How Much Does a Dog Cost to Acquire and Care for?

In the excitement that comes with the decision to get a dog, people sometimes forget to consider whether they can afford one. Part of being a responsible and loving dog person is making sure you have the money to keep your pet happy and healthy.

Adopting vs. buying a dog

When you’re thinking about getting a dog, the first decision to be made, of course, is whether to adopt or buy. Adoption is the right thing to do, since you’ll be saving a life, but you’ll also be saving money because adoption is much cheaper than buying a dog from a breeder or pet store. Adoption fees can range from nothing at all to a couple hundred dollars, depending on the facility you’re adopting from and where you live. In addition, throughout the year many animal rescue organizations have promotions during which adoption fees are lowered considerably.

By contrast, buying a dog from a breeder or pet store (or online) can cost many hundreds or thousands of dollars. Plus, most dogs purchased from pet stores are from puppy mills, commercial breeding facilities that cut corners when it comes to the health and welfare of the breeding dogs and the puppies they produce. The result is that puppies bred in mills often have health problems, and the people who purchase them end up with unexpected veterinary costs. If you have your heart set on a dog of a specific breed, rather than buying one, check out breed rescue groups and adopt instead.  

Dog spay and neuter costs

If the dog isn’t fixed, you’ll probably spend $45 to $135 for neuter surgery or $50 to $175 for spay surgery at a low-cost clinic. Animal hospitals and veterinary clinics can charge $200 to $300. Many shelters and rescue groups have their pets spayed or neutered before they adopt them out, so that’s another way that adopting is cheaper than buying.

Cost of pet supplies

You’ll also need supplies: a dog collar and leash, toys, a dog bed, maybe a doghouse or crate, food and water bowls, grooming brushes, dog food and treats. If you live in an area where heartworm, fleas and/or ticks are a problem, you’ll want to add in the cost of heartworm prevention or flea/tick control: $150 to $200 or more per year.

Veterinary expenses

Your dog will need an annual checkup and vaccinations, which can cost $175 to $200 for a puppy and $50 to $100 for an adult dog. The reason for the increased cost for puppies is that they need a series of vaccinations. For more details on what people are paying for things like spay/neuter surgery, teeth cleaning and vaccinations, go to CostHelper.com.

In addition, almost every dog at some point needs veterinary care that goes beyond these routine costs. A simple ear infection may only cost a couple hundred dollars in vet fees and medications, while surgeries can cost several thousand dollars or more.

Budgeting for boarding, grooming, day care and other expenses

Depending on your lifestyle and the type of dog you get, you may also need to factor in other costs, such as paying for doggie day care, grooming, training, dog walking, boarding or pet-sitting. The costs involved in all of these services vary according to what part of the country you live in and whether you live in a big city, a town or a rural area, so you might want to do some preliminary research yourself. For some helpful tips on ways to cut the costs of having a pet, read this ASPCA article.