Personal Finance

Your dog costs you more than you think 

Key Points
  • Most people estimate that owning a dog costs between $26 and $75 a month, according to pet sitting app Rover. The reality?  More like $150.
  • Here's how to keep costs to a minimum. 
 Eva-Katalin | Getty Images

Sure, those pugs on Instagram are cute. But they're expensive, too.

Most people estimate that owning a dog costs between $26 and $75 a month, according to pet-sitting app Rover, which surveyed some 1,500 U.S. adults in July.

The reality? More like $150.

"When most people get a dog, they think of basic expenses," said Andrea Woroch, personal finance expert and Dog People panel member. "But they overlook those reoccurring expenses that add up." For example, she's slapped with a $90 bill once every few months when she has to bring her goldendoodle into the groomer. "Their hair grows really long and it gets matted," Woroch said.

Dog owners should anticipate the cost of annual exams for their dog, which typically come to around $250, along with pet insurance that can run up hundreds of more dollars a year.

Then there are emergency vet bills, teeth cleanings and pet-sitting expenses when you're on vacation.

The first year of owning a dog can be particularly pricey. Adoption fees can be up to $600, and the surgery to spay or neuter your dog can cost you another $800. Then there's vaccinations, toys and food to buy — in all, the average annual price tag of getting a new dog is around $3,400, according to Rover.

Consider getting pet insurance, to get ahead of emergencies, Woroch said. Plans typically cost around $35 a month.

You might also want to maintain a pet emergency fund, she said. "Set up a weekly transfer of small amounts of money you won't miss — $5 or $10 a week," she said. "That'll build up quickly over time."

Boost your emergency savings

While you should compare prices on most dog items, "food is definitely one thing you don't want to skimp on," she said. "Because buying well-balanced food will help maintain your dog's health, which probably means a longer life, but also lower vet bills."

If you're in the process of buying a dog, Woroch said, be sure to research the breeds. "Find out if they have health issues because that will give you an indication if you're going to be going to the vet a lot," she said.

She said many pet stores, such as Petco and PetSmart, have loyalty programs and give out coupons, as well.

In addition, she said, some companies deliver dog food on an automated schedule, and they often offer discounts of up to 20 percent for setting them up.

Some people will learn to clean and groom their dogs themselves, Woroch said. "If you have the willpower to hold up to your dog," she said.

Shop around for a vet you trust, but, she said, some services can be found for less. For example, the large pet stores often offer cheaper vaccines and the ASPCA lists low-cost spay and neuter options.

Some veterinary schools also have discounted services, which she said you can find at the American Veterinary Medical Association. There's also financial aid for some pet owners in need.

Your dog won't just drain your wallet, she added.

"Pets can improve the quality of your life, getting you outside for walks or runs or hikes," she said. "So that might eventually help you reduce your health-care expenses, as well."

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