Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dogs: They love us, we love them. But what about those vet bills?

"Dogs never bite me. Just humans."  - Marilyn Monroe. American actress and model. (1926-1962)

While having my new yellow Labrador checked out at the vet’s the other day, a distraught family came rushing through the front door carrying a dog in their arms that looked injured. The girls were sobbing, their mothers, clearly upset.
A technician quickly took them into a private exam room where the sounds of the crying girls were muffled by a closed door.

I don’t know what had happened to the dog, which looked to be a floppy-eared brown and white Spaniel, but it was likely hit by a car. The situation was serious.

The other day, a friend of mine who owns two small house dogs, shared that she had spent $3,000 twice on her cuddly pooch to have its hearing restored. These dogs are beloved family members who live indoors, share a night time bed with their owners and eat tidbits from the table

There’s no doubt that my friend can afford the vet bills and the loving care that she and her husband lavish on these dogs, but the young family with the injured dog may not have the budget for the hefty vet bill headed their way.
Dogs, while part of the American dream, can be expensive.

“You only want to do it, if you can afford it,” says Harrison Forbes, celebrity pet expert and author of “Dog Talk: Lessons Learned from a Life with Dog.”

So before your kids nag you into getting a dog, consider the set-up costs and the ongoing maintenance expense of owning a dog. If you are retired and on a fixed budget the financial challenge may even be greater.

New dog set-ups costs: Our new yellow lab came to our door, free as a stray with no collar and no “chip.” I checked with neighbors, put up a found-dog sign and looked at a countywide online “lost dogs” list. Nothing.

I had kept the dog-related stuff from when our wonderful black lab died a few years ago, so set-up costs were below average. We already had the leashes, collar, dog house, crate, dog food bin and even some toys left over from “Coot.” But in the first week of ownership, I spent $165 for a visit to the vet and for shots, $40 on new toys, $50 on dog food and $30 for one night of boarding.  First year dog ownership expenses can range up to $2,000 or more, according to a report at  (click here)

On-going dog-related costs: Annual dog food costs can average between $55 for a small dog (which seems low) to $300 for a large dog. Toys could run $75 a year. Vet care, around $260. By the way, reports that vet bills in the Portland area are 13 percent higher than the national average.

Add on grooming fees, travel/boarding expenses and pet insurance. The annual cost of owning a dog may climb to several thousand dollars a year.

In an article, "Don't let your dog send you to the poor house, Catey Hill writing at MarketWatch, said six in 10 American households have at least one pet. The average dog owner spends $227 per dog a year at the vet.

But the biggest cost may be unexpected emergency care or a surgery, especially as dogs age. Those fees may range between $3,000 and $5,000.

I am sure the family with the injured Spaniel could face a $600 to $1,000 bill depending on what will be done to save their beloved pet and family member. (Maybe they should have taken the dog home, get him resting in a comfortable bed to see how he does before heading straight for the vet's office.)

Other ways to cut costs: Make do it yourself dog treats and toys, use online coupons to get discounts on dog food purchases (, PetSmart and Petco), groom at home, exercise your dog to keep him healthy, shop around for a vet and stay current on shots and pills. And adopt a dog vs. buying a pure-bred animal.

Why own a dog, if it costs so much? Because we love them and even more important, they love us.
In older people, dog ownership can lower blood pressure and improve mental outlook.

Having a dog, teaches kids how to care for someone besides themselves. Playing with a dog reduces asthma in children and makes it less likely they will be over-weight, say experts.

These are all great reasons to own a dog. Just make sure you can afford one.

How to negotiate your vet bill. click here.
17 ways to save money on pet expenses, click here.
Creating a pet budget. click here.
U.S. News, saving money on your pet. click here
Ten Financial Lessons I learned from my dog. click here.
MoneyTalksNews click here.


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