Will Fluffy blow the bank?

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A dog bowl is filled with money.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Anyone who owns a pet will tell you how much joy they bring into their lives, but probe a little more, and they’ll probably also tell you how they destroyed a pair of expensive designer shoes, or how the baseboards had to be replaced during a teething phase. Just what are you getting into financially when you open your home to a dog? About 40% of US families own at least one dog and according to the American Pet Products Association, in 2010 Americans spent over 47 billion dollars in animal related expenses that year.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are just over 78 million dogs nationwide. If you do the math, that comes to over $600 per year per dog in expenses. This estimate may actually be conservative. The ASPCA actually puts that annual figure at over $1000, depending on the size of dog you own. Owning a dog can be a long term commitment as well; with any luck Fluffy will part of the family for 10 to 15 years. That means that in her lifetime, Fluffy could cost you anywhere from $13,000 to $19,500.

You might be thinking, how can that be? But if you break it down, it really adds up. Consider the cost of food, toys and leashes, grooming, kenneling or boarding, training, spaying and neutering, regular annual veterinary care and vaccines, and emergency veterinary care (this can be especially high if you don’t have pet insurance.) Below is how the break down, and this isn’t even including the cost of a pet health insurance policy, which most companies allow you to pay monthly or annually, but may end up saving you money in the long run.

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One Time Expenses
Spaying or Neutering: $200
Initial Medical Exam: $70
Collar or Leash: $30
Crate: $95
Carrying Crate: $60
Training: $110
Total One Time Costs: $565

Annual Expenses
Food: $120
Annual Medical Exams: $235
Toys and Treats: $55
License: $15
Miscellaneous: $45
Total Annual Costs: $470

Broken down, it becomes clear; dogs can be a big financial responsibility. Of course given the amount of pleasure, companionship and even health benefits dogs can bring us, it can still be a good investment! Here are some things you can do to be better prepared and even lower your pet care costs.

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Research, Research, Then Research Some More
Before you adopt a dog, make sure you are well aware of the costs and make sure these costs fit into your budget. Consider getting a mixed breed dog. Purebred dogs typically have more pet health problems and can be more costly to get pet health insurance coverage. If you have your heart set on a purebred dog, research the breed. There are over 400 genetic diseases identified in dogs. Many of these can be very costly. For example, hip dysplasia, common in Golden Retrievers, Laboradors, Rottweilers and other large breed dogs, can require hip replacement surgery which can cost over $5,000. Occasionally both hips can need to be replaced as well.

If a purebred is truly what you want, ensure that the breeder you go through has certified the breeding line is free of genetic diseases common to that breed. Visit the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals at www.offa.com for more information on genetic diseases even beyond orthopedically related, including deafness, eye disease and heart disease. This site also contains a database of lineages organized by ACK registry numbers. You can trace lineages back to see how the breeder’s dogs have tested in terms of genetic disease.

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Puppy Proof Your House
Expect your new bundle of fur to be destructive until it is taught otherwise. Anticipate this by utilizing baby gates to block off areas of the house. Don’t leave anything you don’t want chewed on the ground or in reach. Invest in a good crate and crate train, especially in the beginning. This will make house training go more smoothly and give your puppy a ‘den’ or safe place that he or she will feel comfortable in. Remove anything that could be harmful or toxic, including access to the trash, plants, and the kitchen cupboards or pantry. This will decrease the likelihood of an emergency trip to the vet.

Get Pet Insurance
Veterinary care is expensive. The annual cost per household for veterinary care has increase about 47% in the last decade. Veterinarians are faced with staggering student loans and lower salaries than other advanced-degree professions, such as dentistry and law, which puts pressure on them to raise fees. Pet insurance can multiple your spending power, allowing you access to the most advance medical care, especially in an emergency situation. People with pet insurance are more willing to spend the money needed for their pet’s care if this cost is covered by pet health insurance.

Keep Your Pet Healthy
A healthy pet will end up costing you less. Invest in quality food, regular preventative veterinary exams, and vaccinations. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure! Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Obesity can cause a slew of health problems in dogs, just like in people, many of which can be costly to treat.

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Being prepared and educated is the key to not facing sticker shock when Fido enters your family. Undoubtedly, owning a dog will be a journey that will enrich your life in many ways; being able to afford to provide for them is crucial for a successful lasting partnership.

For more information about pet health or to learn more about pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

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