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December 15, 2008


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The advice you're giving is great, as the costs of having a pet can add up quickly if you're not expecting them.

However, this is a terrible example of WHY that advice makes sense. The costs this poor guy has incurred are completely outside the norm. Imagine if a reader wrote in about their disabled child and all the financial costs they had incurred as a result of their care, then implored readers to not have kids as a result.

In my opinion, decisions like getting pets or having kids should include a realistic assessment of the costs, including costs that are above average but still somewhat likely, but if we only consider the extreme outliers that carry catastrophic cost, we'd never have kids, get pets, buy houses and cars, or take on any other forms of responsibility because we'd be afraid of the debilitating costs of a random catastrophe. That's why we have insurance :-)

Our shelter dog required $500.00 of vet service after adoption (not including the $180 adoption fee), about an additional $250 for "standard maintenance" vet visits annually, and this week we are facing $500 for surgery and teeth cleaning. Of course, there is food, supplies, and all that. Our indoor cat, on the other hand, barely seems to cost anything. So a cat may be a lesser cost. We also have a rabbit, and that thing is way more expensive (and labor-intensive) than you would think. I also think that fish are an expensive pet, with all the supplies and maintenance they require. I would not give up any of my animals because they are part of our family, but definitely remind myself of the costs when I think about getting another, or are enticed by pet adoption days.

I recently picked up a shelter cat. The $75 adoption fee included one free vet visit. Once they looked the cat over they realized she had an ear infection and needed to test the junk in her ear. The test, medicine, ear cleaning, and ear cleaning solution ended up costing $125. They have service charges for every little thing they do at the vet (pretty much the same as at a hospital). The only free part was for the vet to look the cat over ($30).

I'm working on a pets are pricey post for this week, seemed appropriate since one has a $1500 surgery at the end of the month and another needs to go to the vet this week. But, it's all worth it to me and that is the point I want to make. C, who needs the expensive surgery, is the funniest soul I've ever met. I feel lucky to have him, even if he costs an arm and a leg. I hate people who get pets without thinking of the cost and then give them up as soon as they get sick. Don't get a pet if the thought of expensive vet bills kills you, pretty simple. The first commenter has a point, the man's experience is unusual. My mom's dog has horrible allergies but it's never cost her much. Many pets live long healthy lives with little expense, others are lemons. FYI female dogs tend to bond more tightly with one human at the expense of the rest of the family. Males are more likely to bond equally with everyone.

Oh one more thing for the commenter you featured, unless she has a medical reason she can't hold her pee all dogs can be housebroken. It's the humans fault the dog is peeing in the house, you need to go back to housebreaking 101. I had to housebreak the 8 year old stray chihuahua I took in, they are notoriously hard to housebreak and he had never been trained. It took 2 months but he learned, I'm still working on C but he's got a few issues that make it more difficult. Give me another month.

Seems like a waste as well. I heard (unsubstantiated) that America spends more on pet food than Africa spends on human food.

Full Disclosure: My girlfriend's cat has moved into my apartment.

Seems like a waste as well. I heard (unsubstantiated) that America spends more on pet food than Africa spends on human food.

Full Disclosure: My girlfriend's cat has moved into my apartment.

Yeah, America probably has more money than Africa too. Of course I'd also bet that Europe spends more on pet food than Africa spends on human food too. Of course you set out to bash the US, so that comment wouldn't have made sense. Tribes in Africa also have unprotected sex with virgins (often babies) because it cures AIDS. Should we start doing that too?

It is a shame about the commenters pet situation. Perhaps he could have a rational conversation with his wife and find a local rescue organization that could take the dog. Oh and Ryan, no one would ever dream about a comment like this about a disabled child. They are the socially accepted thing to care for. You should absolutely break yourself and give up your entire life for them. Pets on the other hand are just a huge waste of money, and you shouldn't ever get one.

Pets can bring so much joy and companionship to your life so saying you shouldn't ever get one is ridiculous. I can't imagine life without my darling kitty, and she's cost me a fortune in vet bills but I don't care. While I do sometimes feel like I'm getting hosed, I have no problem shelling out money for her well-being.

They definitely are expensive and anyone who gets one should be prepared to deal with that. One thing that really irks me is when someone says they are looking for a "free" pet, and when told to get one from the Humane Society and the answer is "can't afford it." These are the people who should never ever get pets!

Its good to be aware of the potential costs for sure. The example looks like its in the 'worst case scenario' category. On the other hand, the minimum vet costs are $0 per year.

The average cost is probably most important for planning purposes. The averages are closer to $100-200 annually.

For 2007:
Mean vet bills were: Cats $81/year, dogs $200/year

But keep in mind that this is an average so while you may pay $0 for several years, the chance of having an accident or illness that could cost $1000-$2000 in any given year is there.


"I heard (unsubstantiated) that America spends more on pet food than Africa spends on human food."

Its not true.

USA spends around $28B annually on pet food.

In South Afrcia alone they spend about $2500 per household on food annually and theres 47 million people there. So South Africa alone spends around $25B on food. Thats just one of the 40+ nations in Africa.


My experience is what people spend on their pets says a lot more about them than the pet. Even most human medical care is of marginal value. Try a second opinion and shop around.

I got my dog from a shelter and found out she had allergies based on her bloody diarreah, hives on her paws, pink skin under her neck, and the fact that she would never finish her food.

What did I do? Changed the food to one of the many hypoallergenic foods out there that use some of the less allergy-inducing meats/proteins (fish & potato).

Cost? $40 and a month of being patient with her.

End result? Most amazing dog ever.

But obviously this case is different... allergic to grass? Ouch. Did the shelter not tell you?

Just a note to everyone -- Jim's numbers are annual VET costs, not annual TOTAL costs for a pet.

Regarding the guy with the expensive to keep pooch - one of the take-away lessons here is to do your RESEARCH on any breed ! Some are more allergy-prone than others. Some, like pugs and other brachiocephalic dogs, have well-known health issues, as do other breeds, like labradors with his dysplasia.

When it comes to food allergies, and this goes for dogs or cats, it's best to stay away from the grocery-store brands and get the better brands from a pet store that carries GOOD pet food. Yes, it may cost a bit more up front, but the money you'll SAVE on vet bills treating allergic reactions far outweighs the cost of the food. I have a cat with LUTI, he cannot eat 'normal' brands of food, he HAS to have Rx food - but at $35 for a bag of food that lasts more than a month vs. $400+ for a vet visit if he gets blocked - I'll take the $35/month !

Pets (hopefully) add joy to our lives - but they are not "FREE", not if you care about your pet.

Pets can be expensive - we just found out our 3 year old has a partially torn ACL that the vet recommends surgery for to the tune of about $2,500. We'll probably do it eventually...she doesn't seem to be in pain and only limps occasionally. We're hoping for a Christmas miracle, but are well prepared in case we do have to opt for the surgery.

I have two dogs -- the one that has hair instead of fur so that humans are less allergic to him ... well he's allergic to indoor & outdoor items, including most likely, dust. He costs us around $100 a month average, including vet, food, meds, grooming, toys (minimal!), etc. We keep care to a minimum by avoiding corn (which sets him off -- we find corn-free food and treats) and anything else we can figure out he is sensitive to. Our other dog is a newer-to-us, older rescue dog, and I know he's going to cost us in vet bills as he gets older.

Living in the U.S., we have access to great vet care ... which raises the price of pets over a lifetime.

To Ryan's point about children, we can hope that responsible parents would realize a child could face medical problems that cost more than intended. Most people do cope, with either a child or a pet, if and when the situation arises.

To Kevin, you might get a few estimates on the surgery from various vets -- my sister's dog just had that surgery in Denver (for a full tear) for $1300. Her doc told her without the surgery, the dog would rely on its other legs and perhaps get arthritis in those joints, for a different kind of care/expense! It's all a tossup.

I am currently providing housing and care for my boyfriend's cat which is in the advanced stages of heart disease. Because I work from a home office, I can give him his shots and pills twice a day plus coax him to eat every couple of hours. He's a sweet cat but it's convinced me that pets are far more expensive than many people realize and I probably won't opt to have one myself. He's spent thousands on vet care in the last 3 years and the drug bills are over $175 per month - including buying the most expensive drug from a Canadian pharmacy. The other cat was recently put down after fighting a losing battle against lymphoma in spite of chemo. Is this typical? I would have said no but in talking to all my friends who have pets, I've come to find out that each has incurred thousands in vet bills for their pets various maladies.

My wife and I have set a limit for how much we'd spend on extreme medical expenses.

While the pet is expensive overall, she brings more joy to our life than is lost by having to work for that amount of money.

However, should the dog ever need a huge (>$1k) bill, then we would put her down. Like most people, by the time the big bills start coming, the quality of life even after a surgery/major procedures later in life may not even be all that great, or fix the problem all that long.

Be a good owner, but set your boundaries in reality. I think an inability to accept death/pain/hardship is one of the greatest problems our country faces.

There is health insurance available for pets. Research your best options, and contact your local vet offices and find out which ones they accept.
Owning a pet is great on a human's health as well. They help lower blood pressure and calm anxiety. Also, they don't judge you. They accept you just as you are.
When you go to choose a pet, spend some time with them to see if they want you as well.
I got my dog at an animal shelter. He followed me around and let me know he wanted me. Scooter has been my baby for 4 years now, and he has cost me a chunk of change. His medical bills will never equal mine. I don't have to take antidepressants or anti- anxiety meds because of him.
My favorite quote is how I try to live my life: "I strive to be the person my dog thinks I am."

Think of getting a pet (hopefully adopting!) as the same as having a kid.

A great way to save a lot of money on pet care is to give your pet their shots yourself. I gave my new puppy all of his puppy shots except for rabies for around $15 including shipping. I believe the vet here charges around $70-100 per round. Rabies has to be administered by a licensed vet, but that's only $8.

You can also worm your dogs yourself with injectable ivermectrin from the feed store (given orally), but that is a little risky. Google "ivermectrin dose for dogs" or something along those lines.

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