By Vera Wilson
Pet shelters and rescues are reporting a record amount of adoptions during the pandemic. But sadly, many animals will be returned because the owners aren’t aware of the costs associated with owning a pet. Here’s what you need to know before adding to your family.
Interestingly, costs associated with your pet depend on your age. According to a recent Harris poll, Gen Xers spend the most on their pets, averaging $1,445 a year for a dog, while baby boomers about $944. Cats tend to cost less.
The largest cost by far is food, and the variety is incredible. Pets with skin sensitivities may benefit from prescription food (cha-ching!) while others' owners won’t hesitate to buy the industrial-size bag of Ol’ Roy at Walmart.
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A new pet should visit a veterinarian for a wellness check and return annually. Vaccines (some required by law) will be administered, which are reasonably-priced. Monthly maintenance drugs such as heartworm pills and flea meds will be recommended and vary in cost depending on the size of your pet. Call around to some local vets to ask about their prices.
If your pet falls ill, the costs can be dramatic and end in heartbreak if you can’t afford the bill. For example, our dog had an ACL tear that cost us over $3,000 many years ago, a hit to our budget, to be sure. Many owners opt for pet insurance which can help defray the cost of these unpredictable vet bills.
Your pet will need basic supplies like leashes, bowls, toys, crates and collars. You can get a custom bowl on Etsy for $54, or opt for a plastic bowl at Dollar General – your pet won’t care which.
Although “pawdicures” are all the rage, you can choose to take care of grooming and training yourself if you have the time and patience.
Of particular concern to servicemembers will be the cost of making arrangements if you’re required to be away for any length of time or need to move your pet to your new PCS. If friends or family members can’t help, the cost of hiring a pet-sitter can add up quickly if they visit more than once a day. Stays at the local doggie hotel are also expensive and require certain vaccines. If you have to fly, each airline details the cost of transporting pets on their websites; service animals travel free.
Many costs associated with pet ownership can be predicted and controlled but to avoid any surprises, consider health insurance for your furry friend.
Vera Wilson is freelance writer based in North Carolina. She frequently writes on financial topics.