Title: How Much Will That Doggie Cost?
Author: Belinda Thomas
Date: 2009/03/01

I recently read an article somewhere that
claimed that the average dog owner spends about R9,000 per year on the family dog. I couldn’t believe this. When I mentioned this to my husband, his reply was a rather non-chalant “Ja, I can believe that.” I was taken by surprise by this response. In our household, the dogs are my responsibility. I take care of feeding, vets visits, cleaning up after them and catering to their every whim – as far as he’s concerned, one end smells and the other end bites. I expected him to be outraged, or at least a little surprised at the amount.

So I did a quick calculation of what we spend per year, per dog – excluding emergencies and chronic health conditions. I came up with an amount that was a little over R9,000 a year. We have 4 dogs – that’s a scary amount to be spending. So I decided to investigate a bit further and find out the true cost of a dog.

Before I go one I must point out that some of these prices will vary, depending on the size of the dog and where you get your doggie supplies from and the vet you use. A large dog will eat much more than a small dog, some breeds need professional grooming which will add to the annual costs. If your dog has a health condition, it will cost more over time than a dog without one. These figures are just guides.

Cost of a puppy

This can range in price from R1,000 through a shelter upwards to about R7,000 from a breeder (breeder prices range on average between R4,500 to R7,500 based on lots of different factors.)

That first year

  • 6 week puppy shots: These are normally done by the breeder and included in the price of your puppy. But if it’s not, you can look at paying +- R250
  • 10 week puppy shots: +- R250
  • 14 week rabies shot: +- R300
  • De-Worming: +- R70 every 3 – 6 months.
  • Collar: +- R100 for a good quality nylon collar
  • Lead: +- R170 for a good quality nylon lead
  • Toys: R600 – R1, 000 for the year (puppies need a variety)
  • Food: +- R5,500 for the year for a good quality premium food. Cost will vary based on the dog and where you get your food from.
  • Various Chewys: R700 - R1,000 for the year
  • Puppy Classes: +- R650 for a 2 month course
  • Basic Obedience Classes: +- R700 for a 3 month course
  • Spay/Neuter: +- R1,200 Based on gender and size of the dog.

You could easily spend R11,000 on your puppy in his first year. Suddenly that cheap little puppy that you had to find is turning out to be a not so cheap little puppy!

The “Teen & Adult” years

As he grows up, your dog now needs annual check-ups, vaccinations, food, more toys, treats etc. Perhaps you are continuing with his obedience training. Add this all up for the year and you’ll be amazed at how much you end up spending. It’s easy to hit that R9,000 a year estimate – even after your puppy’s first year.

What about emergencies?

Accidents happen and dogs get sick. You could easily end up with a vet bill that runs into thousands of rands on an emergency. This is a small part of being a dog owner. If you can’t afford the expenses of basic day-to-day care, you will not be able to cope with the unexpected costs that you may incur in an emergency. There are some pet medical aids available to help cover some of the costs.

The cost of just walking into a vet for an emergency can be between R400 and R750 depending on which vet you use (your regular vet or an emergency vet) and if it after hours. A lot of vets have an ‘after hours’ or ‘weekend’ levy on their consultation fees.

I must stress, that if you suspect a serious problem with your dog, don’t adopt the “wait and see” approach. Get him to the vet as soon as possible, as waiting may cause the problem to worsen.

… and chronic health conditions?

Okay, so now you have your dog and you’ve managed through the first year. But now what happens if he has a chronic health problem or suddenly develops one? Will you be able to afford to take care of a dog with a chronic condition, such as diabetes or an autoimmune problem, for the rest of his life?

There could be medicines and multiple trips to the vet throughout the dogs’ life beyond what is normal for a healthy dog. You can end up spending hundreds, even thousands of Rands in a couple of weeks just on tests. If your dog has to be on constant medication, you can end up spending hundreds of Rands in a year on just the medication.

I have a dog, who at the age of 18 months developed severe allergies to almost everything. The initial testing and medication to sort out the rashes and sores that he developed, cost me close to R5,000. Then it was trying different types of prescription foods – that bill ran up very quickly, as he would be okay on the food for a while and then something in it would trigger an allergic reaction, so it was back to the vet, more medicine, more tests and a different brand of food. This was repeated a number of times before we got it right. Murphy will be on medication for the rest of his life. I’m lucky that the allergy medication he needs to take regularly is not very pricey, but the food he has to eat costs twice the price of a normal bag of dog food.

The senior dog

Senior dogs have their own set of issues. Once your dog gets to ‘old age’, it’s a good idea to take your dog to the vet for a full check up twice a year. Can you afford to have the odd bump that may come up checked out? Some of them could be age related, some may not be. Can you afford all the extras that a senior dog may need to keep comfortable?

Other expenses

Is your dog on of those breeds that needs professional grooming? Depending on where you go, what is required and
the size of your dog, you can pay between R80 & R200 a month.

Kennels or Pet Sitters:
Do you travel a lot? Unfortunately, you can’t always take Rufus with you. Kennels can cost anything between R50 a day to R90 a day, depending again, on the kennel and the size of the dog. The going rate for a house sitter is about R120 a day.

What about the time that you need to invest in them to properly raise and train your dog? Although, it’s not financial, all the money in the world is worth nothing, if you don’t put in the time and effort. Dogs are not decorations or status symbols to make you look good.

So now you see, is doesn’t matter whether your dog came from the best breeder in the country and has a pedigree as long as your arm, or whether he came from the animal shelter up the road, it’s the day to day expenses that mount up and end up costing the big bucks. Do the maths and look at the cost of being a responsible dog owner. Now ask yourself: “Can I really afford a dog?”.

Dogs are not a cheap investment. Think about it, if you spend an average of R9,000 a year on your dog and he lives to be 15 years, the cost of that pooch is R135,000. Add in emergencies, illnesses, medications, and the cost and reach R145,000 easily.

This is the true cost of your dog. However, I’m sure that you’ll all agree with me on this; there is nothing in the world like the unconditional love of your dog, so in my book, the cost of keeping him happy and healthy is well worth it.


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