The Real Cost of Pet Ownership

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Thinking of adopting a pet? It’s a really big responsibility that costs way more than the adoption fee — both monetarily and emotionally. Here’s what you should know about the long-term investment in pet ownership.

I learned this first hand when my family’s nine-year-old beagle Snoopy was a puppy. He was about six months old when he suddenly developed a violent bowel condition. After an emergency late-night visit to a vet, and a $200+ bill later, he was on the mend – thanks to a half-dose of a human medicine.

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But pet medicine isn’t always so simple and clear-cut. When our other 9-year-old Beagle fell ill shortly after Christmas last year, there was no quick fix. He was in incredible pain from a herniated disk in his neck. After visiting our vet and then a specialist, we learned that surgery was an option — at $6,000. Even with the financing available and a vet willing to work with us, we couldn’t make it work.

Fortunately, though, our vet wasn’t ready to call it quits — and after many weeks of crate rest and constant medication, he got better. The cost of the illness, without surgery, was nearly $750 — and included a larger crate, a new bed liner, lots of medicine, vet appointments and an increased electric bill thanks to the space heater that kept him comfortable in the depths of winter. And it was all worth it, because now, almost six months later, he is healthy, happy and still a vital part of our family.

Even if your pet doesn’t fall ill, the cost of pet ownership can still skyrocket for a variety of other reasons. Here are a few to think about when it comes to pet adoption.

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Traveling Gets Pricier

Where will your pets go while you travel? Whether they stay at home, head to a kennel or travel with you, pets add to the cost of traveling. “If your pet does travel with you, unexpected costs include pet deposits in hotels (which sometimes vary by number of pets or size), airline fees, extra time on the road when you need to stop to let Fido go, and travel gear like beds and bowls that are more convenient than the accessories owners use on a daily basis at home,” said Sonia Charry, owner of PawPosse.com, a lifelong dog owner, and former animal hospital staffer.

The Puppy Surcharge

No, the puppy surcharge isn’t an official thing, but it could be. The fact is that puppies can be brutal on your home as they teeth, learn where to pee and more. “I’ve known people who had to buy new furniture when they came home to find their couch torn apart and unstuffed,” Charry said. “My own dog had a special penchant for chewing on wooden tables we thought would last for years.”

Raised Insurance Premiums for Some

Love those tougher sounding breeds? Well, that could cost you on your insurance. “Some insurance companies charge a premium if you have a dog of a certain breed. Owners of pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and other breeds considered dangerous or aggressive sometimes end up with higher homeowners or renters insurance just because of their pet’s reputation,” Charry said.

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Costlier Cleaning

Whether it’s the cost of grooming your poodle or the special vacuum to keep your pup’s fur out of the rug, cleaning bills will rise when you have pets. “Virtually every dog breed sheds to some extent,” Charry said. “This leads to higher costs on everything from air filters that need replacing more often to more vacuum bags for more frequent vacuuming. That’s not including upgrades, like HEPA air purifiers or special vacuums designed for homes with pets.”

And One More Thing …

Beyond the monetary costs, owning pets is an emotional investment. To be a good pet owner, you will need to give love, kindness and patience. Furthermore, you must remember that chances are you will outlive your pet – so at some point, there will be that final goodbye to contend with.

Are you really ready for this investment?

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