by Dwain Hebda | Photography By Jamison Mosley
It’s hard to put a price on the joy and satisfaction dogs bring into our lives. But all the other real costs of owning a pet add up in a hurry.
According to Tracy Roark, manager of the Little Rock Animal Shelter, prospective pet owners need to carefully consider the expenses that come with adopting and maintaining a healthy dog.
“There are costs to adopt the animal, which through us is $90, across the board,” he says, noting other adoption fees at shelters and rescue organizations can easily cost upwards of $100 or more and into the thousands from breeders.
Be sure to ask what that fee covers; most cities only adopt fully-vetted dogs, which means they have had all of their shots; they’ve been dewormed; they are spayed or neutered and microchipped. Considering all that, the $90 looks pretty good, especially since paying for all of this separately easily runs into several hundred dollars.
Many people like the idea of shopping for their pet’s bed, toys and food, but this too adds up in a hurry. Credit.com reported earlier this year the average expenditure in Year One of dog ownership to be almost $1,300 with an average spend of between $600 and $900 every year thereafter.
Food is a big budgetary; Credit.com put the annual chow bill as high as $500. Of course, there are cheaper options, but Roark says food isn’t necessarily someplace you want to cut corners.
“You want to make sure it’s good quality to keep it healthy,” Roark says. “I see a lot of times people get really, really cheap food and think they’re saving money, but it has no nutritional value; too much fat in it and either the dogs get way overweight, or they’re not getting enough nutrients whatsoever, and they’re way underweight.”
Speaking of weight issues, treats can take their toll on your dog’s waistline as well as on your wallet. One suggestion is to make your own baked dog treats which, just like with people food, allows you to control ingredients and generally costs less than the store-bought varieties. Apples, carrots and blueberries are other good alternatives that won’t break the bank. You shouldn’t share your human snacks with your dog, not only from a nutritional basis, but from a behavioral standpoint as it encourages begging.
And then of course, there’s the cost of trips to the vet, which Credit.com reports 78 percent of new pet owners grossly underestimate.
“Rabies shots can only be given by a veterinarian, that’s an annual cost,” Roark says. “A wellness check is usually $100 or maybe a little bit more.”
Heartworm disease is a particularly problematic condition given Arkansas is known for its mosquitoes. Heartworm treatment can run between $500 and $1,000. It can also cost $250 to fix a dog, $50 to microchip it and puppies need three rounds of puppy shots for distemper, canine hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza and rabies. Many vets will also recommend vaccinations for leptospirosis, bordetella, coronavirus and Lyme disease.
And that’s just the routine stuff; emergency or specialty treatments such as repairing a dog’s ruptured cruciate ligament in the knee ($3,289) orthopedic surgery to repair a shattered leg ($7,000) or chronic condition treatment with regular follow-up visits (tens of thousands of dollars) can put you in the financial doghouse if you don’t have an agreeable dog-loving partner.
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