Make dog ownership more affordable

Our canine companions give us joy, unconditional love and plenty of laughs, but providing the best care for them can be costly over the years.

So, how much does it really cost to own a dog? And what can you do to make these costs more affordable?

According to the Australian Veterinary Association, over a typical lifespan of a dog, pet owners spend more than $25,000 per animal, on average.

Read more: Your money or your pet? What Aussies would pay to save a pet

The cost of owning a dog
Dogs can live for up to 20 years. So, on top of the initial costs in the first year, you may also be looking at an additional $900 per year minimum for the duration of their life. The final figure may be more or less, depending on the dog’s age, breed, size and any accidents or illnesses.

Possible costs for the first year:

  • bed and/or kennel: $100-$200
  • collar, leash or harness: $40-$100
  • council registration: $27-$224 (desexed or intact)
  • desexing: $200-$500 depending on age, gender and size
  • flea and worming treatments, and heartworm prevention: $120-$300
  • food and bowls: $800 each year depending on quality
  • grooming: $70-$90 depending on breed, frequency and size
  • microchipping: $60-$80
  • name tag: $6-$20
  • puppy vaccinations: $170-$250
  • puppy training: $170 depending on provider
  • toys and treats: $50 upwards.

Remember that you don’t need to buy everything for your pet all at once. You might be able to start out with just bowls, food, a leash and collar and a few toys, and then learn more about your pet to determine what else he or she needs. You also don’t need to spring for the top of the line models.

Ongoing costs

  • annual vaccinations and veterinary check: $90
  • flea and worming treatments: $120
  • food: approximately $600 upwards
  • grooming: $70-$90 depending on breed and frequency
  • toys and treats: $30 upwards

Total for consecutive years: $910 minimum

Here’s how to keep dog ownership costs down.

Shop online for medication – if it’s not urgent
You can typically find medication online for a fraction of the price it costs from a veterinary practice, but it can take some time.

You need the vet to write a prescription that you can send to the pharmacy and wait for the medication to arrive in the post.

This is fine if you’re looking for general meds such as flea prevention and deworming, but if your pup is prescribed antibiotics, you typically want to get them started as soon as possible.

Why is there such a big difference in price?

I’ve heard from several vets that the typical mark-up for prescription veterinary medication is around 100 per cent.

So, if a medication costs $50 from the vet, they may have only paid around $25 for it. On top of that, the customer is typically charged a dispensing fee and consultation fee. It can all add up.

Online pharmacies buy medications in bulk and charge a lower mark-up as they have fewer overheads than a physical veterinary office.

Before you buy pet medicine online, make sure all drugs are dispensed by a registered pharmacist. You can look up their details on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s website.

Think about food
Food is typically the largest cost for the majority of dog owners, with the average cost per year sitting at $800.

Without good nutrition, your cat or dog can suffer from problems with their coat and skin, it can affect their teeth and of course their longevity.

Whether you choose wet or dry food, the most important thing is to look for products that are advertised as ‘complete and balanced’. This means that the pet food is formulated to contain all the nutrients required by a dog or cat, in the appropriate quantities and proportions to maintain good health.

While many pet owners choose expensive brands, veterinary nutrition expert Professor David Fraser says there’s not much nutritional difference between cheap and “premium” brands, providing they’re both complete and balanced.

“If the animal is perfectly healthy, then I don’t see any special reason for buying a more expensive food than a much cheaper one, from a nutritional point of view,” Prof. Fraser says.

Overall, the best thing you can do for your pet is to feed them a combination of tinned, dry and fresh meats to provide variety and to ensure optimal nutrition.

Choose a high-quality commercial diet that’s appropriate for their age and health, and complies with Australian standards as a baseline, then you can add other elements to the diet as your pet likes, including raw, meaty bones occasionally.

Read more: Lack of regulation for pet food in Australia

Think carefully about the breed
Different breeds of dogs will have different needs and therefore different costs associated with them.

For example, if you’re set on getting a long-haired breed, you’ll have to factor in the cost of grooming every six to eight weeks, unless you learn to do it yourself.

Pure-breed dogs tend to be more expensive than designer dog breeds and mixed breeds when it comes to food, healthcare, accessories, insurance and everything else.

You can save a lot of money by adopting a dog. Not only are you potentially saving the life of an animal, but they are often already desexed, wormed and vaccinated, meaning you will save yourself time and money not having to sort it out yourself.

Think carefully about the size
Dogs that weigh more than 25kg cost about 1.5 times as much to feed as dogs under 10kg.

Keep your pup happy
Be sure that your pet has a social life and gets plenty of exercise. Leaving pets tied up or alone for long periods can lead to psychological problems and boredom, which can cause behavioural problems, damage to your home or property, and ultimately physical problems that need treatment.

Read more: Dog behaviours and what they mean

Keep up with vet check-ups
Paying to get your pet vaccinated against nasty illnesses means a hit on your wallet every year, but not doing so could prove a false economy. If your animal falls ill with something it could have been vaccinated against and you don’t have insurance, you could end up paying far more than the price of the jabs. And even if you do have insurance, some policies will refuse to pay out if an illness could have been prevented with vaccination.

Do you or have you ever had a dog? What did you find was the most expensive part? Why not share any money-saving tips you’ve found since becoming a pet owner in the comments section below?

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Written by Ellie Baxter