The Real Cost of Dog Ownership

Lets be real. Dogs are freaking cute. And for some reason that I cannot explain, I feel the need to buy things for said cute creature of my own, maybe even too much. The first year that I had Luna, I spent way more money than I care to admit (but will anyway to help others from making the same mistakes I did). I thought she needed EVERY toy and needed an endless supply of treats, not to mention the initial start up costs and it all adds up. This year I’ve made it a point to be more rigid with my spending.

The First Year (Yikes)

Start up costs – $2216.93
A lot of this was honestly unforeseen costs that I will write about in a future post (What to Expect When You’re Expecting) but below I’ve shown my costs for the first month and a half or so of having a dog. Just to note a few things, BARC is a Houston based rescue/shelter where I adopted Luna. That $50 included a $30 adoption fee and a $20 licensing fee to have your dog registered in the city (you can read more about our adoption process here).

End of 2016 – $6105.23

By the end of the year, this is where I was at *screams into a pillow at stupidity*

I can explain a lot of this as “necessities” such as training, food, vet visits, and boarding but there are definitely a handful of charges that were a little unnecessary (treats, multiple collars, new dog beds) – if I remove those unnecessary charges, I’m down to $5095.55, roughly $275/month after the first month.


Camp Run-a-Mutt is where I board Luna while traveling and unable to find a friend to watch her for free. We love this place and they are trustworthy so spending $40/night to board her here is worth it in my book. This $859.06 was spent over two separate weeks.

Gulf Coast Animal Emergency Clinic is the vet I took Luna to on a weekend evening when she was vomiting an had a  swollen face. Had I known giving a dog human Benadryl was acceptable for allergic reactions such as this, I could’ve saved myself $187 but I was a paranoid dog parent who had no idea what to do. Better to be safe than sorry!

Kriser’s is one of our favorite natural pet stores. The price for the items here is a bit higher than what you’d pay at PetSmart, but that’s because they carry more reputable and all natural brands that are a tad more expensive.

Canine Counselor is our trainer who we love. The $458 you see in the above chart is approximately 9 training sessions.

I am now aiming to spend less than $132/month on food, treats or toys, savings and our monthly trip to the vet – closer to $2182 for the year:

$1584 for monthly expected costs listed above

$598.80 for 2 semi annual vet visits, Heartgard and flea/tick preventatives for the year

This is WAAAYYYY less than what I spent last year, 35% of what I spent last year to be exact. Now keep in mind, I was still tracking of all of my spending last year, but I was too easy going about over spending in the pet category which led me to over spend by so much. So I’ve outlined a few tips for others in case they are struggling to be consistent with their spending:

  • Set a budget & track your spending

By setting a budget for your pet-related expenses, you are holding yourself to a limit of an absolute maximum you can spend. If you are good at holding yourself accountable then this will be easy for you. Look and see what the bare minimum is that you spend on your dog one given month. I’m talking food, treats, any toys, savings or routine and necessary vet visits you make. To give you a little insight into a typical month for us:

Dog food/treats – $40 (I buy dog food every 6 weeks for $50 a bag).
– $42.40
Pet Savings – $50 (goes toward training, boarding when we go on vacation in addition to semi annual vet visits or emergencies).

Total budgeted:  ~$132

FYI on the Pet savings line item noted above: I budget to “save” so while the amount I’m really spending on Luna any given month is actually about $82, I set aside an additional $50/month to add to my pet emergency fund.

  • Build an emergency fund (seriously)

This is probably the best piece of advice I could give anyone when it comes to dog (or pet) ownership. I had no idea how much it would cost to treat Luna for heart worm disease. Ultimately it came to about a grand, which is rough if you are not prepared. Thankfully I had an emergency fund to pull from and didn’t have to go into debt for this. God forbid your pet gets hit by a car and requires surgery or ends up with an illness, you want to be prepared because if that moment comes you know you will do anything (and spend anything) to ensure they are safe and able to be with you longer. Another good reason to have an emergency fund for your pet (in addition to one for yourself) is to be able to afford to keep your dog if you ever were to become unemployed. I know that if I lost my job, I would be heartbroken to have to turn Luna over to a shelter. So, having 3-6 months of living expenses for her is a good safety net.

  • If you see an expensive item you want, don’t impulsively buy it

I am really good at NOT doing this for Luna but I’ve gotten a lot better. If I want to buy her some pig ears (insert any dog item here) and its not in my budget for the month, then I’m NOT getting pig ears. When I found out about the Cozy Cave by Snoozer Pet Products last year, I wanted one immediately but the price tag is over $100. So I waited until I found a coupon for 20% off and I had an extra $70 hanging around to pay for it. Discipline is key to saving money and not over spending!

When I review all the data I tend to get pretty discouraged about all the money I wasted last year. But being negative about it isn’t going to bring that money back, so making sure I’m disciplined and honest with myself about my spending for Luna, I can probably save a crap ton more money for larger goals I have in the future. I hope these tips and my personal transparency will help you going forward if you’ve been experiencing the same habits I was. Please chime in in comment section if you have any tips of your own to share 🙂



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