Everyone knows adopting or purchasing a pet can be a big responsibility, both emotionally and monetarily. Sure, that puppy in the window might "only" be $400 (up to $2500, for certain breeds), but food, regular medical expenses, licenses and other miscellaneous costs, the average small pup costs $400-$600 a year, while a large breed can run around $700-$900. That doesn't include the costs of spaying and neutering, puppy obedience, dog crates, dog walkers, dog sitters, preventative medicines, household accessories and all the other little expenses that stack up. So, what is the real cost of pet ownership and where are the hidden expenses?
Figuring out how to care for your pets while you travel can be complicated. Sure, pets can stay at your home, with a friend or in a kennel — all of these options being pricey on their own — but what happens to costs when you want to bring your pet along?
If your pet travels with you, many hotels require a pet deposit. Finding a pet-friendly hotel isn't as easy as you might think, and not all chain hotels are pet-friendly. A Holiday Inn in Seattle might be pet-friendly, while one in San Francisco might not be. PetsWelcome has assembled a searchable database of pet-friendly hotels and properties, but there are less than 600 registered hotels. Finding a hotel that allows pets can be a trip on its own.
Additionally, if you are traveling by plane, there is much to consider. There are three ways your pet can travel via commercial airplane: in the cabin, checked with baggage or as manifest cargo. Pets traveling in-cabin fly with an adult passenger and must fit in an airline carrier small enough to be stowed under the seat. Larger pets who do not fit those restrictions must travel as checked baggage, which can be stressful and expensive. Lastly, extra-large pets, or those traveling unaccompanied, go as manifest cargo. Checked and manifest cargo pets are placed in the hold of the airplane, which can be more than many pet owners can bear. Buying a boarding pass for Fido can range anywhere from $75 to $250 each way, depending on the airline, so your pup's ticket could potentially cost more than your own.
Pets make messes, and the cost of grooming and cleaning can escalate based on breed, species and individual temperament. Virtually all pets shed to some degree, and this can lead to increased costs for HEPA air filters and special vacuums created to pick up dander and fur. Those who have larger dogs may have to build or purchase a dog house, which can be expensive based on weather and conditions of your backyard.
Some more subtle to larger costs include when pets get sick. When dogs and cats need veterinary care, it can be expensive for both cats and dogs. A foreign body stuck in the stomach or intestines (e.g., peach pit, corn on the cob, a dog toy, boxer underwear, etc.) can cost - on average - $3,000 to remove, and veterinary hospitalization for a gastric dilitation-volvulus (commonly called a "bloat") can be more than $4,000-$5,000. For cats, an accidental ingestion of a poisonous Easter lily can result in a $2000 bill to life-saving decontamination and intravenous fluid diuresis. Smaller things like suturing a small minor wound usually cost less than $100-$400. For those smaller expenses, owners strapped for cash may borrow from family, apply for a payday loan or place it on a credit card. Doing what's best for you and your furry family is what's most important.
The Biggest Cost
Even after all the monetary costs, owning pets is always an emotionally rewarding experience. The investment we make in our pets can be huge, but in return you get love, patience, kindness, understanding and fun. The biggest cost in pet ownership comes from the knowledge we may outlive them, and the emotional tax of that final farewell needs to be weighed when you speculate on buying or rescuing any pet.