The cost of owning a dog

When that sweet little puppy face is staring at you, begging you to take it home, it’s easy for rational thought to go out the window. And if that adorable face comes complete with a few face licks, you’re most likely already sold. The moment you’re being bombarded with wet kisses, you’re probably not thinking about all the time and energy, not to mention the cost of owning a dog.

Besides the time spent training and caring for it, there are also the basic expenses of food, a warm bed, grooming and veterinary care. In addition, you’ll want to have a few other things on hand: a leash and collar for walks, toys for playtime and treats for training. Most of these expenses vary from dog to dog.

Take food, for example. A three-pound Chihuahua will eat less than a 100-pound Great Pyrenees. But it’s not only the amount of food they eat; it’s also the type of food. You can spend a nominal amount on low-quality dog food that contains a lot of fillers, and not enough protein and minerals, or you can spend several times that amount on a special raw diet. While these types of diets generally offer all the nutrients and vitamins a dog needs, minus added filler, some dog owners like the convenience of a dry or canned food.

As smaller pets take up less space, so do their accessories. A teacup poodle-sized dog bed would never accommodate a Great Dane. A tiny bed will cost considerably less than a large bed. But then again, you may decide to forgo a dog bed altogether in favor of letting the dog sleep on a family member’s bed. A toy that is the perfect size for a tiny Yorkie mouth could be dangerous around a larger dog. A big dog could choke on a toy meant for a small dog. Larger toys are in order if you’re getting a large breed dog. Buy a few nice toys, if you can. Consider it part of the cost of owning a dog.

Grooming is another consideration. It’s important that dogs are bathed and brushed regularly. This helps keep their skin healthy and their coat shiny. As some dogs are prone to skin disorders, it’s always a good idea to maintain good habits in this regard. Some dogs shed more than others. Even dogs that are touted as “non-shedding” breeds still shed, but maybe not as much as others. The home of a golden retriever might harbor tumbleweeds of dog hair in every corner, while in the home of a maltese, you might only find a few hairs here or there. Regular washing and brushing can help control shedding, though at certain times of the year, dogs lose more hair in preparation for the change of seasons. It’s also important to keep a dog’s nails short. If nails are left to grow, the quick (the fleshy portion on the underside of the nail) grows along with them, making it difficult to trim nails short without damaging the quick. If the nails are excessively long, it can be difficult and uncomfortable for a dog to walk on them. To save money, as well as bond with your dog, you can do all of the grooming activities yourself. You’ll spend more on the initial supply of shampoo and nail clippers, but they’ll pay for themselves the more you groom your dog.

The most critical expense to consider is that of veterinary care. Unlike toys and treats, this expense cannot be eliminated in a pinch. This is a necessary cost of owning a dog. In a perfect world, dogs would see the vet once a year. They’d go for annual rabies and distemper shots, as well as tests to check for other canine diseases. This schedule would stay in effect for the life of the dog. Unfortunately, sometimes dogs need more frequent vet visits. Ear infections, sprains and stomach ailments are among the most common reasons dogs visit their vets. Thankfully, these are usually temporary issues, and dogs recover rather quickly.

But other diseases are much more serious, and much more expensive to treat. It’s said that fifty percent of all dogs over age ten will die of cancer. But certain breeds of dogs are more likely than others to have particular health issues, even before that age. Bulldogs, pugs and other short-muzzled breeds are predisposed to breathing problems. Hip dysplasia is not uncommon in golden retrievers. Cocker spaniels are susceptible to eye disorders, such as cataracts. Of course, most dogs live long, full, healthy lives, but it’s a good idea to research your breed to understand what to expect.

Other items such as collars, leashes, toys and treats, run the gamut from inexpensive to downright pricey. You can find serviceable nylon collars and leashes, or you can opt for the rhinestone-encrusted collar with matching leash. It’s the same with toys. You can find an inexpensive fleece chew toy, or an indestructible rubber polymer bone. Dry kibble treats can be purchased in bulk, or you can opt for natural treats that are made with real meat and vegetables.

Whether you spend a lot or a little, your dog won’t know the difference. However, what he will know is how much love and attention you lavish on him, and he’ll be forever grateful. If you figure affection and loyalty into the cost of owning a dog, you may find that you get back everything you spent, and so much more.