Cost of living

How Family Pets Yield High ROI in Financial and Health Benefits

Cost Of Living

There’s no limit to the love we feel for our pets, but have you ever considered their impact on our health and well-being?

While caring for a medium-sized dog will cost you about $700 a year, these and other animals could bring you savings of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, over the long-term.

“Having a pet in the household makes you feel better about your life, and makes it less likely that you’ll go out and spend money on things you don’t need,” says Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, Science Advisor, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). “When the going gets tough, you walk your dog; you may not need to go out to the bars or restaurants.”

Related: Pet Insurance Can Save You Exorbitant Costs

But if you get a dog, you will need to go out, and walk, or run it, every day. That exercise could save you big bucks on a gym. The average monthly gym membership is about $43, or more than $500 each year, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

And while the IHRSA estimates that one in five people who sign up for gyms tend to drop out, when you get a dog, you’ve signed up for the equivalent of a 15-year membership. And that includes the morning alarm!

The American Heart Association recently linked pet ownership with a reduced risk for heart disease. And while pets are no substitute for good medical care, it’s worth noting that without insurance, a month of heart medication like Lipitor can cost up to $200/month, according to Consumer Reports. A five-night stay in the hospital for a heart attack? About $20,000, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research.

Pets can also boost your immunity. A 2012 study showed that children with early exposure to dogs had fewer respiratory and ear infections.

Related: 10 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Even with insurance, co-payments for five trips to the pediatrician will run you about $100. A few rounds of Penicillin? Another $100 or so.

Dogs are also proven mood-boosters, says Zawistowski. “Even if you had a bad day at work, you lost an account or something, your dog is going to like you anyway.”

On the other hand, the costs of anti-depressants can really add up. Prozac can run you more than $200/month, or nearly 3,000 dollars a year, according to Consumer Reports.

Finally, dogs can be great social instigators. You never know who you’ll meet through your dog -- your next customer? Customer? Or maybe even your next boss!

How is your pet saving you money? Find me on Twitter @veragibbons, and use the hashtag, #costofliving.

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