Cost of Owning a Dog – The Ultimate Guide (UK & US)

cost of owning a dog

The world can very neatly be divided into two categories- people who love dogs, and the (smaller fraction of) people who don’t.

But even under people who love dogs, there are people who actually own dogs, and those who still don’t have one yet, and are planning on getting a pooch, or hoping to get one.

The limitations can be very basic sometimes, like a rental agreement that doesn’t permit dog, living in dorms, living with a partner with allergies, or having allergies yourself. But one of the biggest and sometimes most significant causes of reticence is the cost of owning a dog.

Dogs don’t come cheap. Even if you’re the most miserly of people while running a one-man household, adding a dog to the equation can seriously spike your monthly average expenditure.

And you might think that food and upkeep can’t possibly total to that much, but there are also costs like hygiene supplies, veterinary bills, sitters, grooming, kennels  etc. to reckon with. And toys and treats- because who can really resist their fur baby’s wants?

How Much Does a Dog Cost Per Month?

For a general overview, you can take a look at the average figures for pet ownership. In the UK, owning a dog can put you back by  £1183 a year. If you take an average life expectancy of 13 years for dogs into account, that can total up to  £18,500 in toto, not accounting for inflation.

It’s not much different in the US, either. The average annual cost of the first year of owning a dog comes to $1,270, which is no mean sum. And these figures do not take into account the other expenditures that pop up unexpectedly, such as pregnancy, sickness, spaying/neutering costs, licenses, training lessons, gear, or even the cost of actually getting the dog, should you have bought it.

For a young adult or students, these numbers can swing the balance between having a small savings margin, and having to live off Ramen for a week every other month. But even for people with larger per capita income in the household, a pure-bred or high maintenance doggy can provoke the same effect.

What’s the Average Price of a Puppy?

What’s the Average Price of a Puppy

The results will shock you- no, really. When you buy a dog, you have the option of buying a puppy who you can raise at home and groom according to your wishes, or buying an older dog, who has already received basic training. The latter option is more consistent with dogs who work, such as sheepdogs, guard dogs, or service dogs, who have spent their initial few months or years being prepared for their line of work.

In the UK, the cheapest and most often bought dog breeds include Border Collies (£276),  Jack Russell Terriers (£289), Beagles (£324), Staffordshire Bull Terriers (£341), and Yorkshire Terriers (£385). In the UK, Border Collies are the most reasonably priced dog breed in most parts of the country. But even so, Beagles and Jack Russell Terriers enjoy an equal popularity because they have shorter fur, are smaller in size, require less space, and therefore also less maintenance.

But if you swing the other way and decide on a more ‘high-end’ dog, you can be looking at prices as enormous as  £4,500 for Canadian Eskimo Dogs,  £3,000 – £5,000 for Löwchen,  £2,500 – £4,500 for Samoyeds,  £2,000 – £3,000 for Tibetan Mastiffs,  £1,500 – £5,000 for Rottweiler (no surprises there), £1,500 – £2,000 for Egyptian Pharoah Hounds, and a staggering  £600 – £9,000 for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Similarly in the USA, the most popular dog breeds are the ‘cheaper’ mixed breed dogs, as long as they have not been selectively bred for it, followed by Harriers, Setters, Coonhounds, and the same dogs as in UK. On the expensive side, Akitas, Great Danes, Tibetan Mastiffs, Chihuahuas are all in the $500-1000 range.

Obviously, the lineage and pedigree of each can influence where the exact cost falls. For example Chihuahuas feature on many lists of cheapest dogs as well as of most expensive dogs. But the ranges themselves give you a fair idea of what to expect.

And The Average Cost of Adopting a Dog?

Average Cost of Adopting a Dog


…is obviously massively less than if you bought one. Most shelters offer free adoptions. There is a small fee to pay, usually in the range of £135- 175. This covers an initial ‘starter pack’ full of things like a full veterinary checkup, behavioural assessment, microchipping, initial vaccinations, a collar, identification tag and lead.

Larger adoption homes usually have these on hand, as well as the facility to have your dog spayed or neutered before you take him home (or soon after).

With a little time invested, you can even find a dog in the breed you particularly want, should you have a preference. Animal shelters are unfortunately full of puppies and dogs that desperately need homes, whether they are mongrels or purebreds.

And if you have no preference to start off with, well, then you just have to find the right dog you can take home and rehome. At a fraction of the new puppy costs, as would be if you bought a dog directly from a breeder.

What’s the Cost of Dog Food Per Year?

Cost of Dog Food Per Year

The meat of the matter is, dog food can be pretty expensive. Especially if you have a finicky or sensitive dog, in which case his entire diet has to be tailored to what he prefers or what he can tolerate.

There are obviously different grades of dog foods that you can buy. If you stick to a completely dry food, such as processed and ready-to-feed brands available by the sack in supermarkets, tinned food, wet dog food, or homemade food. A monthly average can be anywhere between £15-£20 per month, or $20-60 per month. The number can vary vastly depending on how big your dog is, how active he is, and how much he eats.

This can come to an annual cost of dog food in the range of £180-£240 in UK and $250-700 per year in USA.

This applies only to regular dogs, though. Dogs who have special needs eg. food intolerances, systemic illnesses like kidney disease, or allergies, require modified diets with special foods. The costs for these therapeutic diets or special-order fresh food deliveries, may cost $100 or more a month. As an example there are options such as grain free dog food, hypoallergenic dog food or foods specifically for dogs with a sensitive stomach – all of which can further raise the cost.

And let’s not forget: treats. High quality dog treats can rack up a neat bill of $250-700 per year, even when you limit it down to $20-100 per month. Cheap dog treats are naturally also an option, but when their manufacturing has not been well regulated, there is a very large chance of the material being dubiously sourced.

How Much Does It Cost To Have a Dog Insured?

Dog insurance is another field where the expenditure can vary vastly, depending on which coverage you opt for. Dog owners in UK pay an average  £23.90 per month. The number can however total up to an average of £324 per year, from different sources.

But again, the premium costs can be as different as single or triple digit figures per month. Adult or elderly dogs belonging to disease-prone breeds like Great Danes or Akitas may need coverage of more than £110, while young puppies can be covered with as little as £5 per month.

Additionally, premiums can always change with age. As your dog gets older, the monthly fees gets progressively higher, even if not by much.

However, when you have to claim insurance coverage, it’s always better to have it than to not have it. Veterinary fees can entail very exorbitant costs, in the case that your dog has an accident or needs medical attention for any reason.

That is why it is always prudent to choose wisely in advance, whether you’re going to opt for accident only dog insurance, which is usually the cheapest option, time limited dog insurance, which covers short term illnesses, per condition dog insurance, which is more tailored. Or lifetime dog insurance (the most expensive, but also usually the most comprehensive).

Location also influences the monthly rates. Premiums per month in large cities in the UK, like London, have a difference of almost £5-10, when compared to rural areas.

The size and breed of the dog also changes the total. Large dogs require heftier coverage than small dogs, and purebred and pedigree dogs are always pricier to insure, because of their higher likelihood to have congenital disorders, and increased susceptibility to disease, in a lot of cases.

Basset Hounds, for example, have higher chances of having von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD), otitis externa, ectropion, glaucoma,Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD), gastric torsion, elbow dysplasia, thrombopathy, entropion, and canine hip dysplasia (CHD).

Cross breeds such as Cockapoos or Labradoodles also usually have higher premiums.

How Much Do Vet Bills Cost For Dogs?

How Much Do Vet Bills Cost For Dogs

Vet bills are almost an unpleasant surprise in the making. At an estimate, pet owners who haven’t insured their pets may end up paying above £810 for vet visits, all the way up to more than £8000, in some cases. But whether insured or not, medical care for dogs can be very expensive. The most common issues requiring treatment for older dogs include joint problem treatment, fractures, spinal injuries, treatment for growth or tumours, and treatment for skin conditions.

On an average, pet owners pay about £60 for a visit to a general vet practitioner for a regular check up. Specialist vet practitioners have higher fees, such as by cardiologists or neurologists. Investigations like blood tests, stool tests, or radiological investigations like Ultrasounds and X -Rays, also come up as additional costs.

An estimate puts an average cost of £452.92 for joint treatments for dogs in the UK, followed by £433.57 for tumours, and £406.42 for traumas. Puppies have their own set of expenses, too. Puppies need vaccinations against canine distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and leptospirosis. This can mean initial vaccinations totalling  £100-£120, followed by annual boosters or around £50-£60.

But the biggest pullers are conditions that require extensive or emergency management. Treatment of spinal injuries, blood and lymphatic dyscrasias, head or face injuries, and immune system defects, can rack up bills well upward of £8000.

The situation isn’t much different in USA. A regular visit to the vet can mean paying as much as $50 each time, and more so (in the range of $250) if you’re seeing a specialist. More advanced procedures fall in the same price brackets as in the UK, with minor variations. The list below is a good illustration of where your money goes, and how essential each one of those is.

Annual Physical Exam    $58

Vaccinations    $268

Heartworm Test and Prevention    $127

Flea and Tick Prevention    $190

Fecal Exam    $60

Dental Cleaning    $125

Spay or Neuter    $175

Some of these things can be remedied at home. Dental care, for example – clean your dogs teeth with a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste. You can also feed your dog dental chews to help with cleaning the teeth. Maintaining good dental hygiene for your dog at home can help stave off large vet bills and a lot of discomfort for your dog. The same applies to parasite prevention (eg. getting rid of fleas) and weight management, all of which make sure you avoid a lot of expenditure later on.

Comprehensive medical treatment for pets does not come cheap. The annual cost of a pet is influenced more by it than by any other factor. At the same time, it is an absolute necessity to make sure our dogs are fully cared for.

How Expensive is a Dog Sitter?

Having a dog is in many ways like having a child. And while they can be left home for some time unmonitored, that isn’t advisable when you’re going to be away more than part of a day. Dogs are highly skilled in getting themselves into all sorts of trouble even when we’re in the room. This is where pet sitters come in.

The longer your pet sitter has to take care of your dog, the pricier it’s going to be. Obviously in some cases, like family emergencies, there is no other choice. A pet sitter can cost you anywhere between $20-40 per visit, depending on what they need to do while pet-sitting.

Special needs pets, that need to be given injections or fed frequently, or are sick and require monitoring, for example, can spike this figure up by $20 easily. If you require your pet sitter to stay overnight, that can mean a bill of about $80-100.

24 hour care though, can mean a bill of almost $200. Even if you avail this service once a year, that can mean a hefty addition to the average cost of raising a dog for you.

In the UK, these prices are a little steeper, with average rates for a pet sitter clocking £90 per day. The pet sitters do take over smaller tasks like cleaning up after your pet, cleaning the house lightly as well, collecting your mail, etc. But the fees still adds up over time, if you avail this service multiple times a year. Just five times a year can mean a total of £500.

And what’s the Cost of a Dog Walker?

what’s the Cost of a Dog Walker

Admittedly, taking your dog out for a walk can be the best part about owning a dog. But sometimes, this task simply has to be relegated to a professional. When your office time clashes with your dog’s ‘out’ time, for example. Or when you’ve taken ill or are recuperating.

Depending on where you live and who you choose to walk your dog, a dog walker in UK can cost you between £5-£20 on average. Students often charge the lower end of the spectrum, while experienced walkers may ask for £20. And of course, it is much more expensive in cities than in rural areas.

But this seemingly small sum can add up over time. Even if you hire one five days a week, that can mean an annual total of around £2696 per annum. Which is quite a significant sum.

As you can see, the average lifetime cost of raising a dog is nothing to be sneezed at. Although their companionship has no monetary value, taking care of them right definitely does. Knowing these expenses in advance only helps you take care of your dog better.

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