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Thursday, 7 May 2015

When you bring an adorable puppy home, probably the last thing on your mind is how much caring for your new pet will cost.

But, just as it is expensive to raise a child, providing for a pet can be costly.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates it costs a minimum of $1,580 a year to care for a medium-sized dog. "You shouldn't expect to pay less than this, and you should definitely be prepared to pay more," the site warns. In fact, CBS News reported that Americans spent a record $56 billion on pet care in 2013, and experts anticipate that number will continue to rise.

"There are a lot of aspects of pet ownership people don't take into consideration," said Kelli Bates, clinic manager at a large veterinarian clinic in Hoover, Alabama. "Even just basic routine care can be expensive, but it's part of being a responsible pet owner."

Initial checkups and vaccinations

Bates said puppies and kittens should see the vet every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old. These visits include overall checkups and vaccinations. Costs vary across the country, but Bates said at her clinic these visits run between $80 and $150, depending on which vaccinations are given.

The ASPCA reported a slightly lower number, estimating initial puppy visits and vaccinations run about $70 for most dogs and $130 for cats. Remember, these are per-visit costs.

Spay/Neuter

Dogs and cats, according to ASPCA, can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks old. The cost of this is around $200 for dogs and $145 for cats. However, according to the Humane Society of America, there are many organizations, vet clinics, and shelters that offer low-cost or even free spay/neuter options. The site offers a database of low-cost and free programs.

Food

According to CBS News, Americans spent nearly $23 billion on food for their pets in 2013, with much of that going for healthier, more expensive varieties of pet food. The American Kennel Club estimated the annual cost of dog food at $446, and the ASPCA at roughly $600 annually.

This cost can be trimmed, according to the New York Times, by purchasing food at pet supply stores or online, instead of paying top-dollar in your vet's office.

Annual medical care

After initial vaccinations and spaying or neutering, your dog or cat will most likely need annual visits to the vet for checkups. These yearly well-pet visits, according to ASPCA, cost about $235 for dogs and $160 for cats, and include heartworm preventative and flea treatment.

Pet owners can save money on maintenance and preventative care, according to the New York Times, by using more affordable services frequently offered by shelters and veterinarian schools. Veterinarians supervise the students at vet schools, so your pet will receive good care — at perhaps a third of the price, the New York Times notes.

Dental care

Don't like doggie breath? According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, regular dental checkups are important for keeping your pet's teeth in top shape and breath fresh. While not cheap — AVMA estimates annual pet dental care costs around $170 — if your pet develops dental disease from a lack of regular care, the costs could exceed $500.

Medications

Some pets also require maintenance medication. "Many dogs and cats have terrible allergies, especially in the South," Bates said. This, she explained, could require the pet to be on a daily dose of antihistamine, or the animal might need vitamin supplements for a skin condition.

Maintenance medicines can add roughly $20 a month to your pet-care costs, according to Bates. However, you could save on maintenance medications by getting them at discount stores like Costco instead of your vet's office, notes The New York Times.

Illness and emergency care

At some point, your pet might become ill or need emergency care. This care can often be quite expensive. According to USA Today, pet owners who sought emergency or acute care for their pets spent an average of $1,092 on the illness or emergency. The American Kennel Club estimated emergency care or surgical costs for dogs at just over $600 per incident. Acute care from a vet school could enable you to cut those costs.

What about pet insurance?

Pet medical insurance is a rapidly growing industry, with pet owners spending about $870 million on policies in 2014, according to CNBC. However, many financial experts and consumer groups still remain unconvinced that pet insurance is a smart investment.

CNBC estimated monthly costs for pet insurance between $10 and $35, depending on the coverage purchased. The New York Times also noted pet insurance policies can be complicated, making it difficult to be certain you will have the right coverage when you need it.

According to Consumer Reports, pet insurance is only worth the cost if there is a large medical expense in the thousands of dollars. Otherwise, the coverage rarely pays for itself and isn't worth the price. An emergency fund savings account would be a better way to prepare for medical emergencies, the magazine concluded.

Make your pet part of your budget

The best way to ensure that you can cover the costs is to make pet care a line item in your monthly budget. Just like you put aside money for utility bills, factor in the costs of your pet's food and medical care, notes Mint.com. Once you adopt a pet, having the monies set aside will enable you to give your animal the care you feel it deserves.

 

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