The costs of owning a pet

Man holding a puppy

While owning a pet can bring endless joy, it also comes with financial responsibilities. To set the right expectations for pet ownership and have a happy and healthy pet, it’s important to understand these costs. If you’re considering adding a scaled or four-legged friend to your family, here are several things to keep in mind.

Basic costs of pet ownership

Even before you actually own a pet, there are various expenses you should consider based on the type of pet, its size and its individual needs.

Initial costs

Whether you’re adopting a pet or purchasing from a breeder or pet store, there’s an associated cost. You’ll need to consider adoption or breeder fees, along with the expenses for the essential items a new pet will need. This could be a bed, crate, tank, tank supplies, feeding bowls, collars, leashes, toys and grooming supplies—for starters.

Food and supplies

The cost of food can vary greatly depending on the size and type of your pet. For example, a 50-pound dog will eat much more food in a month than a 20-pound dog. Also, remember that dietary needs change over the years, from food-specific to puppies vs. senior animals. Don’t forget about treats—many pets love them!

Veterinary care

Annual checkups and vaccinations can vary widely, depending on the pet. Research vets in your area to determine prices. Some may offer annual plans to cover the cost of regular vet visits and preventative medications, such as flea, tick and heartworm. For your toothed friends, factor in regular dental cleanings as well.

Pet boarding or pet sitting

If you enjoy vacationing or travel a lot for work, you’ll need to consider who will take care of your pet during these times. Pet sitter payments and boarding facility fees can add up over time.

Additional expenses

Depending on the type of pet, there could be grooming (including both professional and at-home services) and training costs associated. Keep in mind that you may end up replacing chewed-up toys or repairing damage around your house done by curious furry friends. Also, check your current city or state laws concerning microchipping and pet licenses.

Long-term healthcare

As pets age, they may require more intensive care, which could include medications or special dietary needs.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a good place to start when considering pet ownership. The cost of adding a critter to your family can vary significantly based on the individual needs of your family and your pet.

Pet insurance considerations

An option many pet owners consider is whether to purchase pet insurance. Insurance can help lower the costs of unexpected treatments, but there are several factors to think about if you decide to choose a policy.

Type of coverage

The cost of pet insurance will vary based on the kind of coverage you select and typically comes in three forms:

  • Accident-only plans cover, as the name implies, accidents. This could include bite wounds, broken bones, swallowed objects or toxic ingestions. And it covers diagnostic services and treatments like X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, blood work, sutures, medications, hospitalization or surgery.

  • Comprehensive plans (aka accident and illness) typically cover veterinarian care for most accidents, medical problems and breed-specific conditions. These plans may include coverage for accidents, chronic conditions, common illnesses, behavioral problems, dental care, diagnostic testing, or prescription medications and supplements.

  • Wellness plans usually cover routine care, like vaccinations, flea prevention, microchipping, dental cleanings and wellness exams, among other routine visits.

Cost of premiums

Premiums for pet insurance will vary based on your pet’s age, breed and where you live. Premiums tend to increase as your pet ages.


Consider how much money you’re willing to pay out-of-pocket before your pet insurance begins. The higher deductible you pay typically means a lower monthly premium. But that also means you’ll spend more money when you file a claim 

Buying pet insurance requires a balance between cost and coverage. Do your research to determine what plan works best for your pet’s health needs and your financial situation.

Planning for the unexpected

Accidents happen; it’s a part of life. But it’s also part of your pet’s life. That’s why it’s important to be aware of unexpected costs you may encounter as a pet owner.

  • Emergency veterinary care is typically needed at the most inopportune times (and after hours). And that will cost a pretty penny.

  • Chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or allergies can require ongoing vet visits and medication.

  • Behavioral issues can occur at any time during your pet’s life. You may need to invest in professional training or behavioral therapy.

  • Special diets may come with a pet who suffers from food allergies or sensitivities. A specialized brand of food can be more expensive.

  • Specialized care for exotic pets means you may need to visit a vet with specialized training, which can be more expensive.

  • Habitat maintenance for exotic pets can also be costly when considering terrariums or aquariums (and everything that goes along with those).

The rewards of pet ownership

While pet ownership can be costly, it’s also a rewarding experience for your family. Carefully consider the financial aspects—among other responsibilities—that come with inviting a furry (or not so furry) animal into your home. The rewards may not be monetary, but they’ll fill your heart and home with joy and love.