AVERAGE COSTS OF OWNING A DOG

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Adoption fee or purchase price

Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue group is highly recommended for many reasons - you’re saving a life, and it’s significantly cheaper than the alternatives.  The L.A. Animal Services adoption fee includes the spay/neuter surgery, all vaccines, first year license fee and a microchip all at a highly discounted rate.  This is typical of most rescue groups, and some groups also include one free vet check up, food, a bath and a collar/leash.  Pet store dogs are a product of the inhumane puppy mill industry and greatly contribute to the overpopulation problem.  They cost significantly more and, along with dogs from backyard breeders, they are notorious for their health and temperament problems from poor breeding.  Even a “free” puppy from a neighbor will eventually cost hundreds of dollars to get neutered and vaccinated.  The truly responsible breeders that produce healthy dogs typically charge $1,000 - $2,500 per puppy.

Spay/neuter

In L.A. dogs are required by law to be spayed/neutered by 4 months of age.  Price is determined by weight and sex (neutering is cheaper).  We listed prices for a typical vet’s office; however, there are clinics that offer low-cost spay/neuter for $75 - $120 and some may qualify for free services.

Vaccines

The rabies vaccine is required by law every 3 years in LA.  Puppies initially require multiple rounds of vaccines at 2, 3 and 4 months old, and then every 2-3 years thereafter.  Low-cost vaccine clinics are available.

Medical

Pets require annual check-ups and fecal exams, and vaccines need to be re-applied every 2-3 years.  Vets recommend bringing senior dogs in for wellness exams twice a year after a certain age, so medical costs will become more expensive as the pet ages.  Medication is also more expensive the larger the animal is.

Microchipping

Veterinary offices can charge what they wish, but the city offers microchipping to the public for $25. Depending on which chip company you use, some require an annual re-registration fee around $20.

License

Required by law for dogs, and the annual fee supports your local city animal services program.

Crate

Extremely useful training & housebreaking tool when used properly. They are not used for punishment.

Training

Dogs are only as good as the time you spend training them. Puppy socialization & obedience classes with a positive trainer is critical for learning how to properly communicate with your new dog and teach manners.

Food/treats

Although cheaper brands of food are available, they are not recommended.  Poor diets often lead to associated medical costs over time.  A premium brand that uses high quality ingredients will keep the dog’s immune system strong, and they are less likely to suffer from ear infections, skin problems, runny eyes and allergies etc.  A good rule of thumb is to avoid any brands sold in grocery stores - pet stores have healthier options.

Toys

Some dogs will collect their toys, but others prefer to destroy them.  For those that prefer destroying, obviously the costs of replacing them go up significantly more than we listed.  However, it’s much cheaper to buy new toys and more expensive durable toys, rather than have your dog start chewing furniture or other belongings!

Heartworm preventative

Highly recommended for some geographic areas more than others.  Due to associated potential side-effects of the medication, some people choose not to use the preventative if they reside in a low-risk area.  The pros and cons should be discussed with your veterinarian after careful research.

Flea/tick preventative –  The chemical-based brands have potentially harmful side-effects, so regular monthly doses are recommended only if the dog is currently infested or is regularly exposed to fleas & ticks.  Natural products are a safer (and less costly) alternative for casual prevention.

Pet Insurance

Cost varies greatly depending on the medical history of the pet and the amount of coverage you desire.  Companies offer everything from emergency care only to all-inclusive policies.

Health supplements

Adding supplements to the dog’s diet is a common way to support good health. Some popular examples include glucosamine pills for senior pets suffering from arthritis, salmon oil for healthier skin and coat and digestive enzymes for better nutrient absorption among others.

Emergency fund

The average lifespan of a dog is 12 – 16 years.  Accidents happen, and chances are at some point in his life your pet might require serious medical care.  Emergency surgery can easily cost several thousand dollars.  Start a savings fund early so you’re not caught empty-handed if something unexpected happens.