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Because of COVID-19, our lives have been radically altered – mostly in ways that make life with a furry friend more desirable and practical. If you’re at home all day, why not spend it with an adoring canine whose need of your reassuring presence is so great that they must lean up against you? Or perhaps you’d prefer a beguiling feline who finagles her way between you and your keyboard – without intending to get in the way, of course.

Before you adopt a pet, however, consider the costs – between $810 and $3,350 for the first year and between $650 and $2,115 each year after for the life of the pet, according to a 2020 survey by Rover. And that’s not taking into consideration major medical problems or emergencies.

Know Your Expenses in Advance

Whether you acquire a pet through a shelter, rescue or breeder, you will have to pay something for it. Puppies from breeders may run between $2,000 and $4,000. But even if you adopt from a shelter, there will be an adoption fee ($50-$500), which sometimes includes the cost of a spay or neuter ($35-$400).

In addition, there are expenses for food ($200-$1,200 per year); vaccinations ($75-$100); flea and tick prevention medication ($60 for six months); and sundry gear, including food and water bowls, a leash, brushes, toys, treats and dental chews, etc.

Some expenses recur yearly. Yup, you need flea and tick prevention for next year too, as well as heartworm prevention ($60-$120 for six months), and routine vet visits at around $200.

Depending on your pet and your lifestyle, you may also need to budget for some extras, including pet rental deposit ($200-$500) if you’re renting where you live, grooming ($40-$70 per session), dog training (starting around $120 for a six-week group class), teeth cleaning ($100-$300), dog boarding ($35 nightly) and dog walking ($20 per walk).

By far, the largest pet costs are the unforeseen major medical problems or emergencies – an important category that we address below.

Budget for the Known Costs

Most budget-minded pet owners spend less than $1,000 on their pet per year, but 47% spend about $3,400, according to the Rover survey. This is a large range because some pets and breeds are more costly to care for than others. Also, you do have choices as to how much you spend. Some, but not all, expenses are discretionary.

Pet costs are ideal for budgeting because most can be foreseen and there’s not an infinite number of them. Estimates for most costs are available on the internet. List your nondiscretionary expenses first. Then, add your discretionary expenses, if you can afford them. Decide how much you can spend on your pet per month and then save for it, setting aside a certain amount from each paycheck.

For cost-conscious pet moms and dads, here are some easy corners to cut that your pet won’t notice:

  • Bedding. Improvise with materials around the house.
  • Boarding fees. A road trip with your dog can be a bonding experience.
  • Daycare. Do you have a friend who works from home?
  • Fancy collars and leashes. Go with the basic. Not everyone needs fine leather.
  • Grooming. Consider doing this yourself. Make a small investment in clippers.
  • Scratching post. You can make these from scrap pieces of carpet or cardboard.
  • Training. Try a group class at first. Also, there are many books that will enable you to continue training on your own.
  • Treats and toys. Look into recipes for pet treats and use your ingenuity to make toys.

By contrast, here are some expenses that you should not cut because your pet’s health depends on them:

  • Regular veterinary visits for vaccinations and other preventive care

    These will prevent you from having to treat more serious illnesses later. For example, the cost of a yearly heartworm test is about $45, but the cost to treat heartworm disease is $1,000.  

  • Flea and tick preventive treatment

    If your pet goes outside, fleas and ticks can cause not only discomfort, but disease and even death. Take these threats seriously. Most vets recommend brand-name topical treatments, which are applied monthly to your pet’s skin.

  • Heartworm preventive treatment

    Heartworm is a microscopic parasite that is spread to your pet by way of a mosquito bite and can be fatal. Consult your vet for the proper preventive treatments. Most recommend monthly tablets or chewables.

  • Pet food

    Consult with your veterinarian. Cheaper dog foods are not always a good idea. Your pet’s nutrition is important in staving off disease and other problems.

Pet costs are ideal for budgeting because most can be foreseen and there’s not an infinite number of them.

Have a Plan for Medical Emergencies

No one likes to imagine that their puppy or kitten would one day require medical attention for a major problem, but you need to protect yourself from these expenses. A dog’s ligament tear could cost $3,000-$7,000 to repair. Or a urinary obstruction in a cat could cost $3,000.

Faced with the decision to treat or not treat their pet for a major medical problem – often with no advanced notice – most owners will opt for treatment. Often, the cost ends up on a credit card, which may take months or years to pay off.

Unless you’re prepared to keep several thousand dollars in an emergency fund, your best option may be pet insurance. The average monthly premium for pet insurance is $42 per month for a dog or $21 for a cat.

Most plans are not designed to cover routine vet care, though some may. Rather, they are designed to lower the cost of less common or more expensive treatments for diseases, illnesses or injuries. They may cover 70-90% of your vet costs for these types of expenses.

If you are interested in pet insurance, purchase it as soon as you acquire your pet. The younger the pet, the lower the premium. Also, pet insurance typically does not cover pre-existing conditions.

Enjoying Your Pet

While a dog or cat is a substantial expense, it is also one of life’s greatest joys and brings with it many health benefits, including lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and improved mental health, according to many studies.

You will appreciate all these benefits more if you can keep the costs of your pet under control. That means budgeting for the known expenses – food, preventive medicines and regular vet visits – and having a plan to cover major medical problems or emergencies.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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