The Hidden Costs of Owning a Pet

by Lauren Bowling on July 4, 2013

Owning a PetIf 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.

Obedience/Puppy Classes

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.

Cleaning Supplies

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.

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Lauren Bowling

Lauren Bee is a freelance writer and social media specialist based in Atlanta, Georgia. When not writing for One Smart Dollar, she is hard at work blogging over at L Bee and the Money Tree. Lauren enjoys editing, red wine, karaoke and the color pink.

Latest posts by Lauren Bowling (see all)

  • CanadianBudgetBinder

    Our dog was bleeding all over the house and required a surgery that cost us upwards of over $1000. Most people who don’t have the money would opt for the $100 euthanasia and say goodbye to their pet or put it on credit card if they have credit. The problem I have is when people can’t afford to put a roof over their own heads and think they can also support a pet. If someone can’t budget in appropriate amounts of money for a pet in the budget than maybe they should think about letting the pet go to a home where they will be cared for even in the event of an emergency that could cost big $$. Our pet is in perfect health now and happy as ever. We likely won’t own another pet due to the expenses involved but we also are happy that we are able to put money away every month so last months bills didn’t hurt our finances. Lots to think about… I wrote a few posts on all the costs and options. It was a difficult time for us. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I know someone who paid $35 to put their dog down instead of $150 for the medication. Truly sad.

    • Yes they are expensive, but the joys of having an animal are well worth it. Life is all about finding the things that you enjoy and budgeting for them.

  • Pension Retirement

    In my area, many of the shelters have fairly extensive applications that you need to fill out before they will let you adopt a pet, for which I’m grateful. Costs really aren’t thought about by many potential pet owners (not not nearly enough potential parents either).

    And LoL from being peed on. We have referred more than once to the poop cannon on our pets. Ha! 🙂

  • shepherda

    The trick here is to get a bunny. 🙂 We have a house bunny that is potty trained – and I have to say – it is the best pet I’ve ever owned. No annoying barking or other noises, no “little surprises” left here and there, and is more obedient than a cat. For a person who doesn’t generally like pets in the house – love it.

  • Francieidy

    Not necessarily an expense, but pets can have major attitude problems. My dog will pee on the carpet every time he sees us packing out suitcases. He will make sure you are looking, lift his leg and do it while staring you down lol. We’ve had to sneak around just so we can pack without him going crazy.

  • Your Daily Finance

    Pets are like kids. They are part of the family and get expensive. Just in food alone my pup eats me out of 75$ per month. Not to mention vet visits and things like grooming and mouthwash. That potty training a bunny is just funny!

  • lisalo

    Cat litter, cat food, spay/neuter, deflea, deworm, gotta leave the AC on for them when I am gone for hours=higher electric bills. What if they get sick or hurt? A cost of hundreds or thousands…sorry I am on food stamps myself. I see a visit to the pound in one day…goodbye!

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