, 29 million Americans bought Halloween costumes for their pets in 2019—but dog clothes might be necessary, depending on the location and dog breed.

“Some helpful items for cold weather include boots, weather-resistant and lined coats or jackets, and paw-protective wax,” Dr. Nelson says. You might spend about $125 for boots, rain coat, paw wax, and a few dog sweaters when the temperature drops. However, you’ll only have to buy the clothes once unless your dog grows.

Travel

When you head out of town, you’ll need to either find a pet sitter for your dog or pay to bring them along. If your dog meets size requirements, you can tote them onboard for about $75 to $200 each way, depending on the airline. Leaving your dog with a pet sitter instead can cost $25 to $75 per night.

Adopt a dog
Credit: Kim Porter

Meet Charlie, Kim's Shih Tzu-Yorkshire terrier. And yes, he does wear a sweater in the winter.

What are some unexpected costs of owning a dog?

Although you can’t plan for every emergency, you can head off some of the costs associated with them. Here are two surprise costs of dog ownership:

Emergency vet visits

You might not want to think about it, but sudden illnesses, injuries, surgeries, and hospitalizations can happen. That’s why Nelson suggests buying pet health insurance, preferably while your dog is healthy.

The average cost is $44 per month, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. “However, the upfront investment is much easier to handle than a possible medical bill of $5,000 to $10,000.”

Or, you can start your own savings account dedicated to emergency veterinary costs. DiCicco also recommends searching for reduced-cost animal hospitals or veterinary clinics in your area.

Missed opportunities

Dogs require a time commitment. While some friends can head to happy hour after work or pick up and travel at the spur of the moment, pet parents have to plan ahead. You may miss an event or two if you need to care for your dog or save money after paying for a large vet bill.

With all the costs involved, you’ll have to ask yourself whether you can afford to adopt a dog and whether it’s worth the expense.

“Overall, the hard numbers for life with a dog can top $20,000 to $35,000 depending on the dog, your location, and illnesses/accidents that may occur,” Nelson says. But she adds this: “If you ask any dog parent out there, they’ll tell you that life with a dog is truly priceless.”

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