Man’s Best Friend: The Cost of Dog Ownership'
golden labrador puppy

Between diapers, toys, karate lessons and doctor bills, it’s no surprise that bringing home a new bouncing bundle of joy costs a lot of money. Oh yeah, then there’s those pesky college costs. But what about bringing home man’s best friend? How much does it cost to own a dog? 

Sure, there’s a lifetime of love and companionship that comes with having a dog. But Fido also requires financial stability, too. Here’s a look at the average annual cost of dog ownership and how much you might shell out for a furry family member during a pooches’ lifetime.

Initial investment

The initial investment associated with adding a four-legged family member varies and depends on whether you’re looking for a mutt or a mixed breed, and are shopping at a private breeder or scanning shelters.

Purchase price: $50 to $1,000 and up

Start-up costs

Before your pup puts one paw in the house, your new best friend will need a lot of accessories. The cost of those first-time supplies will be different for every dog, but these numbers take the most popular (and vet recommended) items into account.

Microchip: All size dogs $25 – $75
License: All size dogs $15 – $30
Crate: $40 – $150 depending on size
Food & Water Bowls: $10 – $30 depending on how ornate or plain the bowl is
Collar, leash and tags: $20 – $75 depending on variety, size, etc.
Dog bed: $20 – $75 depending on variety, size, etc.

Most shelters spay or neuter a dog before it heads to its “forever home” which saves pet owners a bundle. Many also microchip your pet, to reduce the odds a dog will be permanently separated from his owner. However, dogs from private breeders or pet stores rarely come with those money savers built in.

Then there’s the trip to your vet to ensure your pet is properly vaccinated and dewormed, and has basic baseline blood tests as recommended by the ASPCA.

The cost for all that medical attention?

Initial medical exam: $100 – $200

Spaying or neutering:

  • Small dog: $250 – $400
  • Medium dog: $350 – $500
  • Large dog: $450 – $550


You know your dog has to eat every day, so food is the most predictable expense related to owning a dog. The exact cost varies based on the age and size of your dog. You also have to take into account the quality of the food because organic and premium brand dog foods have higher nutritional value and cost more due to the higher standards in ingredients.

  • Small dogs: $275 – $450/year and up
  • Medium dogs: $450 – $600/year and up
  • Large dogs: $600 – $1,000/year and up


You want your dog to have a little fun, don’t you? And don’t forget keeping a dog busy with bones, Frisbees and balls means he’s less likely to chew your shoe, sock or sofa.

The cost of playtime is different for each dog. Some breeds are more prone to chewing. Not only can that destructive behavior lead to you spending a bundle on repairs or replacements, a few vet-approved dog toys can reduce the chance you’ll have to rush your pup to the vet because he swallowed something harmful or poisonous.

  • Small dogs: $40/year
  • Medium dogs: $55/year
  • Large dogs: $75/year

Visits to the vet

The ASPCA says preventive veterinary care is the number-one way to keep pet health care manageable. That means Fido visiting the vet once a year for a wellness visit, recommended vaccinations, heartworm test and prevention and flea and tick control.

Costs vary by region and size of your dog (larger breeds need larger doses of medicines). The averages are:

  • Small dogs: $450/year
  • Medium dogs: $505/year
  • Large dogs: $560/year

And should a trip to the vet or emergency room be required due to illness, injury (ingesting chocolate, or other toxins) or trauma like being hit by a car or attacked by an animal, the bill can surge well past $2,000 or $3,000.

Be sure to budget for such emergencies, especially as your dog gets older. Some years you’ll tap this fund, and others you won’t.


Just like their human family members, all dogs need regular baths, brushing, nail trims and dental care. And if they don’t shed, have “show coats” or have hair that requires maintenance, they’re also going to need a haircut every 6 to 8 weeks.

Costs vary greatly, depending on the size and coat of your dog, as well as your location but can run:

  • Small dogs: $265/year and up
  • Medium dogs: $320/year and up
  • Large dogs: $410/year and up

Travel fees

Airlines charge anywhere from $50 to $100 for your dog to fly the friendly skies.

If you opt to leave your pooch at home in a doggie hotel or your vet’s kennel while you travel, you could pay anywhere from $30 a day to $60 or more depending on your location, breed of dog and your pet’s needs (medical, maintenance, etc.)

An average week away from home each year at $50 a day for boarding could be a $300 annual expense.

Grand totals

As you can see, these costs can add up over a lifetime. For a general idea of total overall costs, here’s a look at the totals:

Small dog:

  • First year: $2,360 – $4,290 (without travel costs)
  • Annual: $1,030 – $1,205 (plus unforeseen emergency vet and travel costs)
  • Lifetime: $13,690 – $17,545 (plus unforeseen emergency vet and travel costs based on the average lifespan of 12 years.)

Medium dog:

  • First year: $2,660 – $4,465 (without travel costs)
  • Annual: $1,330 – $1,380 (plus unforeseen emergency vet and travel costs)
  • Lifetime: $17,290 – $19,645 (plus unforeseen emergency vet and travel costs based on the average lifespan of 12 years.)

Large dog:

  • First year: $2,975 – $6,110 (without travel costs)
  • Annual: $1,645 – $3,025 (plus unforeseen emergency vet and travel costs)
  • Lifetime: $17,780 – $33.335 (plus unforeseen emergency vet and travel costs based on the average lifespan of 10 years.)

Of course, it’s tough to put a price tag on love. Which is why many dog lovers happily shell out money for not one, but two, three or more bundles of fluff.

And whether you’ve got your eye on a doggie in a window or you’re already a pet owner, it’s wise to budget for your pet’s needs and even stash away a few extra bucks for a pet emergency fund. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but in the event your pet requires emergency medical attention, a new crate or to spend an unexpected week at a doggy hotel, you won’t have to worry how you’ll foot the bill.

Image: Alfie by Bruce Tonge

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Published February 28, 2014
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