Owning a dog costs thousands of dollars a year—here's how to know if you can afford one

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Having a dog isn't just a time commitment — it's also a financial one.

"Owning a pet is a privilege and should result in a mutually beneficial relationship," according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). But keep in mind that those benefits come with responsibilities.

And those responsibilities, which include feeding, grooming and providing shelter for your pup, can add up fast, especially if your pet ends up with health issues.

It's estimated that owning a dog costs about $1,400 to $4,300 per year, writes Jenna Stregowski, a registered veterinary technician and contributor for The Spruce Pets, an online reference for pet owners. At the far end of the spectrum, those willing to pay premium prices to cover their dog's needs can end up spending nearly $10,000 a year.

Since this is an expensive life choice, it's important to keep your emotions at bay when deciding whether to get a dog. As the AVMA puts it, when choosing any type of pet, you should avoid making "impulsive decisions" and make sure it's suited to your home and lifestyle.

If you're on the fence with your decision, here's what experts say about how much dogs can cost and advice on how to save up for one if you aren't quite there yet financially.

How much should you be prepared to spend on a dog?

Before getting a dog, consider the potential financial implications and whether your budget can handle the added cost.

"Owning a dog is a huge responsibility," says Cassie Denger, a client relationship specialist at Fort Pitt Capital Group. "As another member of your household, their daily living expenses will become part of your monthly non-discretionary expenses."

That means you should factor in any puppy care costs alongside your other monthly expenses, such as groceries, gas and rent. And when doing so, be sure to think about which expenses are going to be just a one-time thing and which will be recurring. "These costs will differ based on breed and the overall health of your new friend," Denger says.

Dog food would be a recurring expense. It's estimated that dog owners spend between $250 and $700 per year on food and treats. For those with demanding schedules, it's also common to hire a dog walker. If you paid someone $20 per day to walk your dog each day of the week for a year, that'd be $5,200 spent annually on dog walking alone, according to Stregowski.

A one-time expense might be a medication for a temporary illness or supplies, such as food bowls or dog beds, that you wouldn't replace every couple of weeks.

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Routine veterinary visits can cost anywhere from $700 to $2,000 per year for a healthy dog, according to Stregowski. And any required medications or supplements cost an estimated $200 to $600 annually.

If you're worried about medical expenses, or are drawn to a breed that's typically more prone to illness, you may also want to consider getting pet insurance, says Brandi Hunter, vice president of public relations and communications at the American Kennel Club.

"The cost of pet ownership is unpredictable, so it is always better to prepare for the unexpected – especially because it is almost definite that every pet during its lifetime will have a major vet bill," Hunter says.

Veterinarians generally recommend buying pet insurance while your dog is young and healthy, especially since most plans cover pre-existing conditions.

How to ease the financial burden of owning a dog

If you save up prior to taking your dog home, you'll be a less stressed pet owner, Hunter says.

Similar to how financial experts typically recommend humans to have three to six months' worth of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund, it's also advised to set up an emergency fund for your pup.

Start by contributing the amount you expect to spend on the dog itself. Hunter refers to this as "the initial investment." "If you decide to purchase a purebred dog from a breeder, you can expect to spend $500 to $2000," she says. "Adopting from a shelter or rescue can cost as little as $50 to $200."

Next, think about the other essentials your dog will need, such as food, treats and regular trips to the groomer, and compare prices. Once you've narrowed down your best options, factor those costs into your monthly budget to see how much you should plan on contributing to your emergency fund.

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You should also check in with local veterinary clinics and see how much they charge for various medications and procedures. Ask questions regarding which vet expenses new dog owners can commonly expect. "Think about any monthly preventative maintenance, such as any flea and tick or heartworm medications, that your dog may need," Denger says.

Once you've made a list of all the expenses you can anticipate, factor these into your emergency savings fund. Aim to have enough saved to cover at least three months' worth of your future pet's living expenses, prior to adopting or purchasing a dog.

You can also think about ways you can cut costs. If you can get away with walking your dog yourself each day, rather than hiring a dog walker, that's a big expense saved. You can also talk to your vet about affordable, yet nutritious, dog food brands. Since dog food will clearly be a recurring, inevitable cost, the opportunity to spend even just a few bucks less per bag can offer impressive savings in the long run.

"The more you can educate yourself on the potential costs of owning a dog, the better off you will be financially preparing for Fido," Denger says.

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