BACK

Expert Q&A

A dog for Christmas? Consider all the costs

Summary

Expect to pay $1,580 to pay for a dog’s first-year costs, so be sure you can afford one before you get emotionally attached

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear New Frugal You,
We’re thinking of getting a dog for our kids this Christmas. But, I’m concerned about the extra expense. Some months I can barely cover our bills. Is there any way to tell how much we’d need to spend by adding a four-legged member to our family? And are there ways to keep the costs to a minimum? — MaryLouise

 

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear MaryLouise,
You’re wise to consider costs before you make an emotional commitment to a pet. Too many families do it the other way around and find that they’re unable to afford a pet that they’ve grown to love.

According to the ASPCA figures on pet care costs, besides the cost of acquiring Fido, you can expect to spend $1,580 in the first year and $695 per year after that for a medium-sized dog.

Your first choice will be whether to go to a breeder or rescue a dog from a family or shelter that’s looking to place it. Naturally, the breeder will be more expensive, but will give you more control over the age and breed.

Once you get Fido home, you’ll need to arrange for shots. Call around, and not only to vets in your town or city, but to rural vets and pet shelters, too. You’ll find a wide variety of prices.

Next, make your home and yard pet safe, just like you would for a child. That could be as simple as  buying and adding cabinet safety latches; it might mean adding a fence to your backyard. Fence costs can vary considerably. You’ll need to survey your property and estimate how big a project you’re facing.

Dog food can be a major ongoing expense, especially for larger breeds. The temptation will be to buy whatever cheap dog food you can find. But you don’t want to cut corners that would put Fido at risk. Not only would that be cruel, but it could be expensive, too. A bad diet can lead to bad health. Trips to the vet or pet ER are expensive.

That doesn’t mean that you have to buy expensive brands. Use the same common sense that you employ when buying groceries for your family. You want a balanced diet. By reading labels and consulting with your vet you should be able to strike a reasonable balance.

Treats are another potential drain on your wallet. Part of the joy of bringing Fido into the family is rewarding him with treats. The people who market pet products know this well. Not only that we like to give treats, but because they are treats we expect them to be more expensive than normal pet food. So manufacturers package treats for premium pricing.

Good for us that Fido can’t read the packaging. Anything that Fido associates as a treat will work. It could just be a different brand of dog food that’s only used as a treat. Or homemade dog biscuits. Or even a little human food that you’ve verified is safe for your breed.

You’ll need a place for Fido to sleep. Pet stores will be happy to sell you expensive doggie beds. Depending on what you pick, you could end up spending $100 or more. But that’s not necessary.

If you shop for dog beds you’ll notice two types. One consists of a thin soft pad with the edges raised and filled with some type of padding. You can easily duplicate this by taking an old bath towel or blanket and rolling up the edges. Sew the rolled edges so they hold their shape.

The second style imitates a cave. Dogs like enclosed areas. If you’ll be buying a travel crate, they can do double duty. But if you’re really on a tight budget, something as simple as a sturdy box with a hole cut in one side with an old blanket inside will work fine, too.

Your new family member will want to play. And, like your children, dogs often prefer the simplest toys. You can pretty much make all the toys that he’ll ever need or want. Old holey socks, shirts and towels are an excellent starting point. Fido just wants something to chew on. And, if you can have a tug-of-war with him over the toy, he’ll be a happy puppy.

Dog grooming can be as expensive as a trip to the beauty parlor. You can do much of it yourself, especially if Fido gets used to it as a puppy. He may fight it for awhile, but your persistence pays off.

Unless Fido is a strictly indoor pet, you’ll need to routinely use flea and tick prevention. Don’t skimp here. The cost of cleaning an infestation of your home far outstrips the cost of preventing it.

And, finally be prepared for pet ‘accidents’ in your home. There are many products available, some quite pricey, but there are low-cost tricks to removing pet urine odors, too.

MaryLouise, I hope you’ll be able to add the necessary expenses to your existing budget, especially using these New Frugal You tools. But, if not, it’s better to know that now before your family grows to love a dog that they’ll have to give up.

See related: Saving on the cost of dog care

Meet CreditCards.com’s reader Q&A experts

Does a personal finance problem have you worried? Monday through Saturday, CreditCards.com’s Q&A experts answer questions from readers. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.

 

 

 

What’s up next?

In Expert Q&A

Authorized users don’t have to pay up

If you’re an authorized user on your ex’s credit card, you’re not legally liable to the card issuer, but he could file a lawsuit for repayment

Published: October 15, 2012

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: May 24th, 2019
Business
15.61%
Airline
17.50%
Cash Back
17.60%
Reward
17.62%
Student
17.79%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.