My Dog Ate My Savings

Sep 19, 2019 | Darrelle So


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How to plan financially for a new four-legged friend.

Have you always wanted to add a pet to your household? Perhaps you have been wondering if it’s finally the right time to take the leap. While pets can enrich our lives immeasurably, their care can be costly. According to a recent study by the Canadian Animal Health Institute, pet well-being is now more important to pet owners than the affordability of their care. While it’s great that people see their pets’ well-being as a top priority, it is crucial to budget ahead for both predictable and unforeseen costs, before you open your door to a new furry (or scaly) friend.

  1. Do your research

Different animals have vastly different needs, and a huge range of associated costs. Make sure that you do extensive research regarding what equipment, grooming, and level of care your pet will require. The purchase price is just the beginning, and the first year of pet ownership can be costly, as you will need initial vet visits, vaccines, and all the day-to-day equipment.  Be sure to also consider the life span of your pet. Some reptiles and birds have life spans rivalling those of humans, so they may require consideration when drafting your will!

  1. Plan for the unexpected

If you merely budget for the anticipated monthly cost of food, toys, and regular vet visits, then an unexpected medical emergency could put a big dent in your savings. “Dogs seem to be particularly accident-prone, since they’re out and about more, and unfortunately more likely to have injuries,” according to Dr. Alan Poon at the Allandale Veterinary Hospital in Barrie, ON. Dr. Poon lists some common causes for emergency treatments, such as “bites from other dogs, intestinal blockages (from eating objects like socks or garbage), and ACL tears, which can cost up to $4000 to treat.”

A great way to manage the risk of unexpected vet bills is by purchasing pet insurance. According to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, “half of all pets will have a major illness in their lifetime.” Unfortunately, a canine cancer diagnosis and treatment plan can cost up to $10,000, including tests, radiation, surgery, and medications. Hence, pet insurance can be a responsible way to prepare for such an occurrence. There are many types of pet insurance packages available, with some covering accident and illness, and others that consolidate the costs of regular care and break it down into monthly billing.

  1. Know where you can cut costs (and where you shouldn’t)

While it is important to be financially prepared for your pet’s needs, there are ways to make pet ownership more affordable. Consider adopting from a shelter rather than buying from a breeder. Not only is the adoption fee much lower, but shelter pets often come already micro-chipped, vaccinated and spayed or neutered.

There are also additional costs of owning a puppy or kitten, versus a more mature pet. The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association estimates the first year of puppy ownership to be $3934, which includes obedience classes, spaying or neutering, medical bills, food, and toys. The first-year cost of owning a kitten is not far behind, at $3242.

One area not to skimp on is the regular checkups recommended by your vet (including teeth cleanings for dogs and cats). This can help prevent health issues that will be much more expensive to treat, if left unchecked.

“How much is that doggy in the window?” is just the first of many questions you should ask, before opening your home to a four-legged friend. Responsible planning will help keep your new pet healthy, and your finances in check.