Expenses Every Soon-To-Be Pet Owner Should Know

Pets, at first glance, might seem like a simple addition to any household.  Aside from the obvious need for exercise (in the case of dogs), food, and somewhere to sleep, it's easy to think that the expenses related to pets aren't significant enough to warrant your attention. 


I see this reflected in personal budgets all too often. 


I work with individuals who have me to review their personal budgets, frequently looking for ways to better align income with expenses.  In many cases, household budgets fail to account for pets.  Since expenses like pet bills are often unplanned (like emergency veterinary visits), it's challenging to determine how and what to budget.


To maintain a calm financial outlook, pets should be addressed in every personal budget.


Pets expenses should be planned IN ADVANCE of crises, as unexpected pet care bills, similar to car breakdowns, derail personal finances time and time again.


If you're looking to acquire a new pet, or, if you already have one, here are some pet expenses to consider.



An Adoption Fee


Of course, depending on the pet you're looking to adopt or purchase, the costs can vary widely.  Where a 'show worthy' cat or dog, for example, can cost upwards of a few thousand dollars, others are offered for free.


It's logical to assume that a higher price tag reflects the quality of the pet.  For example, pets from pet shops cost two to three times those offered by a reputable breeder, but pet shops don't necessarily provide the best pet.


When considering an adoption fee, be sure to ask about any inclusions.

For example, a dog adoption fee paid to the British Columbia SPCA includes:


    • An in-shelter physical performed by staff

    • Temperament assessment

    • Behaviour profile

    • First round of standard shelter “core” vaccinations (does not include rabies)**

    • Flea and other external parasite treatments as required

    • Routine deworming and other internal parasite treatments as required

    • Spay or neuter surgery (a voucher may be provided for pediatric surgeries at select locations)

    • Microchip identification implant and lifetime registration with the BC Pet Registry*

    • Certificate for a free veterinarian examination (at participating veterinary clinics & select locations)

    • Sample bag of food and coupon provided by Hill’s Pet Nutrition as fed in shelter

    • Six week free trial of pet insurance provided by Petsecure Pet Health Insurance

    • Medical treatment if required while in our care

    • Daily in-shelter care and monitoring


*All BC SPCA dog adoptions include a microchip and lifetime registration with the BC Pet Registry. Registration is $45 for lifetime protection which will be added on top of the adoption fee.

**Standard “core” shelter vaccinations for dogs include: distemper, adenovirus 2, parvovirus, parainfluenza and bordetella (kennel cough)

When looking for a new pet, you might consider adopting from:


• A reputable breeder

• A rescue shelter

• A Pet Store

• The SPCA


Thankfully, the adoption fee is a one time cost, unique from the other expenses listed below.


Grooming & Nail Clipping


Animal grooming is more important than aesthetics alone.  While animals with medium to long fur (and hair) may need more frequent grooming, grooming is essential for the good health of all pets.


A professional groomer will look for health signs beneath a pet's fur.  Although not able to provide a veterinary diagnosis, they can undoubtedly identify areas of concern.


Pets with medium to long hair can experience matted fur which might seem like a mild irritant for a pet, but, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, matted fur can…


"…progress quickly from causing mild skin irritation to infecting wounds. Fleas and ticks can live relatively invisibly in a hair mat, and mats around the hind end can cause an accumulation of feces that sometimes impedes defecation. Severe hair mats can grow so tightly that they can restrict or cut off blood circulation, which can eventually require amputation."


When considering your personal budget, give thought to the frequency and cost of grooming.




Pets need many supplies with some being potential one-time purchases and others needed regularly.  Here is a list of just some of the supplies you might need for your pet.


• Food - daily food and treats

• Chew toys

• Climbing apparatuses (for cats)

• Outwear (sweaters and coats)

• Bowls

• Beds

• Shampoos

• Leashes

• Collars

• Beds

• Travel Crates


While some supplies may last a pets lifetime, others, like food, would regularly be purchased.


Spaying or Neutering


For those unfamiliar, spaying refers to the removal of the reproductive organs of female dogs or cats, while neutering refers to the removal of the reproductive organs of male dogs and cats.  Aside from preventing reproduction, spay and neutering are thought to provide some health benefits like a significant reduction in specific animal cancers.  Also, spaying and neutering reduces the need for marking territories and other aggressive behaviours associated with seeking a mate.   


The best time to spay or neuter cats is at four months and dog before they're five months - this is ahead of their sexual maturity.


Many facilities will spay or neuter pets before adoption.  In the event a pet is adopted in-tact, a vet visit is necessary. 


A posted price sheet of one Vancouver, BC, vet clinic asks $70 and up for neutering and $85 and up for spaying, but after speaking with pet owners, it seems a likely average price is between $300 - $500.


Thankfully, spaying and neutering should be a one time cost, and in some cases will be included with an adoption fee.




Dogs and cats require various vaccinations.


Here are just a few of the vaccinations important to dogs:


**The information to follow was taken from the following website:  http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/which-dog-vaccines-are-necessary/

Core vaccines are the ones most vets recommend your dog should have as a puppy. These vaccines all protect against dangerous viral diseases, and they are:


    • Rabies

    • Distemper

    • Parvovirus

    • Adenovirus (Canine Hepatitis)


The Non-Core vaccines include:


    • Bordetella

    • Lyme Disease

    • Leptospirosis 4-way (this is sometimes included in combination vaccines with core vaccines, but it is a non-core vaccine and should be considered separately)

    • Canine Influenza

    • Parainfluenza

    • Adenovirus Intranasal

Each vaccination is priced (according to one source) between $20 and $35.


Veterinary Medical Bills


Similar to people, pets often face the need to visit the doctor for a regular check-up, vaccinations, or due to an emergency.  Also, similar to people, there are expenses related to diagnosis, medications, exams, hospitalization, etc.  These costs can add up quickly.


Pets might require emergency veterinary care due to:


• Ingesting poisonous liquids

• General Illness

• Broken limbs

• Eating foreign objects

• Allergic reactions


Since these kinds of emergency pet expenses can mount quickly (in excess of a few thousand dollars), many pet owners opt to pay for pet insurance.


Pet Insurance


Pet insurance is a pet health insurance policy that will cover certain medical expenses for your pet.  Similar to human health insurance, there are exclusions for pre-existing conditions and related to specific breeds too.


Pet insurance is certainly something to look in to with monthly premiums ranging from approximately $45/month to $110/month. Similar to human health care, ensure you read the fine print when it comes to pet insurance.  As you can imagine, pet insurance wouldn't exist if they insurers were paying out more than the premiums paid.  In other words, most people will pay more in premiums than they receive in the form of coverage/reimbursement.  


Asking friends and colleagues for their experiences with pet insurance will give you a better sense of the expected cost in addition to deciding whether the monthly/annual premium is worth it.  Consider if you'll receive more (monetarily) than you pay out.


The following questions should be asked when choosing a policy.


The information to follow was pulled from:  https://globalnews.ca/news/3291952/b-c-lawyer-says-pet-insurance-not-worth-the-cost/

When choosing a policy, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association recommends pet owners ask the following questions:


• Does the policy cover genetic conditions?

• What percentage of fees will be reimbursed?

• Does the policy cover vaccines?

• What is the deductible?

• Do your premiums change as your pet ages?


If you're interested, here's a Vancouver Sun article providing a comparison of various providers for Canadian Pet Owners, including the coverage offered and the related premiums. 


Sadly, pet medical expenses are likely ongoing throughout a pet's life.  While pet insurance will be a benefit to some, others will waste money using pet insurance.  Before agreeing to a pet insurance policy, ensure you read the fine print carefully.


Obedience Classes


For those looking to have an obedient, calm, and respectful dog, obedience classes might be an expense to consider.  Best attended as puppies; obedience classes are where dogs learn to walk on a leash, learn to come when called and learn to act responsibly around other dogs and people.


Obedience classes can be seen as an initial cost.  Investing in your dog upfront will pay off for years to come.  Although, dogs are trainable once grown, they learn more quickly and are more responsive as puppies.


Here is a sampling of potential classes (pulled from this website) and their related costs: 

Puppy Kindergarten starting Wednesday, January 24 at 8:00PM in Langley ($175 plus GST)

Beginner Obedience starting Tuesday, February 13 at 8:00PM in Langley ($175 plus GST)

Beginner Obedience starting Thursday, February 15 at 7:00PM in Langley ($175 plus GST)

Puppy Kindergarten starting Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00PM in Langley ($175 plus GST)


If you're looking to reduce costs and would rather work on obedience as a do-it-yourselfer, consider buying a training guide like this one for dogs or this one for cats.


Boarding / Kenneling / Dog Walking


Pet ownership becomes increasingly complicated with traveling or long hours at work.  Dogs require feeding and the need to be walked and let out.  While cats might be less demanding - in that they don't require walks - isolation for extended periods isn't good for them either.  If you're unable to make it home quickly after work, it's essential to have someone who can help to feed and walk (if applicable) your pet.


Professional dog walking services (like this one) are useful to those who work long hours left unable to get home during the day.  Dogs walked mid-day are more calm and healthy than pets left alone for too long.


Dog walking services range in cost from $12.50 per walk (with multiple walks bought) to $25 per walk.


As you can imagine, the requirement for daily dog walking can add up quickly.  Even at the lowest price of $12.50 per walk, would be $250 per month (assuming five working days over the course of one month).


Heading away for an extended vacation?  Many pet owners have to face kenneling their pets (which isn't ideal) or finding a friend to take their pet.  In either case, the cost implications should be considered.


In the case of overnight kennel care, costs vary.  On this site, prices range from $45 to $70 per night, plus taxes. 


A one week vacation is potentially costing $315 using the lowest posted rate.


Depending on your circumstances, you might need ongoing dog walking services and kenneling.  Aside from medical care, these might be the most significant ongoing pet expenses to consider.


Tips for Planning


The SPCA estimates that the average dog costs pet owners $1,196 per year, while the average cat costs $899.  And, no, pets expenses aren't tax deductible.


Whether you opt to buy pet insurance or not, I highly recommended saving a monthly amount to offset any unexpected pet expenses - like emergency vet bills.  Saving $50 to $100 each month (in a separate savings account) is a great strategy that is sure to lessen the impact of any unforeseen pet expenses. 


Before acquiring your first pet, or adopting another pet, consider whether you can afford the expenses required to give it the comfort it deserves.  Creating a financial burden with too much stress might offset the enjoyment of having a pet.


Here is a recap of the potential expenses you might incur as a pet owner:


• An Adoption Fee - one time

• Grooming & Nail Clipping - ongoing

• Supplies - ongoing

• Spaying or Neutering - once

• Vaccinations - one time

• Veterinary Medical Bills - ongoing

• Pet Insurance - ongoing

• Obedience Classes - one time

• Boarding / Kenneling / Dog Walking - ongoing


Aside from ongoing regular pet expenses, it's a good idea to contribute between $50 to $100 per month into a separate savings account to help offset unexpected pet expenses.


Have you experienced pet expenses in addition to those mentioned here?  If so, what were they?