What My Dog Costs Me, What My Dog Saves Me

dog smiling

Photo: Flickr/Steve Parker

Last week I got an estimate from my vet on a “minor” surgical procedure for my nine-year-old pit bull, Zen.Actually, they gave me two estimates—one for the surgery, plus some “optional but recommended” bloodwork, and one for the surgery, “optional but recommended” bloodwork, and a dental cleaning while she’s under sedation.

The latter “estimate” came to a cool $1,021.96, which got me thinking two things. One: I should get a second opinion, and maybe a new vet, and two: Just what is the value of my dog? How much do I spend on her and what is she worth to me?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my dog. It’s like one of those cheesy Mastercard commercials: You really can’t put a price on the happiness I get from being greeted by a tail-wagging friend after a long day or watching her laze belly-up in the sun, waiting for someone, anyone, to start petting her. But, $1,021.96 isn’t a small amount of money. Let’s break it down:

The average dog owner spends about $1,542 a year on their pet, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) (cat people are right up there, spending $1,217 a year on their haughty companions). The biggest costs are “surgical vet visits” at $407 (which is way under the cost quoted by my somewhat-opportunistic vet.) I just adopted Zen in November, so I can pretty easily track my own costs over the past seven months and compare to an adjusted average rate, rounded to the nearest dollar.

The major categories:

Food: Average cost $188, my cost $184
Zen eats Science Diet, Adult Advanced Fitness, because that’s what the shelter was feeding her and I got a free bag, and she seems to like it well enough. It’s $43.99 for a 35-pound bag and since she’s a muscular little bitch, she goes through that about every six weeks. She also sometimes gets all-natural, made-in-America treats, which are either $7.99 a bag or free when my boyfriend makes them from leftover grain from brewing beer (yes, I live in Oregon.)

Vet Visits & Vitamins: Average cost $438, my cost $375
Pinkeye, heartworm testing and medications, investigating (and bandaging—$50 for gauze and an Ace bandage?!) a small soft tissue growth, plus antibiotics and other medications. See how much I love her?

Kennel & Travel: Average cost $205, my cost $20
I have amazing housemates and a network of friends who will feed and hang out with Zen while I’m off travelling or rafting or doing any of a myriad activities that are less fun/more expensive with dogs. So far, I’ve repaid their kindness with beer and flowers, but I’m also planning to buy them tickets to a sporting event, which will up this cost in the future.

Groomers/Grooming Aids: Average cost $43, my cost $25
Short hair dogs are the best – minimal grooming required. Other than dog shampoo and flea powder both of which I inherited from a friend, the only tool you need is the Furminator. Seriously, it’s the best. But don’t pay full retail price, instead seek out a half price deal on Amazon like me.

Toys: Average cost $25, my cost $30
Most of Zen’s toys are donated by my tennis-playing friends, but the Chuckit! is as indispensable as the Furminator. She also LOVES stuffed toys, which are promptly destroyed 5 minutes later. But, the sheer pleasure of watching her pull the stuffing out makes it (sometimes) totally worth it.

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This story was originally published by The Billfold.

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