Pet Wellness Guides > What Does it Really Cost to Own a Pet? - Pet Insurance Review

What Does it Really Cost to Own a Pet?

Posted: 10/07/2022 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Cat , Consumer , Dog , Pet care

More and more households in the US are learning the joy and awesomeness furry family members add to life. In fact, According to the American Pet Products Association, 67% of households have at least one pet.1 That’s up from 56% of households more than two decades ago. While fur babies definitely bring love and laughter into the home, it is important to understand that pets require a commitment on your part. What does it really cost to own a pet? Plenty! So you’ll definitely want to fully recognize the financial requirements before falling in love.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a guide on how much it really costs to own a pet, so be sure to read this entire article.

Consider Ongoing Costs of Pet Ownership

how much does it cost to own a pet?

It’s important to remember that owning a pet means being responsible for ongoing costs for the lifetime of your fur baby. While you will incur some initial costs for adoption, paperwork, vaccinations and training, there will also be the ongoing costs of food, grooming and medical treatments.

In addition, those with larger pets like Great Danes may need to consider the cost of owning a larger home with a fenced-in backyard.

Before bringing a fur baby into your life, understand that how much you pay for their ongoing care will depend greatly on the breed and size as well as on your location. Yes, zip code plays a big part in your ongoing costs. For instance, the cost of routine exams, vaccinations and diagnostic testing will cost more in New York City than it will in a small town in the country. A small dog may eat only $500 worth of food a year, whereas a large breed may eat that same amount in a month.

The point here is that you will need to do more than just think of what dog or cat is the cutest. You will have to take a hard look at your finances to realistically determine what you can afford.

To get a better idea of potential costs, you can refer to the handy calculator offered by Tail Waggers Pet Services or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated costs.

Now let’s drill down a bit and look at the specific costs associated with owning a dog versus owning a cat.

Costs of Owning a Dog

Dogs have been considered “Man’s best friend” for eons. Dogs are silly and sweet and they can make us feel safe by protecting our homes and property. But owning a dog can cost considerably more than owning a cat because of their size, as well as their training and grooming needs.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider before bringing a dog into your life:

Shelter Dog vs. Breeder

true costs of pet ownership

It’s worth noting that adopting a dog from a shelter is usually far less expensive than buying a puppy from a breeder. We realize many people fall in love with specific breeds of dogs and we would say two things about that:

First, don’t discount or ignore mixed breed dogs. They are often the most adorable, loving and affectionate dogs out there and they need homes, too!

Second, there are plenty of rescue organizations that focus on rescuing purebred dogs. You can do a simple Google search of the breed you are interested in and add “rescue organization” after it.

One popular dog care website has estimated general adoption fees of $600 while buying a puppy from a breeder can cost more than $2,000.2

Something to note is that older dogs usually cost less than puppies. So many people opt for getting that 6-week old puppy. But if you adopt a dog that is older than 6 months or even a year, you’ll not only save on the adoption fees but also most likely bring home a dog that is already potty trained. That’s a real win!

And a final note on shelter vs breeder, before buying a fur baby from a breeder or a pet store, make absolutely certain that a puppy mill wasn’t involved. These places do not have the dog’s health and well-being in mind.

Medical Care Costs for Dogs

Of course we can’t talk about the costs of owning a dog without diving into the topic of medical care. The following are just some of the common medical costs you’ll be responsible for when bringing a pup into your life:

  • Vaccines
  • Heartworm prevention
  • Flea and tick medication
  • Spay or neuter
  • Unexpected illness and injuries

Depending on the rescue shelter you adopt your dog from, the cost of vaccinations, spaying and neutering and even microchipping may already be included in the adoption fee. Always check with the shelter to understand what costs you will be responsible for.

medical care costs for dogs

It’s important to mention that dogs of all ages can experience unexpected accidents or illnesses. And this is where many pet parents can struggle financially. They budget for food and grooming and toys, but they don’t take the unexpected into consideration. And then they are suddenly hit with vet bills that cost thousands – or even tens of thousands – of dollars.

Pet health insurance can save the life of your dog while also protect your life savings. If you really want to keep medical costs as low as possible, it’s a good idea to sign your puppy up as soon as possible.

Find top pet insurance providers near you.

Breed-Specific Medical Issues

Understand that certain breeds of dogs have certain medical issues that could become costly down the road. German shepherds, for instance, could develop hip dysplasia while Boxers are prone to heart conditions. Do your research so you fully understand how to care for your baby and what diseases they may develop in the future.

Dog Grooming

You wouldn’t let your human kids go weeks without taking a bath, so why let your fur baby? And bathing, grooming and nail trims cost anywhere from $50 a month all the way up to $100 a month, depending on where you live and what exactly is involved.


Food is obviously something you will need to provide to your pup. And again, depending on the size and breed of your dog, you could be looking at a monthly food bill of $25 or a monthly bill of $200. Quite a big difference.

It’s also important to note that some dogs have food allergies and sensitivities, just like people. Eating common commercial food can make them sick, so your vet may recommend they eat a prescription diet instead. These diets typically cost more than regular commercial food.

And let’s not forget you’ll want to pick up some treats for your dog! So add on another $20 – $30 a month for those.

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Other Costs to Own a Dog

Here are some other costs associated with owning a dog:

  • Training
  • Pet sitting
  • Dog walking
  • Toys

Let’s say you are the sole parent of a dog and you have to go out of town for a few days on a business trip. Leaving your dog with a pet sitter could cost $100 a night. If you decide to take your dog with you, some hotels will charge extra for your room.

Training can cost a little or a lot, depending on whether you do group training or opt for private, one-on-one training.

Will someone be home all day with your dog? If not, will your dog have access to the outside while you and your family are away at school and work, or will you need to have a dog walker come in once a day to offer an important potty break for your pup?

And finally, toys, leashes, dog crates, dog bowls, dog beds, these all have price tags. While you won’t have to buy these on a weekly or even monthly basis, they are costs you’ll want to be aware of.

Cost to Own a Cat

costs to own a cat

Cat lovers rejoice! In many ways, owning a cat can cost less than owning a dog, depending on the breed. Because of cats’ smaller size and their self-sufficiency, they simply cost less to care for. Having said that, there are expenses to be aware of.

Shelter vs. Breeder

As with dogs, you are going to pay significantly less by adopting a cat from a shelter than buying a specific breed. What we encourage you to avoid are answering those ads you often find on Craigslist for “free kittens.” It seems like a good idea at first, but if not dealing with a reputable shelter or breeder you may be responsible for hundreds of dollars for deworming and flea treatments, vaccinations and potentially multiple vet visits.

Medical Care Costs for Cats

Cats will require similar medical treatment as dogs, and this includes yearly vaccinations, flea control, and heartworm prevention. It’s important to note though that cats seem to be particularly prone to ear infections and dental problems.

It is incredibly important to get your cat regular dental checkups because if you let dental disease get out of control, you are looking at a very costly vet bill. A basic cleaning can cost between $500 and $700. If teeth need to be pulled you can add another $500 or so.

As with dogs, cats become more prone to disease as they age. Some breeds of cat are also more susceptible to developing health issue later in life. For instance, Ragdoll cats are prone to urinary tract disorders and bladder stones while Persians can have breathing issues and kidney disease.

Cat Grooming

Luckily, cats tend to groom themselves so you shouldn’t have to pay to have them professionally bathed. Having said that, cats still need those nails trimmed so they don’t tear up your rugs and furniture. You can learn to do it yourself, but often it is safer and easier and safer to have a pro handle it.

Another way to help your cat trim their own nails is to keep plenty of scratching posts around the house. Inexpensive carboard scratch boxes can cost around $20, while more elaborate trees and poles can costs upwards of $100.

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A wet food diet is often most recommended by vets instead of a cheaper dry food diet. This is because many cats do not drink enough water and can develop urinary tract issues such as bladder stones and infections. And of course, cats can also have allergies and food sensitivities that require special prescription foods.

Other Costs to Own a Cat

Cats don’t require training or walking, but they do require litter boxes that are cleaned regularly. Buying a 40-pound bag of quality litter can cost around $20. If you have multiple cats you will be buying more littler each month.

Cat toys are important to help parents engage their fur baby. A variety pack of toys can cost as little as $10 while more interactive toys can cost upwards of $20.

And of course cat treats and catnip all have their own price tags.

Wherefor Art Thou Budget?

As you can see, being the pet parent of a dog or cat – let alone multiple dogs and cats – comes with definite expenses. And yet, you may be shocked to learn that many pet parents don’t have a real budget or money set aside exclusively for these costs.

The pet insurance company Lemonade recently commissioned a survey in collaboration with market research firm OnePoll that looked at 2,000 pet parents and found that on average, they spent $276 each month on their fur babies. This equates to roughly $3,300 annually.

Now the most shocking part about this survey was the finding that only half of the pet parents surveyed (52%) had a designated budget for their pets. And of these, 98% stated they tend to go over budget always or nearly all of the time.

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Pet Insurance Helps Keep Costs Down

As we stated up top, bringing a fur baby into your life means joy and laughter, yes, but also committing to providing the very best care. As you can see, there are numerous expenses associated with pet ownership. One of the best ways to keep your costs low is to enroll your dog or cat into a pet insurance plan.

Pet insurance can help you manage costs should your fur baby suddenly become ill or injured. If you don’t set money aside each month for the unexpected, how will you be able to pay for it?

Depending on your pet, breed, age and your location, you can find pet insurance with monthly premiums as low as $10. Coverage can reimburse you for as much as 90% of the vet bill, potentially saving your family thousands of dollars.

If you’re considering buying a pet insurance plan, you can start by using our handy side-by-side comparison chart. Want to hear what other pet parents just like you have to say about some of the top insurance providers in the industry? Check out these 100% honest reviews.


  1. Retrieved from the APPA website:
  2. Retrieved from Rover:



The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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