For the pet obsessed, there is usually no price we are not willing to pay to keep our furry four-legged friends happy. While the cost can vary, planning ahead will ensure any doggie mishaps don’t hurt the wallet.

A month ago, my girlfriend and I decided to take the leap and bring a dog into our lives. She was super allergic to most breeds, so making our choice was simple yet expensive. While we were ready for the initial costs, the long-term investment has involved some financial adjustments on our end. Growing up with dogs and cats, I was aware of the day-to-day expenses of owning a pet, but I now find myself planning ahead for the unplanned costs and quickly realized that a separate emergency budget is in order.

In case you are unaware of the costs to owning a dog, I recommend you read our article on the topic. In the article it covers purchase costs, food, vaccinations, spaying and routine veterinary care. Not planning ahead for these costs is probably the biggest mistake new pet owners make and in the end the animal loses out. It so bad, the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) reports that annually close to seven million animals end up in shelters and almost four million are euthanized.

These annual costs may not be a surprise for seasoned pet owners, as they weren’t for me, but the ones I am about to discuss may be.

Preparing for Medical Costs

As with most new purchases, considering the costs to “fix” something is usually never top of mind. In most scenarios this is the case when getting a pet. This is also where your pockets can take the biggest hit. Overtime our pets become a major part of our lives and so expecting the best medical care can add up.

Common procedures such as a Canine Hip Dysplasia can range in cost between $2,000 and $4,000, but lets not forget the not so common incidents, such as eating a sock. This procedure can leave you with veterinary bills ranging from $3,000 – 5,000 (source.

Creating an emergency fund is a great way to prepare for these expenses. Using the same mentality as we would when saving for our child’s college tuition or a down payment on a home, setting a side a few dollars each month will ensure you’re financially ready when mishaps occur.

Purchasing Pet Insurance

The other option available is to purchase Pet Insurance. Choosing the right insurance package for your pet can be tricky. Owners need to remember to review the fine print, focusing on procedures included in the policy. This will ensure you’re not left surprised and upset when your policy doesn’t cover the procedures you expected it to.

Two of the biggest insurance companies in America, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) and PurinaCare, offer plans on two different models. While VPI has a standard cost of $30 a month to receive discounts on certain procedures, PurinaCare polices depend where you live. The New York Times notes that the monthly costs are higher but they cover 60 to 80 percent of the procedure costs – as long as you have the correct plan.

Where you live matters

While it seems where you live can drastically affect the cost of pet insurance, the difference doesn’t stop there. Growing up in the suburbs, you forget how valuable a yard or house can be for your pet. Living in the city, your options change. Having a pet in the city may require you to consider dog walkers or day care. These can add up quickly and in some cases add an extra $300 – 900 on top of you monthly expenses. Ways of keeping these costs low are coming home during your lunch hour or if you’re lucky, have the option to bring your pet to work.

As with our own finances, planning ahead and being transparent about costs will make the difference. Because you never know when a $20,000 procedure is needed to save a loved one.

What do you think? Is there a limit to how much we should spend to keep our pets happy? Share any tips you have to keeping financial surprises to a minimum.

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  • Oona

    I found that a high, unexpected cost for my first dog was treats to help with all the training. All that money is now worth it’s weight in gold, now that I have a four-year-old well-trained dog. Worth considering.

    Also worth considering, in response to your article, is a pet insurance company called Healthy Paws Pet Insurance ( They’re the number one rated company on and they cover 90% of all accidents, injuries, illnesses, and congenital and hereditary conditions. For a low monthly premium, this can be a huge help with unexpected costs like hip dysplasia, car accidents or even those puppy issues, like giardia and tennis ball swallowing! Hope that all helps.