How Much Does It Really Cost to Adopt a Dog?

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Do you know the long-term costs of dog adoption?

If you’re considering adopting a dog, you understand how exciting it is to know you’ll soon be improving the life of a dog in need — as well as improving your own well-being. But before you drive to the shelter or rescue to bring home your new pet, it’s important to know the cost of adopting and caring for your dog for years to come.

How Much Does Adopting a Dog Cost?

The short answer? It depends.

Many pet owners underestimate the cost of owning a dog. Though costs can vary regionally, from shelter to shelter and from vet to vet, caring for a pet is no small financial feat. It’s imperative to do research before you commit to getting a dog. Budgeting properly and preparing for the unexpected will also help your dog enjoy a long, healthy life.

Use this guide to learn about the cost of dog ownership, both when you first adopt and in the long term.

Adopting a Rescue Dog

Puppy: $0-$400+
Adult dog: $0-$350+

Adoption fees vary depending on a few factors:

  • Where you live
  • The age and breed of the dog
  • The shelter or rescue you adopt from

Some shelters may have special events throughout the year with waived or discounted adoption fees to encourage adoption, or a dog may be sponsored by a donor who will pay the fee to make sure the pet goes to a good home. Adoption fees help ensure people who plan to adopt pets are ready and serious about adding a dog to their household, so the dog doesn’t end up back in a shelter. These fees often cover basic pet essentials the shelter provides:

  • Microchipping
  • Vaccinations
  • Flea and worming treatments
  • Spaying or neutering

While adoption fees may seem expensive, the shelter or rescue has often paid much more to care for the dog you’re adopting. The shelter often spays or neuters dogs, provides veterinary care, and sometimes trains and microchips the dog, too. Check with the shelter to confirm what services are covered in their adoption fees. You can also ask if the shelter offers coupons, discounts or complimentary services with partner organizations like veterinarians or pet stores.

First Vet Appointment

Average initial appointment cost: $0-$300
Flea and worming treatments: $100-$200/year
Vaccinations: $20-$150 in the first year; $10-$100/year after the first year

Regardless of whether you have rescued a dog or purchased a puppy from a breeder, you should take them to a veterinarian within 30 days of adoption. Your vet’s appointment fee will vary, and some shelters or rescues may cover the cost of your dog’s first vet visit.

This initial checkup will assess the dog’s welfare, and the vet will conduct essential tests for issues like:

One of the most important tests the vet will conduct on dogs older than one year is the heartworm test. At your first vet appointment, your vet will draw blood from your dog to test for the presence of heartworms. Your vet will also check for intestinal worms or fleas, and recommend regular parasite prevention products to help protect your dog from parasitic infections.

Vaccinations can be one of the most expensive parts of vet visits, but they are imperative for keeping your dog healthy and protecting them from infectious or life-threatening diseases. Your dog will need initial vaccinations during their first visit and annual boosters thereafter. Some veterinary practices will charge per shot and others may bundle vaccinations into packages. If you adopted your pet from a shelter or rescue, your dog may have already received some vaccinations, so be sure to bring all paperwork with you to the appointment.

Annual Vet Checkups and Emergency Visits

Regular checkup: $140+
Pet insurance: $5-$135/month or $60-$1,620/year

The average vet visit costs around $140 but can vary depending on where you live. However, because unexpected costs can pop up at any time, many people opt to get pet insurance to help offset the costs of emergency visits.

The cost of pet insurance varies significantly depending on the provider, level of coverage, co-payment amount, deductible and even the breed and age of your dog.

Nutritious Food and Treats

Dog food: $10-45/month
Dog treats: $4-$25/month

Food is one of the largest recurring expenses dog owners fail to plan for before adopting a new dog. The cost depends on the size of your dog and the food you feed them. Wet food tends to be more expensive than dry food, as does specialty-nutrition food for dogs with particular dietary needs.

Dogs also enjoy treats, and they can be useful training tools. Dog treats are less costly than food and range from basic chew treats to specialty dental chews.

Toys, Bedding, Leash and Other New-dog Essentials

Crate: $25-$200
Dog bed: $15-$80
Leash and collar: $16-$100
Toys: $10-$200

In addition to essentials like health care and food, your dog needs items that will make them feel at home. Keep in mind that dog items like bedding, toys and even leashes may not be one-time expenses. These items can break over time and may need to be replaced frequently if your dog likes to chew.

Dog toys are generally a small expense, especially for basic toys. However, for heavy-duty or interactive toys, this cost can increase.

Dog bedding, a crate (if you train your dog to use one), and leashes and collars can also vary in cost, depending on the brand, material or size of your dog.

Whether you want to adopt a puppy or an adult dog, make sure to consider the expenses and budget accordingly. Purchasing some dog supplies such as leashes, collars, toys, etc. over time before you adopt can help lower the initial cost of adoption. It pays to plan ahead for additional or unforeseen expenses so you can provide your dog the love and comfort they deserve.

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