We are a nation of pet lovers. According to estimates, around 46% of UK households have a pet and the pet population stands at 58 million. Of all of the pets in the country, by far the most popular is the dog. More than half of UK pet owning households have a little faithful friend at home, from Dachshunds and Beagles, to Alsatians and Rottweilers. However, if you’re one of those with a pet, or planning to get one, can you really afford it? According to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, 98% of pet owners underestimate the cost of animal company.
What does it actually cost?
Estimates vary – and of course it depends how long your canine lives. Dogs have a top lifespan of 15 years and many can live between 11 – 13 years. According to Sainsbury’s pet insurance, a dog will cost you around £16,900 over its lifetime. However, other estimates put this as high as £33,000. It’s worth noting that dogs tend to be considered cheaper than cats. The same Sainsbury’s figures that estimated the lifetime cost of a dog at £16,900 put the cost for a cat at £17,200.
The puppy phase
The first cost to consider is the price you pay for the dog. A pedigree puppy from a rare breed can cost between £800 and £1,000. Mixed breeds tend to be cheaper other than the ‘trending’ ones, such as the cockapoo. Make sure you buy from a reputable breeder – check them with the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme. Buying from puppy farms could mean you get a dog with physical issues and encourages this cruel and unhappy practice – the parents are never treated well. Some of the best family dogs are rescues or dogs who need to be re-homed. You can buy a dog from the Dog’s Trust, for example, for about £120 and you’ll have a friend for life. This fee also includes micropchipping, vaccines and four weeks insurance. If you want to avoid the night crying, indoor pooping and expense of a puppy you can re-home an older dog. As the saying goes, “adopt don’t shop.”
The initial expenses
A good breeder won’t let you exit with your puppy until they are at least eight weeks old. At that stage you’ll need a lot of home kit, such as indoor puppy pads, toys, food, bedding and a crate. The crate is a cage kept indoors that many people use for training puppies to sleep alone at night. It’s easy to make it comfortable with lots of cosy fabrics and is an effective way to make a pup feel safe without its mum. Make sure you get your new dog microchipped – this is a legal requirement now and not doing it comes with a £500 fine. Initial vaccines can be up to £50 –£70 a time but there are some vets that offer these free as part of a monthly payment plan.
The ongoing expenses
Insurance is an essential expense for dog owners, as vet bills can run into four or five figures. Pet insurance can cost as little as £11 a month if you buy a minimal plan. You can also opt for something like ‘whole life’ insurance, which is more expensive (around £40 – £80 a month). However, premiums won’t increase as the dog gets older and more likely to need it. Food is another big bill, especially if you have a large dog with a big appetite. Big bags of kibble tend to be the cheapest option. However, check that you’re not buying food that is filled with sugar, additives and not much goodness. Raw meat diets are the most expensive and there’s not a lot of proof that they are the best choice for dogs, unless they have serious allergies. Your pooch will also need to be flea and worm free. Monthly treatments are priced on the weight of the dog – expect to pay at least £10 a month.
You don’t even have to pamper your pet that much to run up lots of extra costs. If you work and need to have your dog walked in the week then that can cost you around £10 per day. Kennels and overnight stays are upwards of £30 a night. Longer haired breeds need a lot of grooming. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do this yourself then groomers charge anything between £20 and £100 per session.
So, it’s certainly expensive to have a dog – although, of course, you’ll get every penny back in terms of canine loyalty and love. For many of us, the sacrifice is worth it for a little four-legged friend to travel with through life.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley