If you own a dog you probably already know full well just how expensive (yet rewarding!) owning a pet can be. I know when I was contemplating getting my dog, Murray, everyone who tried to talk me out of it cited the same reason; pets, (like children) are expensive. Except no one I know has tried to talk anyone out of having a child for monetary reasons. Still, if you are thinking of buying a pet or are new to pet ownership, there are some costs that come along with this added responsibility that you may not have thought of.
Sickness, and lots of it.
You have budgeted for your dog’s annual shots and monthly medications like heartworm and flea prevention. You’re not a bonehead. Still, you probably assume that other than that, your dog will be perfectly happy and healthy as long as you feed and watch out for him, right? Wrong. Dogs get sick just as often as people do, and sometimes the sickness can be harder to diagnose.
I spent hundreds of dollars last fall because Murray was having diarrhea and we couldn’t figure out why. After many tests, we found out he has a sensitive stomach and can only handle hypoallergenic foods. Now he has a bladder infection. Some of my friends with multiple pets do invest in pet insurance, I know this has come in handy when one friend had to get hip surgery done on her Lab. Just like most insurance policies, it can be hard to justify the monthly expense when things are tight, but saving money in the long run, along with peace of mind, is priceless.
There is a misconception that grooming is something only smaller dogs need to have done, but this is false. Even larger dogs will need to have their nails trimmed and ears cleaned out! All of the brave people I know buy trimmers and do the grooming themselves, but Murray (and his Mommy!) are both so squeamish, so I can’t handle it. Thus, every eight weeks I shell out $50 dollars and Murray gets to spend a day at the dog spa.
Also –little dogs need a procedure called “anal gland expression” every so often. Take a minute to let your imagination settle with this one. Basically, smaller dogs have a harder time emptying their anal glands than those of bigger dogs. This is an ailment I had never even HEARD before I got a small dog, but it’s just one more justification for me to take Murray to a groomer. I’ll let someone else handle the anal glands, thank you very much.
I always asked my parents why it seemed they had an easier time parenting my little brother, “You make all the mistakes with the first kid, and then you learn what not to do,” my mother would reply. The same can be said for puppy parenting; if I ever get another dog, I know I’ll have an easier time crate and potty training because I already have experience dealing with Murray. Still, as a first time puppy parent, it has not been easy getting Murray to learn to obey.
Even after a year and a half together, I still think I need help in this department, so, at my boyfriend’s request, I’m shelling out the money for obedience classes. Not just for my dog, but so I can learn how to be a better leader. I was hoping to avoid this cost altogether, because classes can cost between $120-200 dollars in my area for a six week class, but after he urinated ON me the other day after I punished him for being a little too aggressive with my parents dog, I knew we still had some kinks to work out.
I never needed a vacuum before I got my dog, but now it’s a miracle to get out of the house without some of Murray’s adorable white fur clinging to my clothing. So, if you want to get a dog with any type of fur, go ahead and budget for a vacuum (both standing and hand-held) to tackle your living spaces. You’ll thank me later. Other things you’ll need that you didn’t before: multiple lint rollers, a non-feather duster that can trap pet fur, and carpet cleaner with odor protection for when your dog has an accident (and he will have an accident; nobody is perfect!) Not expensive stuff here, but when you pile it on top of medicine, food, toys, and miscellaneous items, the costs quickly add up.
I’m not writing this to discourage anyone from owning a pet, in fact, I think everyone should get one. Go to the shelter right now and get one even if you are on the fence. I’ve described how expensive they are, but some things in life are worth it, and pets are one of them. After all, can you really put a price on companionship and unconditional love? Uhm, no, you can’t.