Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pooches: Is Dog Ownership Exclusive?

I remember back when I was looking to adopt, I read a couple of articles saying that it would cost approximately $1500 per year to own a dog. Which is a lot of money.
At the same time, with unexpected ailments, a higher quality diet, and our habit we have found it can cost significantly more.
While I know we could limit some of our own expenses, this made me start thinking about whether pet ownership really is available for all.
I was recently working with one of my high school students who is set to graduate. He needed to find his own place to live, but he has a good job and he's been working really hard and he is very responsible. He was part of my high school dog club and he is always proactive asking how he can best care the family dog: working on chewing behavior, going for walks, and giving nail trimmings. He  was just given a puppy and he's so proud of his dog and he's been dedicated to make sure he is doing everything right. He recently approached me because he was concerned about being able to afford shots and vaccinations. Which we all know can be really expensive for puppies. We talked about a low-cost shot clinic and spay/neuter, but I know it doesn't end there.
Beyond this, I know vet visits are very expensive in the city; it's usually $50+ just for an exam, and I don't think I've ever left a visit paying under $150. Not to mention heartworm preventatives and flea and tick.
I have another student who told me their dog has been sick but their dad is hoping to save up enough money to take it to the vet to see what is wrong.
Which makes me wonder how much finances dictate families being able to own and love a pet. 

If you don't have extra money, isn't it good enough to just do your best and love your pet as much as you can? 

And what would you recommend as the most important, non-negotiable ways to spend your money--if you don't have a lot--to make sure your dog does have a happy, high-quality life?


bigalrlz said...

This is such an important topic, and I'll admit to having mixed feelings. I've worked with a rescue that declines potential adopters for not providing their current pets with expensive medical care (Heartworm preventative alone can cost hundreds of dollars yearly) all the while thousands of dogs are put down in shelters for lack of 'suitable' homes. I've also worked part time in a vet office and while they do all they can to keep pets healthy, I also saw lots of expensive treatments being pushed that perhaps weren't really necessary.

Pet healthcare is expensive, I try to tackle the problem proactively, by feeding mine as good a food as I can afford, keeping them active, and filling their life with positive energy. Seems to work so far!

Katie said...

While I agree that there are definitely some vet offices that push expensive, unnecessary treatments, I do think there are some non-negotiables in terms of caring for a dog, like spay/neuter and rabies vaccinations. Other than that, I try to remember that just like some dogs may not get what I would consider "necessities" for my pup, there are lots of people who also don't have some of the things that I consider "necessities" for myself, like healthy food and the ability to see a doctor whenever I need one.

I try to look at how people care for their pets the way I look at how people care for their children-- they may not be able to care for them the way I would, but as long as they are loved and not being starved or abused, I have to recognize that my "norm" isn't necessarily someone else's "norm."

Of course, this is also complicated by the fact that, as bigalrlz notes, so many dogs are euthanized in shelters because there simply aren't enough homes for them all (I would venture a guess that even if rescue groups and others stopped disqualifying potential adopters for financial reasons, there still wouldn't be enough homes for all the dogs that need them). This is, of course, just one of the many reasons that I think spay/neuter is non-negotiable in terms of being a responsible pet owner.

Such a tough question!

Minabey said...

Wow, that's a very loaded question and there are no fixed one-size-fits-all answer for this. I believe that it depends on one's situation, what a person can spare in this economy towards their pet's care. I'm from Asia, and we have one dog - a Jack Russel cross. It scares me to think our dog might get sick because he has never had any vaccines or deworming at all. Even a rabies shot, though the local government have a free rabies shots once a year. The dog was already 3-4 years when I came to live with him when I married his dad. We couldn't afford those (except the free) anyway. We got lucky though, because I learned that Jack Russells are a hardy breed. When I had my own dog, I had them had yearly vaccines. I have a friend vet who I could by the vaccines from and I inject them myself. Either way, most of the dogs I had are "mongrels" (as written on their vet documentation) and they are hardy as well.
Anyway, my point is, we all want to have healthy pets but sometimes food and shelter are the only ones we could provide. For some here, not even that but that's the harsh reality.

Anonymous said...

Great topic for a post!

Having a pet is a huge responsibility and people need to know that going in. It's not just a matter of getting a dog or a cat at a shelter! There are the vaccinations, food, etc. I think the more educated a person is about having a pet the better off they will be.

SherBear said...

I just calculated how much I spend on Nala per month - and let's just say with doggy day care, pricier food, heartworm/flea prevention etc the number is much higher than average!!

As a shelter volunteer it is sad to see pets get turned in because of financial reasons. We (ACS) has a low-cost clinic, but there are only so many people we can take. I'd love to see more low-cost sliding scale clinics open up as it would help reduce the number of pets surrendered to shelters. I also think owning a pet is a huge emotion boost for anyone really and should be available to everyone!

Mental Planet said...

I agree that there should be more low cost clinics available. Perhaps funds that vets use to care for pets on a sliding scale. I know that my vet will provide that. He will also make a short term payment arrangement and is conscientious of providing extraneous testing. PAWS and Anti Cruelty both have low cost clinics to see patients but it is very limited and time consuming.

I take my pets to the in store clinics at Petco for their vaccines. It saves SO much money. Good quality food, lots of exercise, flea and heartworm preventative and love go along way to keeping a dog healthy and minimizing vet visits. Spay and Neuter should go without saying!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great topic. I hate to think that cost prohibits you from being a pet owner when everything else is there.

Of course regular trips to the vet for spay/neuter vaccines and rabies should be a must, as well as heartworm preventatives, if you live in an urban setting, tick preventatives may not be necessary, as well as some other vaccines.

There is also Care Credit, which may help some. I think a diet may also be able to be adjusted a bit by what one can afford. Still, hard questions.

Also I want to join your animal club!

Debra@Peaceabull said...

Such a thought-provoking post! The BASIC cost of owning a dog is one thing and the LUXURY cost of a dog is another. The rock bottom expenses should be the health care and then the best food one can comfortably afford. I agree with the above posters about the turn downs for potential adopters because of financial reasons and I see the returns to shelter for the same reasons. There really is not right answer but spay/neuter must continue to be a priority.

Patty said...

Excellent post! I agree with some of the posters above that the basics should include health care and good food. But potential adopters need to be ready for emergencies. My girl was from a shelter and within a month of having her, she had come down with mange, giardia and coccidia. In addition to her puppy shots and food etc. By a year she had giardia 8 times and coccidia 2 along with a 7 month bout of mange. I will admit I wasn't prepared for that cost and had to use my credit card quite frequently. The basic health care cost alone became astronomical and these were all treatable conditions. I shudder to think what more complicated conditions would cost. So I do think it is imperative that potential adopters understand the potential cost of just basic health care needs.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people in are area are not all that well off. I would consider the essentials to be spay/neuter, core vaccinations, non-premium food, place to sleep indoors, leash and collar with ID, heartworm, flea & tick preventatives with the exact combination depending on location. Just heartworm prevs are inexpensive if ticks aren't an issue.

Thankfully, our vets are very reasonably priced. We don't get charged for wellness exams (shots, tests, etc. but anything helps), and the highest bill we've had at our primary vet was under $150. Since I could ID tapeworms, I paid a whopping $7 to treat it.

For me, low-deductible insurance was a must. The largest cost is unexpected major illnesses and injuries, and I'm refunded quickly enough that I won't get hit with fees if the vet bill was put on credit. Giving up one thing like a data plan, cable, smoking, or going to bars is enough to cover that cost for one dog. It sounds silly to people but realistically, it can mean the difference between having to surrender/put down a dog or treating it when money is tight. Not everyone can come up with a few hundred or thousands on the spot but someone might be more willing to help out if it's known that a refund is coming.

Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

That sounds about right. Especially with bigger dogs - we never leave without spending $150 bucks. We love our vet, but we just got a Banfield Pet Hospital in town (they partner up with PetSmarts alot) and they have a "plan" that covers all basic care (including ALL visits!!) and splits it into monthly payments - and when you are enrolled in the plan, you get a discount on anything not covered. Again, we love our vet, but this is so tempting!

I think the basics for health care are spay/neutering, which you can find for reduced or free at different clinics or through some rescues/shelters; rabies vaccine, which is also common for shots fairs or low-cost clinics; and heartworm, which unfortunatly, I have no cost saving tips. I'm not willing to risk it, but they say you can stop the meds during the winter if mosquitos die in the area, but then you are supposed to give them a heartworm check every year.

And I agree with everyone, good food helps so much! And couches for breakfast makes a great point -- I didn't even think of it, but indoor living quarters, collar, ID, and tags are SO important

Katie said...

Great topic! I saw that $1500 estimate and the first thing I thought was "Oh, it's way higher!" Of course for my family, our pets are our kids. We don't have human children, and we have a couple of dogs with allergies, so we spend more in general. I think *most* people can afford a pet. I know plenty of people who aren't "well off" and their pets are still well cared for. They are happy, healthy, and a lot better off than a lot of other animals.
I think the most important place to invest in your pet is medical care; making sure they get their annual exams, necessary vaccines, flea and tick preventative, and any urgent care they may need. After that, microchipping/ID tags, and then food. They can still live good lives without the highest quality food around, but if you can get them a better quality than kibbles and bits, I think you should. I think too many people waste money on things their pets don't need (like copious amounts of toys, new collars, etc) and skimp where they should really be spending.

Kelly_g said...

Non-negotiables for me are spay/neuter, flea/tick/heartworm prevention, vaccines, and to have some money set aside to afford a vet bill when consultation is needed. I'm not one to rush my pets to the vet every time I notice something (i.e. cracked toenail, an itchy spot, etc.). With 7 pets I use my best judgement and generally only make a vet appointment when I am really concerned about something or if something has not resolved itself in a reasonable amount of time.

Two French Bulldogs said...

French Bulldogs.....need we say more. Lily has mom up to around $21000.
Benny & Lily

Anonymous said...

I think it's the same as children, some kids will be healthy and easy and go to an in-state college and some will have ailments, need special tools to learn/grow or head off to Harvard. You can budget for the 'norm' but be prepared for having a worst case scenario. I know a lot of folks who do pet insurance (Neither of my dogs qualify) and although they grumble at the monthly fee, it has saved them thousands on unexpected injury and sickness.

Annie & Pauls Mom said...

Heads up! There's a new heart worm preventative shot that can be given once a year for $45 instead of teh 150 for the once a month pill. Does Chicago have anything like helping hands? or does a prevent a litter exist in chicago (they do basic vet care for very cheep)

jet said...

Our dogs have the year-long heartworm shot and that works out cheaper than the pills. Heartworm shots are a non negotiable for dogs like ours who travel with us. Heartworm is quite prevalent, particularly up North.

They don't have flea/tick preventative every month like the packet says, I've found that they are OK to go 2 - 3 months between doses. We also get good quality kibble from a local dog food manufacturer that costs about half of what Advance or Hills costs.

If your dog is a bit of a gamble health wise then pet insurance can help get you ahead. It is in itself expensive, but if you have a large breed dog or an accident prone pooch then it can be very reassuring.

Spay/neuter isn't that expensive here, and all shelter dogs are already done anyway.

kasia077 said...

For the first few years I had Max I took him here for all his shots:


They are a roaming pet clinic and have different locations weekly. I got Max vaccinated and mirochipped through Luvmypet for less than $100. They also offer discounted heart worm and flea preventatives. You often have to stand in line but it's worth it. The only downside is that your pet doesn't receive an annual exam, which is why we started going to the regular vet. It's still a great option for those who can't afford annual vaccinations for their pets but can offer a loving and healthy home for dogs and/or cats.

Unknown said...

This is a great topic and an important one because of the fact that there are many individuals that take on the responsibility of a dog without doing ALL of the research. I know that it might not seem like money would have to be something that one would need to research but it is. From my experience it was the first thing I had to research. I purchased (from a breeder) an English Bulldog, which is more than an average dog to begin with, whether rescued or not. I then had to consider not only vaccinations and spay/neuter, but the health issues I might encounter (hip issues, breathing, etc). And to be honest the most expensive thing is the vet. I typically take him anytime there is an issue I don't think 'time' will cure. But I also don't tons of other expenses. And to be honest I personally was willing to take on the finances of a dog breed like his, which I think is very important in deciding the type of dog you want. He is my son and I will do anything for him (cheesy but true).

But my overall advise or two-cents would be to research. Research the breed, issues with the breed, near by vents and costs breakdowns, food, accessories, etc. If you live in an apt it costs to have a dog (monthly and a one time fee) on top of restrictions for weight and breed. I highly suggest pet healthcare too, which I wish I would have done sooner because my dog did have knee surgery and that could have helped. I have it now (VPI) but it won't cover his existing knee issue if something happens again. Anyways, this might be long, but could help some. Good luck to all dog owners and future dog owners.

Natalie @ http://natalielmurphy.blogspot.com/

bluedog said...

Limited vaccine protocol! Most shots do not require an annual booster- it is just a vets way to make $. Rabies & Lymes do not require an annual shot. If in doubt, you can get a titer for $20 to prove they have the antibodies rather than fork out 40-60 for the shot. Spay/neuter and heartworm is a must. Depending on where you live, you can get venison and spring calves to stock your freezer to supplement food.

Sarah said...

In a perfect world, sure, we would all have enough $$ to feed the best food and provide the best medical care to our pets.

The reality is far from that as we all know.

I firmly believe that dog ownership should not be an exclusive club. Low income families have every right to enjoy pets as the richest 1% do. And while any animal is being put down in a shelter due to pet overpopulation, we should be encouraging responsible pet ownership at every level of our economic society. One should just be able to provide a loving home, basic food needs and minimal vet needs. That's it. I strongly believe that a higher standard is irresponsible if the alternative is to kill the animal.

j said...

All of the basics mentioned above should be a given, and when we adopted our girl from CACC (animal control), she was spayed and fully vetted for $65. The money we saved went to future vet visits and puppy classes. Making sure your dog is well exercised, loved, and socialized are more important than any fancy vet. I see too many dogs in this city that are just let out into yards for potty an bark at everyone - that's worse than a dog owner with little money.

Unknown said...

Ivoderm from a feed store for heartworms; diatomaceous earth for fleas and intestinal parasites. the new recommendations for vax are much better than the previous yearly ones; every 3 years depending on age and/or titers if affordable after the puppy shots and one more year of vax . Rabie by law but many laws need to catch up with AVMA recommendations and many vets do not heed the new recommendations, either.

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