Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Price of Putting on the Dog

A repeat from this blog, circa December 2005:

The article, below, is from The Wall Street Journal, and suggests that dogs are very expensive to own -- maybe $1,000 or more per dog per year.

Outrageous? I thought so too, but if I figure out the wear and tear on the car, the occassional high-cost health care bill (two of those in 7 years), food, etc., it's not quite as cheap as I think either. I figure my three dogs cost me about $1,000 a year for all three, but I might be low-balling that.

Calculating the True Cost of a Pet by Ron Lieber, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 12, 2005

That doggy in the window costs much more than you think.

How much? Almost $12,000 over a lifetime for a small dog that lives 15 years, and more than $23,000 for a larger breed that lives for 12. Those are just averages; the numbers grow quickly if, say, illnesses require trips to the vet.

These figures come from Jim Wilson, a veterinarian, lawyer and consultant who has created a detailed spreadsheet, down to the last chew toy, using data from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association and owners. Dr. Wilson crunched the numbers as part of his research into damages in lawsuits over pets and his work for a pet-insurance company.

Numbers like that might give anyone pause. "People think they can get the puppy from the pound for $125," he says. "And they honestly don't have a clue as to what the annual costs are going to be."

Some highlights from the spreadsheet: "Destruction of Household Items" averages $1,000 for a larger dog. Dr. Wilson knows of a Weimaraner that chewed up $3,500 worth of SUV dashboard. "Sometimes a tail takes out a whole table, and then you have broken china, red wine stains," he says. "Nobody takes that into account."

Thinking about pets in these terms may make you feel dangerously like the Grinch. In fact, it's precisely because animals can end up playing such important roles in our lives that it's crucial to consider the economic cost ahead of time. After all, once that pet becomes part of your household -- a playmate for the kids, a friend and companion -- you'll likely find yourself determined to spend whatever it takes to shield it from pain.

It's the veterinary bills that can really add up. These days it's a snap to spend a four-figure amount or more on care that wasn't even available a decade ago. That can lead, inevitably, to difficult choices. Trade journal DVM Newsmagazine asks vets every three years for the dollar amount at which most clients would stop treatment.

In 2003, it stood at $961, up 67 percent from the 1997 figure. A 2004 American Kennel Club survey of dog owners found that 14 percent said their current ownership costs would deter them "significantly" or "quite a bit" from getting another one.

There are several things you can do to avoid finding yourself in that group. Before you buy, see a vet for a "pet selection" appointment. Once there, ask about recurring costs and potential genetic and behavior problems.

Also set a realistic budget. Fran Hickman, a financial planner with JSF Financial LLC in Los Angeles, sets aside almost $14,000 annually for her African green parrot, two Jack Russell terriers and a horse named Temptation. Her advice? Be honest with yourself about what you're willing to sacrifice for an animal (or a menagerie). "It impacts your family vacations when you spend $5,000 on an ill pet," she says.

Finally, consider insurance. Some employers offer it, or you can buy it through outfits like Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. Deductibles and payment caps may apply, just as they would for humans.


BorderWars said...

That's cheap for me and for a lot of dog people.

Puppy Obedience class $100
Beginning Agility $175
Intermediate Agility $120
Advanced Agility $120
Frisbee Spring Training $25
100 Frisbees $125
Frisbee training DVD $20
Beginning Flyball $40
Intermediate Flyball $40
Mary Ray clicker training DVD $50
PennHip x-rays + test $300
First Year Vet Bills + Meds $250+
Frisbee competition $10 x __
Agility competition $20 x __
Herding lessons $15/time

And that's just one of my two puppies. The other one is show quality (I know you'll have issue with that descriptor), so you can add:

First year Vet bills $250+
Conformation class $8 x 6+
Each dog show $20/day
Grooming products/table $300

Plus another round of agility and flyball and herding classes.

Then there's food. Easily hundreds of dollars per year of kibble, added meat, and treats.

Agility equiptment for home $300
Other toys $200
Collars, leashes, harnesses $75
No bark collar and E-collar $300

Not counting car, travel, hotels, depreciation, human dress clothes and athletic clothes, and even the camera to record it all.

So way I'm getting of so cheap.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Right away, I had to laugh at "destruction of household items." You mean I was supposed to replace the futon sofa after the Chesapeake Bay retriever pup chewed on the wooden arm rests?

I just re-varnished them.

PipedreamFarm said...

Our first Border Collie was VERY expensive.

herding lessons
more herding lessons
herding trials
pop-up camper
more Border Collies
6 acre farmette
bigger trailer and bigger van
more border collies
more sheep
bigger farm
more sheep

SecondThoughtsOptional said...

Interesting. My persnickety self notes that of the $1360 bill you've listed for your first dog (ignoring competitions and the herding classes), $810 are really for your desire to compete. :) Which is not a bad thing, not at all, but really, those aren't what the dog costs you, they're what you cost you using your dog.

As I said, I'm being persnickety -- it sounds like you're having fun, which is what does matter in the end.

Donald McCaig said...

Dear Patrick,

Last year we had 7 (one died three months into the year): four Border Collies and three big sheepguarding dogs. Dog food was 3k and vet ( three failing dogs needed heavy meds) was 8k.

Although sheepdog trialing costs were not inconsiderable, maintenance - keeping them alive and healthy - was more.

If you have one small young dog, feed cheap, don't do anything with him and rehome him via PETA when he gets old, you probably could keep him for - say - $500 a year?

Donald McCaig