How Much Does It Cost To Own A Dog?

By Dr. Kaitlin Wurtz December 29, 2020

Many would argue that the love and companionship of a dog is priceless. Dogs often become members of our family and we are willing to go to great lengths to provide them with the care they need. Studies show that people are making home purchasing decisions to accommodate their dogs (Donovan, 2017) and are spending more on pet supplies and vet care than ever before (APPA, 2016). While it may be impossible to put a dollar amount on a dog’s love, there are real financial costs associated with taking care of a dog properly. One study conducted in the United Kingdom showed that pet owners (98 percent of those surveyed) underestimated the cost of owning a pet through its lifetime (PDSA, 2017). The American Kennel Club (Reisen, 2017) estimates that the average cost to care for a dog over its lifetime is around $15,000, or around $1,000 per year, while other sources estimate this value to be much higher (Forbes, 2011). The overall cost of course varies depending on the dog’s breed, health status, and where you live. This article aims to help individuals estimate the true cost of a dog, including those expenses that may not be obvious.

One-Time Expenses Of Owning A Dog

When bringing a dog home for the first time, you should be prepared to spend a bit upfront on purchases such as pet supplies, vet care, and the dog themselves. Moreover, there are typically two routes you can take to obtain a dog. The first option is to adopt a dog from a shelter or a rescue. Shelters typically charge an adoption fee which helps cover the costs of getting the dog ready for adoption (vet exam, critical vaccines, etc.). Some shelters run specials with reduced or waived adoption fees for special events or to help clear out space in the shelter for new dogs. The other option is to purchase a dog from a breeder. Breeders typically charge more money than shelters. But they often come with guarantees about the genetic health of the dog. In the grand scheme of things, the adoption/purchase cost of a new dog is unsubstantial compared to care and maintenance costs.

Soon after adopting your fury friend, they will need to visit the vet to make sure they are heartworm negative, up to date on vaccines, free of worms or other parasites, and to get spayed or neutered if they are a puppy. Many owners also opt to have their new pet micro-chipped for peace of mind in case they ever run away (Lord et al., 2007). You will also need to purchase some initial supplies to create a safe and comfortable environment for your dog. These can include dog beds, food and water bowls, a leash and collar or harness, a crate, toys, grooming supplies, and coats depending on the dog’s hair type and the climate where you live. Additionally, it is highly recommended to enroll in a puppy socialization class or a beginner’s obedience course to help set your dog up for success (Howell et al., 2015).

Recurring Expenses Of Owning A Dog

One of the most obvious recurring expenses of owning a dog is paying to feed them. This cost can vary a lot depending on the quality of food purchased and the size of the dog. Dry food is the most affordable, but premium wet food options are available.

Another well-known recurring cost associated with dog ownership are vet exams. At the very minimum your dog should see a vet once a year for their annual check-up. This annual vet visit is necessary to purchase preventive medications for your dog such as heart worm medication, prescription flea and tick preventatives, and some supplements. According to the AVMA (2020), the average veterinary expenditure per dog per year is $253. Often, puppies and elderly dogs require more frequent visits to the vet to manage their health. Additional vet costs include vaccine boosters and dental cleanings (Holmstrom et al., 2013).

Over time, you may need to replace some of the supplies you initially purchased for you dog. Dog beds wear out over time and toys end up getting destroyed. Treats and bones will also need to be replenished every so often. Depending on your local ordinances, you may also need to purchase a dog license. These will need to be renewed each year. 

Additional Expenses Of Owning A Dog

Depending on your lifestyle, there may be some additional expenses associated with caring for a dog. For instance, if you work long hours, you may need to hire a dog walker. Puppies and elderly dogs require frequent bathroom breaks and high energy dogs will likely need a lunch time walk to relive any pent-up energy or boredom. Some people may consider sending their dogs to a doggie day care so they are not sitting home alone all day.

For people that travel, you will need to make arrangements for the care of your dog in your absence. Boarding facilities are one option, or you may hire a pet sitter to stay at your home. Pet sitters often cost more than boarding facilities, but they allow your dog to stay in a comfortable environment with their usual routine (Storer, 2012).

If you rent a home or an apartment, there may be additional pet fees or cleaning fees to consider. Some apartments charge monthly pet rent or may require a hefty deposit for any potential damages your dog may cause. On the subject of cleaning, another additional expense of dog ownership are cleaning supplies such as hair removal tools, a vacuum that works on pet hair, and stain removers for carpeting or upholstery.

Unexpected Expenses Of Owning A Dog

Unfortunately, over the course of your dog’s lifetime you may encounter some unexpected expenses. Dogs are living beings, and sometimes they get ill or suffer an injury that requires emergency veterinary care. Emergency vet visits cost more, and treatment costs can add up quickly. If surgery is required, it is not unusual for bills to extend into the thousands of dollars range. It is important to have either a savings account with emergency medical funds set aside for your dog, or to pay for pet insurance to help protect you and your furry friend during adverse events. Another unexpected expense that is good to be prepared for is training. As dogs mature, you may notice some problem behaviors arising such as aggression, destructiveness, or accidents in the home. These issues may require the help of a professional behaviorist or trainer to solve. These services can be expensive as they are tailored to your specific dog, environment, and lifestyle.

Total Cost Of Owning A Dog Calculator

Before committing to a dog, it is a great idea to estimate how much it will cost you. Ensuring you can afford a dog can help prevent financial stress down the road and ensure that your dog receives the care they deserve. The following table provides typical ranges or averages of costs associated with owning a dog. Remember that costs can vary widely depending upon where you live, the breed of your dog (especially their size and grooming needs), and the age or health status of your dog.

One-time Expenses

Typical Range or Average Per Year


Your Estimate

Adoption fee

$0 - $1000+





Yancey, 2015; Perrin, 2009




Perrin, 2009




Wellness, 2018


Heart worm test

$45 - $55

Wellness, 2018


Vet visit fee

$45 - $55

Wellness, 2018


Fecal test

25 - $45

Wellness, 2018


Food and water bowls

$10 - $40



Leash and collar/harness

$15 - $40




$10 - $230




$15 - $150





APPA, 2020



$10 - $50



Puppy or obedience course

$150 - $300+






Estimated Total:





Recurring Expenses

Typical Range or Average Per Year


Your Estimate


$120 - $900

Reisen, 2017




APPA, 2020


Replacing toys or other supplies

$35 - $250

Reisen, 2017


Dog license

$10 (spayed or neutered) - $100 (breeding animal)



Annual vet visits (could include dental cleaning, vaccine boosters, and preventative care)


APPA, 2020


Supplements or vitamins


APPA, 2020


Dog walker

$0 - $4,000 (daily walks)


Pet sitter or boarding


APPA, 2020



$150 - $350+



Grooming supplies or grooming service

$25 - $1400

Reisen, 2017




Perrin, 2009





Estimated Total:

Cost Saving Tips

With proper planning and preventative care, you can help keep expenses down when caring for your dog. For instance, buying some products in bulk such as food or treats can help save you money. Some delivery services offer a discount if you subscribe to recurring deliveries. This makes a lot of sense for purchasing dog food, treats, or poop bags that you must repurchase often. Visiting your vet at the first sign of a potential health problem can help save on costs in the long run by detecting illness or disease early on. Preventative treatments such as heart worm medication and flea and tick products can save money by avoiding costly treatments from an infection. Consider purchasing higher quality products for your pet that are more likely to hold up to wear and tear to avoid having to replace them as often. Finally, if possible, consider forming good relationships with your neighbors that also own dogs to take turns pet sitting or dog walking. Sharing these tasks can dramatically reduce expenses.


Most would agree that the monetary cost of having a dog is definitely worth it. By being prepared for the initial cost and having a good understanding of the recurring costs, you can ensure that you have the means to provide your dog with a high quality of life. Additionally, you can save yourself some stress in emergency situations by having insurance or having savings set aside. Hopefully, this article helped you get a better understanding of the cost of dog ownership and made you more aware of the unexpected expenses that may come up along the way.

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Works Cited

American Pet Products Association. (2016). 2015–2016 APPA national pet owners survey. Greenwich, CT: American Pet Products Association.

American Pet Products Association. (2020). 2019–2020 APPA national pet owners survey. Greenwich, CT: American Pet Products Association.

American Veterinary Medical Association. (2020). 2017-2018 US pet ownership & demographics sourcebook.

Book Dog Boarding, Dog Walking and More. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2020.

Donovan, L. (2017). Dogs, Not Marriage or Kids, Motivate Millennials to Buy Homes. Retrieved December 27, 2020

Holmstrom, S. E., Bellows, J., Juriga, S., Knutson, K., Niemiec, B. A., & Perrone, J. (2013). 2013 AAHA dental care guidelines for dogs and cats. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association49(2), 75-82.

How Much Will a Vet Visit Cost? (2018, September 20). Retrieved December 29, 2020.

Howell, T. J., King, T., & Bennett, P. C. (2015). Puppy parties and beyond: the role of early age socialization practices on adult dog behavior. Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports6, 143.

Lord, L. K., Wittum, T. E., Ferketich, A. K., Funk, J. A., & Rajala-Schultz, P. J. (2007). Search and identification methods that owners use to find a lost dog. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association230(2), 211-216.

PDSA. (2017). PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report.

Perrin, T. (2009). The business of urban animals survey: the facts and statistics on companion animals in Canada. The Canadian Veterinary Journal50(1), 48.

Reisen, J. (2017, October 18). How Much Will You Spend on Your Dog in His Lifetime? Retrieved December 27, 2020.

Storer, P. (2012). Boarding Your Dog: How to Make Your Dog's Stay Happy, Comfortable, and Safe: Storey's Country Wisdom Bulletin A-268. Storey Publishing.

The True Costs Of Owning A Pet. (2011). Retrieved December 29, 2020.

Yancey, S. (2015). Report 0105. Can Microchip Insertion by Shelters Solve Dog Overpopulation in Shelters?.