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Can You Afford a Pet?

Most people would agree that owning a pet is a huge emotional commitment, but there is an even larger financial commitment. Whether you take in a stray, adopt from a shelter or rescue organization, or buy from a pet store, the initial costs are only the beginning of the lifetime cost of a pet.

The expense of bringing an animal into your home goes far beyond any initial adoption fee.

According to the ASPCA, the first-year cost of pet ownership ranges from $1,500 for small dogs to more than $2,000 for large dogs. Depending upon the quality of food you buy and sudden medical expenses, the costs could be much higher.

We’ve highlighted some of the costs associated with pets that will help you make an informed decision.

Veterinary care

If your animal gets sick and you don’t have pet insurance, a vet bill can quickly escalate into the thousands of dollars.


The cost varies based on which vaccinations are given and whether they are done at a veterinarian’s office or a low-cost vaccination clinic run by a local government or humane organization. Most boarding kennels and dog daycares require proof of vaccination from a licensed veterinarian for rabies, canine distemper, and kennel cough.


Shelter and rescue groups usually cover initial veterinary costs to prepare the pet for a new home. Adoption fees will often include: Veterinary wellness visit and exam, spay and neutering, vaccinations, microchipping, deworming, and tests.

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Dental care

Your dog’s teeth don’t clean themselves. They are subject to plaque buildup and periodontal disease just like humans. Dental work can be expensive, but failure to take care of your pet’s teeth can lead to other serious health problems.


Outside of trips to the vet, there are smaller expenses that can add up, such as vitamins for your pet and preventative medications for fleas and heartworms.


Depending on the breed of your pet, grooming can be a relatively minor cost or a budget-breaking one. You can often reduce the cost of grooming by brushing your pet’s fur daily and trimming their nails.


As with people, food will be a large portion of your yearly budget. Price isn’t the determining factor in quality so make sure you do your research on what fits your pet’s needs and your budget.


Equipment costs vary wildly and depend entirely on your personal circumstances. Smaller indoor pets may only require beds, food and water bowls, toys, collars and leashes. Larger species may require additional crates or carriers, fences around yards, etc.


Training is an optional cost. You may get away with training your own dog unless it’s a difficult breed. If you’ve never owned a dog, professional training can be worth the cost.

Kennel/pet sitting

What will you do with your pet when you travel? Kennel and pet sitter bills can add up.

The costs of pet ownership can be unpredictable. As much planning and preparation you do, it’s wise to have a safety net in case of emergency or major illness. Here are some suggestions for would-be pet owners:

  • Determine how the monthly expenses will affect your budget. Are you overspending in some areas where you may be able to cut back – eating out and clothes shopping, maybe? If the answer to this is no, then you may not be ready to make the sacrifices needed to keep a pet healthy and happy.


  • Set aside funds for a major vet bill. Many pets have a major vet bill during their lifetime. Setting aside funds for an emergency should be a part of your budget.


  • Think about how you’ll feel if faced with a life-saving vet bill you can’t afford. Making the choice between paying next month’s rent or saving your pet’s life is not a good position to be in.


  • Consider pet insurance if you’re worried about not being able to afford a big vet bill. Not all pet insurance policies are created equal. If you are considering making the investment, do your research.


  • Pets are more than just furry friends; they’re an investment. Evaluate your financial situation before deciding to purchase a pet. It doesn’t matter how much you love a pet if you can’t take care of it.

Next Steps

There are many resources available from PenAir to help you take steps to securing your financial future. Here are just a few:

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