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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pet Costs: WOW

Because we travel a lot, we have had a pet-light life. We recently gave away the last of our pets: a big fish tank with long-lived denizens went to a student and two cockatiels went to Miss Bonnie at the grocery store. Everyone is happy.

For a while, we had the ideal cat situation: two wonderful cats, mostly neglected by their owner, lived on our porch. But the cats grew old and stopped coming. I asked the son of the owner what happened to the cats. He said, "Oh, I guess they haven't been around for a while."

My mother, newly widowed, wanted a dog and we found her a great one. At the last minute, she backed out, because she had acquired a boyfriend!

So, we haven't had to make any decisions about pets and pet costs. But Funny About Money spent a fortune on her beloved dog a few years ago. And our friends took their aged dog to Texas for heart surgery, which cost many thousands of dollars. The dog died less than a year later.

If you're thinking about a pet, the New York Times has an article on average costs. What do you think of the numbers? And, pet-free peeps: is cost holding you back?

New York Times on pet costs.


Marcela said...

My father used to say that pets and cars cost as much as a kid. We have an apartment so we haven't gotten any pets, but cost is definitely something we'll definitely take into account before getting one.

Duchesse said...

Our elderly cat developed a liver problem. We set a budget for his treatment: he would be cured or euthanized once the meter hit that amount. Le Duc was the one dealing with the vet. Cat made a miraculous recovery. Only later did I find that Le Duc has FAR exceeded the agreed budget- he simply could not bear to let him go, and now (a year later) thinks it was worth it.

It's important to get a healthy, hardy animal- a lot of people do not choose based on that criterion.
before this incident, we had not spent more than $50 at the vet's in over 15 years!

Duchesse said...

Wanted to add, out cat does not like the term "pet'. He feels it is oppressive and species-centric. He likes "the animal who lives with us" and will tolerate "animal companion".

Jane said...

We have had: a budgie (inherited when my grandmother died), several cats, a dog when I was growing up (died when I was 18 and it was devastating!), a guineau pig (found in a box in a field, obviously abandoned - 5 days later I spent $287 at the vet's trying to save it's little life! for my DD's sake:( and many many hamsters. Currently we have left just one 16 year old cat that my daughter's had since she was four. Not to wish her ill or anything I'm not taking her with me in 4 years when I move to PEI...

metscan said...

If I started to count the sum we have placed over the many years we have had our horses, dogs, cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, birds, and fish, I´d end up in an unbelievable sum of money. So I have not ever even started counting what it all has cost and is still costing us. Better so. This has been completely our own choice, our lifestyle. Mistakes have been made, mistakes have been paid for. The animal friends we now have, are our family members. I hope we can enjoy living with them for many years yet.

Suzy said...

I've only recently started counting and that's just because I've been trying to follow a budget and need to know how much to budget for my 2 dogs - german shepherd and lab (both almost 10)I budgeted $150 for November and have exceeded it. They have a pet plan at Banfield where they have free office visits/immunizations/dental cleaning and slight discount on other stuff - this has gone up to around $60 per month total for both girls. I feed them a decent food and that runs around $50 or so per bag(the bags used to be 40 lb and are now 30 lb...)and they can eat! especially the lab who needs to lose some weight. I also buy them a box of treats and/or a chewy like a cowhoof or beef bone at the pet store. This month I was off because then needed 1 weeks' worth of a new bag of food and that darned tax!

Large dogs' Heartguard chewables and flea/tick prevention are more expensive though I slack off the flea stuff in the cold weather unles they're going to be outside a lot(they're inside dogs).

This past January the lab needed knee surgery and that was around $3000. I had varying opinions from don't do anything unless she's in pain then give rimadyl to she has another few good years left fix it.the latter was the last opinion given on a Sunday afternoon and she was at the surgeon's Wed and had surgery the next day. I debated long and hard and this is my family had never spent that kind of money on a dog but I decided since I had the money that she was worth it..I'm grateful I had saved up the previous year and was able to afford it. There's a 50% chance the other knee can go per statistics with this type of knee injury. I know eventually she'll be at an age where the surgery could kill her and then there will be some hard choices.

I've seen huge arguments on forums where some can't believe someone would pay even $100 on a vet bill and others can't believe someone wouldn't put everything in hock to prolong a pet's life!

So I'm not sure about those numbers...for a good year I think it's fairly accurate but some years are way more than the amounts given! It's definitely something people should think about before getting a pet - what are they willing to spend and are they willing to pay a price for preventive stuff - it's much cheaper to pay for heartworm prevention and spaying/neutering than it is to pay for heartworm treatment and litter after litter!


see you there! said...

Our 13 yo cat died about a year ago. Vet bills were very expensive towards the end. That and the fact that we travel like you do is a good part of the reason we aren't getting another cat. I do miss having one tho so who knows what we will do in the future.

I firmly believe if you want a pet then you provide good care no matter what. Some things you can't budget for.


Kris said...

I am pet free, but not because of costs. We are gone a lot of the time and I don't want to always worry about rushing home to let the dog out. Plus, I was absolutely crushed when our family dog died when I was in college. So, I just avoid the whole thing.

We got rid of our aquarium a few years ago. The last fish finally died, and I hate to say it, but what a relief. I just am not a fish person, and that aquarium was so much maintenance and took up so much space.

Marcela said...

I just wanted to add that I had dogs when growing up (my furry brothers, no pets here!)and they made my life as a child much more beautiful. I would like my kids to have that. By meaning that cost will be taken into consideration is that we want to make sure that we will be able to take care of them, to include them in our trips and to move with them from one country to another in this nomad life of ours.

Funny about Money said...

Hmmmm.... $875 a year on average for a large dog? Maybe, assuming you luck into a dog with good health. And depending on what you count as "dog expenses" -- are you going to include the leather chair Fang ate? How about the crystal lamp Junior knocked over and busted while throwing a tennis ball for Fang inside the house?

Dogs are most expensive in puppyhood and in old age. When you add in ruined carpets, chewed-up furniture, excavated landscaping, and various broken doodads, they can get real expensive real fast. I once had a German shepherd that ate a eucalyptus tree. Average that out over a lifetime -- especially when the end of the lifetime includes expensive meds for chronic conditions like thyroid failure (now believed to be induced by overvaccination), heart conditions, pannus, arthritis, enhanced homeowner's insurance premiums, and the like...well, the average annual bill is likely to run higher than a mere $875.

There are ways to get a grip on those expenses:

Choose a breed (or nonbreed) that has never been extremely popular and so will suffer less from overbreeding.

Before even looking at heartrendingly cute puppies, check this site:

Choose a smaller dog (bigger dogs = bigger vet bills).

Don't allow vets to talk you into unnecessary medication and treatments, of which there are way, way too many. Google "dog vaccination unnecessary"; ignore the obviously flakey sites but see the ones that come out of .edu URLs.

Never get a dog unless someone will be home to attend to the animal most of the time. If everyone in the house goes to work or school every day, get a gecko. They eat mosquitoes. They have a social life. Who would've thunk it?

I've also had many cats in my lifetime. IMHO, cats are even more destructive than dogs. And if you let them outdoors, the neighbors plot to kill them. Maybe you, too...

Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela--Maybe more--because most kids are covered by some kind of health insurance.

@Duchesse--Glad your kitty made it! Le Duc sounds wonderful. Your cat sounds a lot like you--somewhat severe.

@Jane--When my kids were little, my husband bought them pet rats. UGH. In his family, they had monkeys (legal at the time), big lizards, and so on. At least your animals are smallish.

@metscan--Your animals are part of the family.

@Suzy--Scary numbers. Yet it's better to know...

@darla--True, but so many people don't think things out first.

@Kris--We too had a big aquarium. I couldn't believe how long the fish lasted. I did find them a good home.

@Funny--Thanks for the good advice, based on hard-won experience. Love hearing about Cassie.

Revanche said...

After nearly 17 years of experience owning pets and 5 years of working with pets, I know we were incredibly lucky not to have spent more than a fraction of what most people would have.

Mostly, our pets were really healthy and had very few health care needs.

The other part of that was because when one dog was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I was receiving an employee discount - I'm not sure what decision I would have made in my early 20s, making as little as I did, putting myself through school and supporting my family if I weren't getting care nearly at cost.

I'm dying for a pet now, but I'm not making so much money that I'm not concerned about the kind of money they *might* cost should any emergencies occur. And I'm definitely not willing to go into debt or lose a pet over a treatable condition. I guess my only other solution is to go work for a veterinarian again! (utterly feasible...)

MamaMangham said...

We have all of our pets on the pet plan at PetSmart. It gives us free office visits, severely reduced medical procedures, and discounts on medicines. I figured out that with that we pay about $700 a year per dog, and $540 for the cat. Figuring the cost of our housesitter, ($15 a night for all four pets - a really good deal) we spend $740 a year (or about $200 a pet...) It would be much cheaper if we did not spend an entire month out of town each summer. Still, they are totally worth it, and we are able to afford it as we have chosen not to have human children, only our pets! Also, we did not mean to have three dogs, but one was a rescue who found us.

Frugal Scholar said...

@MamaM--That is a great idea. I will look into it. I think we may get a dog in a few years, once we travel a bit less.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Revanche--Great idea: work for a vet.