Friday, March 5, 2010

Fit in a Fun Friday - Pets, My Favorite Luxury Expense

I might hear about this from both sides (pro-pet and anti-pet people), but I consider our pet expenses “fun” money.

Pets, specifically our two adopted dogs, are a necessary “luxury” expense for me. I don’t need them for any medical reasons – in fact, I believe they have turned me into a Claritin addict. We aren’t depressed without them. They aren’t making us any money at all and cost a pretty penny.

BUT, I love being able to come home and watch our dogs do silly things or have them on the couch with keeping me company and the other keeping my feet warm. Most recently, watching them play has made me laugh until my side hurt. But, they are definitely an extra expense for us and are budgeted as such.

Our 12 year old dachshund mutt was a rescue from the Houston SPCA - $75 up front (years ago) plus a $45 vet visit 4 years ago. We also had her teeth cleaned for $150.

Our 7 year old Pug was adopted from PugHearts: Houston Pug Rescue - $200 up front (last year) plus a few vet visits in the last year. He had bad teeth, a removeable tumor, and some kind of strange allergy problem. This all cost about $750 and I’ve only had him a year. Yes, I’d get him again anyway, but I’m really glad we budgeted for crud like this.

For both dogs, flea preventative is about $150 a year, heartworm preventative is about $80 a year, shots are about $50 a year, a vet visit is a minimum of $65, and food is about $400 a year (Blue Buffalo since the Pug may have food allergies…we’ll see if this helps in the next month).

There are cheaper options (like feeding them Nutro Max instead), but this gives you an idea. We have spent about $3000 in 5 years and we’re lucky compared to other pet owners I have talked to.

In short, if you want a dog, I would aim for at least $1000 a year per dog. I believe they are totally worth it. I will probably always own at least one or two dogs at any given time. All I can say is, “Yay for discretionary spending!”

Do you have pets? Do you think they’re worth it?


  1. We have 1 cat, rescued from a shelter in 2006. The idea was to see if we could take care of a pet before we had kids. Mainly, it was me trying to delay having kids for a little bit while keeping my wife happy.

    There was a $90 up front charge and some miscellaneous expenses call it $300 for a food dish and such. She doesn't eat that much, $35 every 7 months and maybe $4 in treats every month. Vet bills run about $100 every year for her check up. All in all, maybe $200-$250 a year for us.

    I love having the cat, especially because she loves me. Ironically, we got the cat for my wife and she turns into my cat (I think she blames my wife for our daughter). I think she likes my wife, but doesn't really like my daughter.

    Pets certainly can be expensive, but I think they are worth it.

  2. Leave it to a cat to hold a grudge. :-)

    On the price side, I didn't realize how much cheaper they could be...darn asthma...

    Yep, pets are awesome!

  3. I'm a pet lover too, and although my pet-related expenses are far higher than yours I wouldn't trade them in for the world. Every penny I spend on them I get back twenty-fold in pure pleasure, loving companionship and entertainment.

    Financially it's good to realise that the larger the pet the more expensive food and vet bills are (antibiotics, surgery and many treatments are priced per kilo). I share my life and my wallet with 1 extra-large dog and 2 cats. I keep a separate "pet emergency" high yield savings account and pay the running expenses (food, shots, fleas, etc) out of my regular monthly budget.

    Having a separate account was a life saver when one of the cats got hit by a car a few years back. Total rear leg & knee reconstruction and months of care at home, all to the tune of about 1000euros. Seeing him race around, hunt and generally being a happy kitty with a hint of a limp now confirms I'd do it again in a heartbeat. There's been many such instances over the years and there will more. Two week's worth of antibiotics for a bad skin infection of unknown origin on the dog, a whopping 250euros for the pills alone. Same antibiotics would have cost maybe 15euros for a 5-7kg dog but mine is 95kg!

    You can have pets on a budget if you chose your pet wisely (cats or small dogs, mixed breeds are usually the hardiest) and if you budget for the unforeseen, either via separate savings or via pet insurance.

  4. I'm not a pet lover. When we didn't have a child, we constantly had to go out of town at a moment's notice for our jobs so having a pet would definitely be a logistical nightmare. Now that we have a daughter with another one on the way, there's no way we want to add a pet to the mix. We have enough neighbors and friends with pets that our daughter can play with. We don't see a reason to have to get a pet ourselves. Personally, I think they are a waste of money and time that I could be spending on and with my child. I actually owned 6 dogs at one point when I was living with my parents. God bless my parents for putting up with it.

  5. Mylena, great point on pet size! When we had our 95 pound Black Lab, everything cost double-triple what it does for a Pug or a Dachshund mutt...

    We just roll the normal pet costs into our expenses and pad the regular emergency fund in case something big happens.

    I'm so glad your cat is pretty much back to normal!

  6. Julie, I'm glad you know yourself well. Too many people rush out and get a pet for their little ones and can't handle the additional stress or cost.

    As for the waste of money and time, I can see that if you priotize differently. I don't see having a child as a pleasant experience, so I can understand if somebody would see owning pets as a pain in the butt.

    Your parents were indeed saints...I've recently taken care of 6 small dogs at once for just a week and thought my head was going to explode with just the logistics of it all.

  7. I was never a pet person when I was younger, and I had my daughter before I ever had my first pet! Now I have 2 large dogs and 1 cat and love them all. One dog was my hubby's, the other dog we adopted together, and the kitty was a baby stray rescued from a parking lot.

    I've adopted my hubby's way of thinking, we spend very little on our pets and don't think they should be an expensive 'hobby'. We would never buy a dog, we get vaccines on discount days at the pet stores, and we save throughout the year for our budgeted annual visits. Sadly, there is also a limit to what we would spend on 'emergencies'.

    We love our pets and they definitely complete our family. We will own several pets probably for the rest of our lives, but we would never spend more than we can afford.

  8. Shantall, I think that's great. Everybody has their own financial limit when it comes to their pets. Some are higher than others.

    I don't know what ours is exactly, but I'd probably let a dog go before spending a few thousand dollars in a year or two. Our Pug is scaring me with this allergy thing...he's getting worse and they have no idea why. I don't want to pay anymore if they're not able to give me any answers. He might just get the best-I-can-do treatment from here on out or I'll try a different vet.

  9. Shantall, that's funny! You and I are opposites when it comes to pets. I also used to own kittens, fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, a turtle, and tons of other pets when I was a child. As I got older, I guess I stopped liking pets.

  10. I guess the comments show perfectly "to thy own self be true". One must do what is right for them, not for their neighbours, kids or anyone else.

    I totally agree Shantall, even as a pet lover you need to ensure you don't have more pets than you can afford. Growing up I always had a single cat and as soon as I had a little bit of money coming in my parents made it clear that I was morally, financially and ethically responsible for her. That really stuck with me. It's then that I started the separate account for her care and I've kept the same mentality throughout the years.

    BFS, I really feel for you; allergies are a bitch to deal with and they are as frustrating for your vets as they are for you!

    Although I am careful with my running expenses (tracking food sales, etc) Personally I don't really have a "limit" to how much I'll spend on my pets health. Where I stop is more dictated by how much good any treatment would do. When one of my dogs was diagnosed with bone cancer, I could have had him amputated, etc. I knew though that such a big dog don't do well on 3 legs, that the surgery would be hell for him and that even though the cancer hadn't spread, it would probably return soon. So I said no, to the extreme relief of my vets who felt much the same. I kept him happy and comfortable for as long as it was possible then I said goodbye.

    My nieces came to see him when he was fading and told me "it's all about him now, isn't... even though we cry and hurt and don't want him to go, we have to put him first". Such wisdom from a 10 year old...