Sunday, June 04, 2006

Costs of Pet Ownership

I spent a little bit of time searching for sites that offered an estimate of pet costs. Here are some of the ones I found:


ASPCA (requires Flash Player)

Our vet is probably more expensive than many but a comparison with other local veterinarians showed they are competitive. We had two early visits, one for a respiratory infection, and one for shots and the normal screening. They found a parasite that the animal shelter had missed. These visits totalled about $350. His neutering was more complicated because one of his testicals hadn't descended and this was about $600. Right after that, we had him in for the failed kidney. Those visits were in an emergency vet clinic and the University of Minnesota pet hospital (both very expensive) and they totalled about $3400. A follow up visit to get a longer E. collar and to check the staples which were rubbed raw was another $120. Removing the stitches was free at least. Add our last visit for a badly torn dew claw and another $200. The total is about $4670. (I should have one of the tickers that tracks the continually rising expense here!) Even without the surgery which was for a weird birth defect, we've exceeded the estimated costs of ownership many of the sites listed. We're not even including the two leashes we've had to replace because he's a speed demon chewer or the lost coffee table. Then we've got an older cat who's had a cancerous tumor removed and a kidney stone in the past twelve months, which includes special food $60 for a big bag of dry and $2 a can for wet. We only give a couple of tablespoons a day of the canned but all three cats are eating the same diet now. You get the picture. This was probably the most expensive year for the cat but the problems were typical of an older pet. The totals on these sites seem a little unrealistic. I'd love to hear about other people's experiences.


At June 05, 2006 10:22 AM, Anonymous Jackie M. said...

So those estimates are first year estimates?

First years are typically expensive... but the other big cost is end-of-life. Really, you can go as high or as low as you like with end-of-life pet issues... insurance typically only covers basic medical problems, not fancy heart-valve surgery. My parents spent a pretty pile of cash on their west highland white terrier the last few years of her life because she had diabetes; my in-laws had to deal with epilepsy in their 8-year-old german shorthair pointer. Ultimately they had their hearts broken as the medication became steadily less effective and the dog began have paralyzing seizures. Eventually, sadly, it seems you just have to say, "it's a dog, not a human. The most we could expect was 10-15 years anyway." And you just have to move on.

But for first year expenditures: German Shorthair Pointers are notorious as puppies. "Toddlers with chainsaws" was what our vet said... crate-training probably saved us a ton of money in the long run, because GSPs are also prone to separation anxiety and WILL remodel your house out from under you. As it was, he occupied himself with landscaping projects, pulling down rose bushes and lantanas and small palm trees, and mulching the backyard with the shredded remains. He also pulled out my back so badly I couldn't walk for a week. So, excluding all of Bartleby's medical expenses, the hyperactivity/destruction/dis-obedience cost us: $250 in obedience classes; $100 dollars in choke-collars, prong-collars, halties, gentle leaders, leashes; $400 dollars in vinyl-coated wire fence for the plants (we were renting, we couldn't let him keep doing that); $100 in MY medical expenses; $200 to replace a seat belt he chewed through driving home from the "pet resort" one day. And Bartleby is a very, very mellow example of the breed.

At June 05, 2006 3:33 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Jackie -

I love the "toddlers with chainsaws" description. Although he's a mutt, I think, it's definitely what we we're experiencing - both indoors and outdoors. Kennel training him has helped a lot and as many visits to the dog park as we can fit in a week. I was hoping that once we get our fence finished some of the plant destruction would end but maybe not. Too bad I can't get him to focus on the creeping charlie.

I agree about the end of life expenses. I've seen friends go way overboard in trying prolong a pet's life. On the other hand, I've been told I did the same thing with the $3,600 emergency/surgery costs for the puppy, so I'm probably not the best judge.

At June 06, 2006 12:17 PM, Anonymous Jackie M. said...

That's the real advantage of a purebred: you have some idea in advance what sort of temperament you're signing up for. Unfortunately, many (most?) first-time purebreed buyers are so obsessed with how the dog looks, they completely ignore all of the warnings in the fine print.

I think that "going overboard" is a different story when you're dealing with a puppy or a young-to-middle-age adult. It's expensive, but very often you can correct problems like birth defects or hip dysplasia early and give the dog the gift of a long, happy, mostly-functional life. But when we're talking about a $10,000-$20,000 experimental heart-valve replacement surgery? (Seriously, I saw them do that for a Weimeraner with a birth defect on some Animal Planet TV show.) Well, most people simply can't afford it.

At June 21, 2006 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first reaction, looking at those lists, was, "Who the hell spends $300 on grooming?"

Then I remembered that other people don't have short-haired (or easy not-short-haired) dogs.

Knock wood, neither of my family's dogs have been break-the-bank propositions (and neither had chewing or housebreaking issues, so we dodged those home-repair bullets).

My parents' Lab (11 or 12) has been on joint supplements for a few years. They aren't cheap, but the bill hurts less than listening to her cry when she tries to stand up (with the supplements, she's one happy, active [for an 11 or 12 year old Lab] dog). And the yellowdog (knock, knock, knock) gets his shots and he's good to go. He's also not a chewer (despite my best efforts), so my toy costs are seriously low. Buying his Frontline and Heartguard every spring, though, makes me a little dizzy.

The horse is expensive. That's the nature of horses, alas.

- Hannah

At June 21, 2006 2:25 PM, Blogger Celia said...

When our cat fell off the 12th floor balcony, we poured 3K into him. Honestly, had we not known there was a very good chance we would be able to sue for the medical expenses (he fell because the apartment management let someone come into the apartment while we were out to fix the balcony door--we sued them both, and they split the costs), I wouldn't have been able to do so. I'm not saying we would have just had him put down, but I suspect he would have come home from the hospital a lot sooner (he was mostly okay--broke his wrist, basically, and got shook up, but nothing serious, actually), and I think we would have gone with a less expensive method of fixing the foot, even if it hadn't been as good a fix.

My mom's dogs were on painkillers and joint compounds for a while, though we did find cheaper alternatives to what the vets first suggested. My dad and stepmom's dogs--one's on insulin, so they're both all on fancy food, one had numerous surgeries for bone cancer, another got knee surgery. He's given me numbers from time to time, and they're terrifying.

I was just talking about this with a friend who has spent a lot of money on her rats--it scares me to think of spending that much money on something with a 2-year life span, but it's what she thinks is important. I think it's really easy to look at someone else and say, "I could never do that, that's too much money" and totally different when it's *your* pet.

At June 27, 2006 9:40 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

Wow, twelve floors. Cats are amazing. I was talking to someone last night that had her older dog on expensive special food and medications. Her nickname for him was "mortgage payment." That's a lot of money for a recurring expense. The meds worked, though, and she thought it was well worth it. I'm sure rats have every bit as much personality as dogs and cats do. I have to admit it is easier to justify to myself the amount we spent on Gambit because he has a long life ahead of him.


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