The costs of owning a dog

The costs of owning a dog

By Kerri Jackson. Posted 23 May 2019.

So you think getting a dog would enrich your life? On many levels, you’re probably right - but have you thought about how much that furry friend will cost you over its lifetime?

We’re not saying don’t go out and find yourself a new man’s best friend - just make sure you’re aware of all the costs, so you can plan accordingly.

The price of a pooch

First, the bad news: a dog is often more expensive than other common household pets (such as cats, guinea pigs or rabbits). They can vary from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on whether the dog is a pure breed or not.

One way to keep this cost down, while giving a dog a second chance at life, is to adopt a rescue dog from the RSPCA.

The cost of an RSPCA adopted dog may vary depending on the state you live in, but your pup will come home microchipped, desexed, vaccinated and with its flea and worm treatments up to date, saving you a lot of extra cost.

The cost of microchipping and desexing your dog can be up to about $500, annual vaccinations up to about $250, and flea and worm treatments between $120-$300 a year, according to the RSPCA.

You’ll also need to register your dog with your local council, which can cost anywhere between $20 and $200 depending if the dog is desexed or not. This is an ongoing cost that you will need to pay every year.

To set up your home for your dog, you’ll probably spend up to about $700, by the time you’ve organised a bed, a crate, some bowls and a few toys.

You’ll also need to make sure your property is fully fenced if it isn’t already. The cost for this will depend on the type of fence and how big your property is. Try searching ‘fencing calculator’ on Google for a rough idea.

Other set-up costs include collars, leashes and coats (between $50 and $250) and puppy training for you and the dog (starting at about $170, depending on the trainer).

Adding it all up

Looking at the above expenses, it’s easy to see how you could spend several thousand dollars on your dog in the first year.

Ongoing costs are less but ASIC Money Smart shows that ongoing care for a dog costs around $1600 a year. The biggest component of this cost is food (about $800), followed by the regular costs we’ve already mentioned: flea and worm treatments, annual vaccinations and registration fees.

Another cost to be aware of is veterinary bills. If your dog visits the vet once a year for an illness, that’ll set you back about $120 per visit. But what about major illnesses and accidents, which could cost thousands?

This is where it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for how you will pay a significant vet bill.  There are two options:

  • get pet insurance

or

  • put aside a savings buffer that you could use to pay vet bills in an emergency

If you opt to take out pet insurance, it makes sense to do it right away while your dog is young, as older animals are more expensive to insure.

You should also carefully check the exclusions and limitations of the policy. Pre-existing conditions are almost always not covered and most policies have a limit on the amount you can claim each year.

Make sure the excess is suited to your financial circumstances. While increasing the excess will mean your premiums are cheaper, you’ve got to be sure you can pay the excess when you need to. It may be worth paying an extra $10 a month or so in premiums to keep the excess affordable.

When you're looking at pet insurers, it's a good idea to shop around. Different insurers have different exclusions, and may also charge different amounts for different breeds of dog.

The upside

On a more positive note, research shows that having a pet is great for your mental health. Owning a dog should also be good for your physical health, with all that extra walking you’ll be doing.

Finally, owning a dog may not be as expensive as you think. Could you swap your gym membership for free exercise in the fresh air with your dog? Could you use your car less, with every short journey becoming a potential dog walk? The savings you could make in this way could help offset the expense of your new best friend.

General Advice Disclaimer

The information contained on this website is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.