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The Cost of Love on Four Feet

Price of Pet PicValentine’s Day is upon us, and while many will focus on our romantic endeavors this time of year, there’s another kind of love to ruminate on – the unconditional love of a pet.  As a pet owner who just last month had to say goodbye to my beloved old dog, I can attest to the joy an animal can bring, but also to the cost of opening your home to one.  Over his fourteen years of life, Gabe went to the vet a few dozen times, was kenneled twice, cared for by in-house sitters on numerous occasions, and of course ate his way through countless bags of dog food and treats.  I never regretted my decision to take in that silly little puppy someone found on the side of the road, but I did have to adjust my budget to make room for him. 

Being aware of the costs of pet ownership not only makes financial sense, but it allows you to be a conscientious pet owner.  Shelters are full of animals that were surrendered after their owners found they couldn’t afford to keep their pets.  It’s better to decide that now is not the right time, than to look before you leap and end up creating another sad shelter story.

If you are considering adding an animal friend to your family this Valentine’s Day, be sure to do some research on the costs you can expect to incur.  The ASPCA has a guide to help you estimate what pet ownership will cost you, though the true price will vary across different parts of the country.  When I made the decision to adopt a kitten this summer, I first asked my vet what the initial round of exams, vaccinations and spaying would cost at their office, to be sure of the upfront cost. 

One significant variable in cost will come from where you decide to get your pet.  Both of mine were private rescues, so there was no adoption fee or breeder price to pay.  If this is the route you choose to take, the ASPCA is a good resource for this, too – you can use their Shelter Finder  to locate shelters in your area, where the price of adoption is typically far less than the cost from a breeder or pet store.

It’s not just the upfront expenses we need to think of, though.  For my own dog, his last few weeks were particularly expensive, as we tried to extend his life through medication and other treatment.  To compensate for potential unforeseen veterinary bills, there is the option of pet insurance.  Susquehanna, among other businesses, offers pet insurance to its employees at a discount, with a flexible plan offering different levels of coverage and deductibles to suit your needs.  If I had chosen to insure Gabe, it would have cost me on average $50 a month to cover him against most vet bills, both planned and unexpected.   This insurance is available for private purchase, but it’s worth asking if your employer has partnered with a company to offer a discount on premiums.

So whether you are happily sharing your home with some furry friends, or thinking of starting up a new relationship with a pet, some simple planning may help you avoid surprise expenses in the short-term, and avoid catastrophic costs in the future.   Being informed and prepared means you will truly be able to make a lifelong commitment to your beloved pets.

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8 Responses to The Cost of Love on Four Feet

  1. Brenda Keefer says:

    Wonderful blog! I’m so sorry for your loss, I truly know how much it hurts to say good bye to a beloved four-legged member of your family. My first Pomeranian, Toto, developed diabetes and late in life had surgery to repair a torn ACL on her back leg. During the surgery they called and said she was doing well and would like to go ahead an repair both luxating patellas on her hind legs too. I was fortunate that I could help her through these surgeries and she lived another happy 4 years after her recovery. Since then I’ve had two additional Pomeranians, Tia — who has passed, and now Bella — who is 4 years old. I can truly not remember a time in my life that I was not without a dog and a cat — and, you are 100% correct — they give you unconditional love!

  2. Sandy Heagy says:

    Awesome blog! I am sorry to hear about your beloved pet passing. I also experienced the heartbreaking loss of losing a pet. I had 2 Boxer litter mates. Snowy and Brinkley. Snowy passed at age 4 due to Cancer and Brinkley passed at age 6 due to Cardiomyopathy. Both Snowy and Brinkley were seen out of state for special needed Xrays and a Cardiologist. The costs can be astronomical. I highly recommend Pet Insurance. I now have another Boxer named Oscar. Oscar is 4 years old and we purchased pet insurance immediately. I can’t ever remember being without a pet growing up. I believe they are special angels sent from “Heaven”.

  3. marlene says:

    Three months ago we adopted “Juliette” from the Manhattan ASPCA after reading a CNN article about Hurricane Sandy and the shelter animals….after a month of vet visits, follow-ups and meds I certainly agree with “financial due-diligence” and the pet adoption process. She is a great “girlfriend” to me and a loyal companion to Spencer, her older canine brother. We are grateful for her addition to our family everyday and consider her “priceless”!

  4. bonnie daisy says:

    We have multiple cats and one dog that my husband and I share our home with. Over the years we’ve had ‘fur kids’ cross over the rainbow bridge. They for ever live in your heart. To handle the expenses of a house full of pets we have a portion of our pay checks automatically depoisted in a statement savings account. This is our way of budgeting for the annual vet expenses for shots, flea prevenative and heart worm prevenative as well as extra for those unexpected emergencies. When we get an income tax refund a portion of it also goes into this account. It’s our version of pet insurance. Online pet pharmacies have some good deals if you buy six months to a years worth of flea treatment products at a time. We include pet expenses as part of our budget along with taking into account fees for boarding or having a house sitter. Pet ownship is a responsibility not to be entered into lightly. For those who are prepared Cats, dogs, rabbits, birds and even fish give back so much more than they cost us.

    1. Claudia says:

      Bonnie, those are some great suggestions for planning ahead as well as saving on the ongoing expenses for pets. Thanks!

  5. Ben says:

    Heidi, our 13.5 yo black lab left us in June. She was with us since she was 8 weeks old.
    Hunter the 10? yo rescue chocolate lab is doing well.
    Both had acl surgery on both wheels @ $2000.00 each = $8000.00+
    But Hunter runs with me on Sundays and then goes swimming in the creek (even when it’s cold).
    I hope the running gets him a lot more years! Let’s not even talk about food for two big dogs!

  6. Ingrid Abell says:

    Claudia, my sincere sympathies go to you for the loss of your pet. I completely understand the feeling having lost my companion in October 2011 after almost twelve years of living with her since she was a pup. She is still missed to this day. I couldn’t bear it, so I did get a puppy in early 2012. (He’s AWESOME! :-)) At the time leading up to getting him & a little after, I had thought of getting pet insurance for him, but was talked out of it & I put it on the back burner. In April, he fell ill to a food recall (salmonella poisoning) & $1800 later I knew I had to get insurance! I looked into Susquehanna’s 15% discount; it is good. But for all of you out there if you read this & are contemplating getting insurance for your pet, I do this for a living, so did an analysis of all the major pet insurance programs. This helped a lot in deciding which company to go with. If anyone is interested in having the analysis, you may look me up on the directory. I am the only Ingrid.

    1. Claudia says:

      Thanks, Ingrid. I am fostering a dog now and keep calling him Gabe, by mistake.
      Thanks also for sharing your experience and research into pet insurance. If I take on another dog permanently I will be in touch!

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