Bringing Home a Pet? Don’t Forget to Budget for These 6 Sneaky Expenses

published May 24, 2022
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If you’re thinking about adding a pet to your family, you probably know that you’ll have to make an initial investment for the pet and pet-related items. But other sneaky animal things can heavily impact your budget if you don’t prepare ahead of time. “Having a pet involves a lot of expenses that most people do not even consider,” says veterinarian and behaviorist Dr. Paola Cuevas of “They need much more than just food and love.” 

Although kibble and hugs are essential, your pet may require other, less expected things, too. Here are six sneaky expenses you could encounter when bringing home a pet.

Preventative Maintenance

Caring for your pet involves ensuring they stay healthy. Of course, accidents and surprises can occur (more on those below), but you can prevent many issues by taking proactive measures — and knowing to budget for them. ”Some medical expenses are relatively easy to budget for if pet parents inform themselves and plan,” says Cuevas. 

Procedures like vaccination, deworming, and flea and tick prevention will keep your animal healthy — and could cost around $200 per year. Another necessary step is to spay or neuter your pet. “If you adopt a dog or cat from a shelter, they will likely already be spayed or neutered,” says licensed vet tech Amber LaRock. “However, if you get your pet from a breeder, you may need to pay for this surgery yourself. It typically costs between $100-$300.” If not, you could have the additional expense of a pregnant female plus her soon-to-be babies. Note that if you have a male pet, it’s necessary to get him neutered.

Additionally, it’s essential to take care of your pet’s teeth. Regular maintenance includes brushing their teeth with a special brush and toothpaste designed for pets, and they should also have annual cleanings. “Pets will need professional teeth cleaning at least once a year,” says Cuevas. Although Cuevas says the procedure can range from $300 to $700, it ultimately prevents periodontal disease and other complications that can cost thousands to remedy.

Unexpected Medical Expenses

When your pet needs immediate care, it’s perhaps the most significant investment you’ll make at one time. “If the pet becomes sick, needs surgery, or suffers an accident and requires emergency critical care, those bills can be very expensive,” says Cuevas. Unfortunately, budgeting for this type of expense is tricky, as the price varies from case to case.

That said, Cuevas recommends getting pet insurance to help cover unpredictable procedures. “Considering a budget for pet medical insurance is a great way to ensure your pet will always have access to medical care and prevent the economic pressure of unexpected medical emergencies,” she says. Just be sure to read the fine print of your policy to be clear on what it covers. The cost of insurance can also vary with the pet’s age. 

“Pet insurance plans can start for as low as a few dollars a month for young, healthy pets,” says certified dog trainer Julie Burgess. “Older pets, who often are prone to more diseases and injuries, can be about $50 per month.”

Behavior Training

It takes a while for a new pet to acclimate to its environment, and it’s crucial to establish boundaries and keep your pet safe. Correctly storing dangerous items and keeping stray cords at bay can go a long way in avoiding trips to the emergency vet. Another one of the best ways to keep your dog safe is to set up a training session. Retail pet supply stores like PetSmart start offering behavior classes when pups are around 10 weeks old. PetSmart offers six one-hour sessions for $140, which happen in store with other pups, or for a more personalized option, they offer one-on-one virtual training for $35 per session.

Starting with professional training is important for setting your pup up for success, and you can reinforce training further by searching the web. “There are many free resources online for basic behavior training on ways to keep your pet from destroying shoes, furniture, or other expensive items,” says Natalie Buxton, who works with Operation Kindness to help thousands of pets find homes. Although online resources shouldn’t substitute for organized classes, searching issues online can reinforce what you’re teaching your pup during class.

Specialty Foods

When you head to the grocery store or an online pet supply site, you’ll immediately notice a wide variety of foods, from standard, reasonably-priced brands to veterinary kibble that can be downright expensive. Although many folks opt for the cheaper stuff, your pet may need a more costly regimen. “Some dogs will be fine with any old kibble, but if your dog ends up suffering from allergy issues, you may end up needing a higher-end limited ingredient dog food,” says Megan Marrs, who is the founder of K9 and Mine. “Fresh dog foods that cater to allergy-prone pups can cost as much as $10 or more per day. That’s a real significant expense most owners never plan for.”

Jessica Yergin, the co-founder of online dog training community Tails of Connection, experienced this with her puppy, Stanley. “We didn’t realize that he was allergic to chicken and many other proteins,” she says. As a result, Stanley kept getting ear infections, creating costly vet bills. Finally, her veterinarian suggested conducting a series of food trials to get to the root of the problem. “Now he is on a very limited diet of lamb, fruit, and vegetables, and as long as we stick to that, he rarely has an ear infection.”

Pet Sitting and Boarding

If you travel and don’t plan to take your pet with you, you’ll need to consider who will care for your animal while you’re gone. Even if you simply work a full day, you may have to hire a pet sitter or dog walker to help your pup stay entertained, get some exercise, and use the restroom. Of course, cats are easier, but if you plan on traveling for more than a few days, you’ll still need to have someone check on your pet. 

“If you end up needing a pet sitter, dog walker, or use a boarding facility or doggie daycare, get ready to shell out some big bucks,” reveals Andrea Woroch, who is a consumer savings expert and a panelist at Rover. She also warns that taking your pet with you on vacation can be an added expense. “Even if you decide to bring Fido on vacation with you, you will be looking at limited hotel options, all of which will require some additional pet stay fee or pet deposit.”

Although kenneling or hiring a professional to check on your pet varies according to area and type of pet, there are a few rules of thumb. “The national average for boarding is $40 per night per dog,” advises Sadie Cornelius, who works with Canine Journal. “Hiring a professional pet sitter typically runs an average of $20-$40 per day (or $40-$80 per night) for one to come to your home.” However, the peace of mind that comes with having a vetted person care for your animals can help you truly relax while you’re away.

Extras for Spoiling

You’ll definitely need certain items — such as a bowl, bed, leash, and collar — when you bring home a pet. But sometimes you want to treat your animal friend! And okay, spoiling your pet isn’t a necessity, but it is something many pet owners do naturally and don’t necessarily realize how much they’re going to spend doing so. After all, it’s hard to resist those adorable eyes and cute mannerisms!

“When you welcome a dog or cat into your life, you will quickly learn that they are more than pets,” says Woroch. “They’re like your children, and it’s easy to go overboard with spoiling them with treats, toys, a fancy pet collar and sweater, and maybe even a fun birthday cake on their special day.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doting on your pet, but do keep this cost in mind from the get-go. You can also consider shopping at warehouse stores like Costco or a discount retailer like TJ Maxx — their pet sections are surprisingly well-stocked.