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Pets regularly come up in discussions with clients. They are part of our family and, as such, can impact the family budget as well as long-term goals. When conducting client Discovery meetings, we include questions about pets to help gauge what that potential impact on the long-term financial plan and where a family prioritizes having pets in their lives.

Personally, it’s something we’ve put off as a family. There have been a few goldfish here and there, but it was never the right time. The kids were too young. We were too busy. Maybe a few more years.

Well, after three years of almost daily “requests” (read: persistent nagging & begging) from our 9-year-old, we are embarking on a new adventure in welcoming a puppy to our family next week.

While we’ve had dogs on both sides of the family for many years, I had never really done a deep dive on all that’s involved until now. The planner in me has been researching everything from what breed would be gentlest on certain allergies in our home to the proper activity levels and general temperament that would fit our family best.

Along the way, I’ve also learned quite a bit about the costs involved in adding a pup to the household. Those that know me won’t be surprised to learn that this has involved a lot of reading, research, and a spreadsheet or two.

Provided things fit the family budget, it’s a small price to pay for the joys of having a family pet, but it also dawned on me that assessing this fit could be a daunting task for those jumping into pet ownership without any kind of a plan.

According to the ASPCA, the costs involved in first year pet ownership can exceed $2,000 including one-time and ongoing annual costs. This assumes no cost for acquiring the pet.

From there, the primary areas of ongoing expense for a family pet are really very similar to those of any of us. Food, shelter, health care, basic grooming, entertainment. As I built out a basic expense worksheet for our new pup, it dawned on me almost all the categories already fit into our existing spending plan.

According to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, the following were some of the average national expenses for owning a dog (the survey – linked above – has data on a number of other household pets as well)

Expense Type 2017-2018 Average (Dogs)
Vet Visits  
Surgical $474
Emergency $349
Sick $204
Routine $257
Food $269
Treats $72
Vitamins $58
Personal Care/Entertainment  
Grooming $84
Toys $47
Boarding/Kennel $322

The list could go on and on. Anecdotally, these expenses can vary widely in type and amount. Invisible fences, pet insurance, longer-term boarding needs, etc. start to up the ante substantially.

Another quick note is that it’s worth evaluating your homeowner’s coverage to make sure you’re covered in the case of any damage caused by your furry friend. This won’t include that pair of shoes your pup chewed to shreds, but could help in the cases of a bite, a fall or any other damage done to others’ property caused by your pet.

Like anything, having a plan that ensures you can absorb both the expected and unexpected costs that are bound to come with adding a member of the family. Whether it’s knowing you’ll want to take up horseback riding in retirement, groom show dogs or make sure Scout is included in your estate plan, make sure you include your furry friend when thinking through your financial plan.