Many people love pets, and it can be tempting to adopt a new cat or dog, even if you already have one or two of your own. But before you adopt a new animal companion, you may be wondering, “How much do pets cost?” Paying attention to the full cost of owning a pet over their entire lifetime can help you avoid financial stress down the road.

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According to a study from the American Kennel Club (AKC), the average lifetime cost of raising a dog is $23,410. That might sound like a lot, but when you look at a breakdown of the average costs for different items like food and veterinary bills, it makes sense. The AKC study found that the average cost for the first year of raising a dog was $2,674 for small dogs, $2,889 for medium dogs, and $3,239 for large dogs, with giant breeds like Great Danes being the most expensive of all, with first-year costs of approximately $3,536.

In addition to the first-year costs of owning a dog, according to the AKC study, dog owners can expect the following average annual expenses for various items:

  • Dog supplies: $432 per year
  • Food: $435 per year
  • Preventative medications: $389 per year
  • Veterinary costs: $650 per year (including lab work and assuming one serious illness per year)

While the cost of ownership is slightly higher for dogs than for cats, cats are not cheap, either. According to pet care cost data from the ASPCA, the average cost of the first year of owning a cat is $1,174.

There are options to help reduce your costs and still enjoy the fun and companionship of having pets. Here are a few ideas for how you can minimize the cost of pet ownership:

  • Adopt from a shelter instead of buying from a breeder or pet store. It’s almost always significantly cheaper to get your dog or cat from an animal shelter. Plus, there are lots of great animals looking for homes.
  • Buy pet food in bulk — and get lower-cost brands. You don’t necessarily need premium pet food, and you may even find that your pet prefers the lower-cost brand.
  • Don’t overfeed your pet. Consult your vet on how much food your pet truly needs — if your pet eats too much, not only does it drive up your spending on pet food, but it can also lead to obesity. And obese pets tend to have more health problems that lead to costlier vet bills.
  • Buy pet health insurance. Animals can have complex and costly health problems, just like people — and the cost of veterinary bills is going up each year. You can often save money by paying up front for pet insurance, just like health insurance for humans.
  • Take care of your pet’s teeth. Dogs need to have their teeth brushed and cared for. Talk to your vet about the right dental cleaning routine for your dog, and which products are the best for your needs. Taking care of your dog’s teeth can help save money in the long run by avoiding dental disease and more expensive veterinary care.

Check out more ideas from the ASPCA on Cutting Pet Care Costs.

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Having a pet, for many people, is one of the great joys of life. Pets bring meaning to people’s lives, and they serve as faithful companions, playmates and guardians of the home. But before you get a pet, as well as making sure you’re up for the responsibility of caring for an animal, make sure you create a separate pet care budget. With careful planning and a few thrifty moves, you can enjoy the love of pet ownership without worrying about pet-related financial stress.

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