Dog Ownership Costs Skyrocket

There’s a saying among those of us who are horse owners: “There’s no such thing as a ‘free pony’,” which is truer than ever these days. As if the last two years haven’t been challenging enough, inflation has been headlining the news the past few months, and it’s hit all areas, including the costs of pet ownership. We’re in the process of updating our NGPR website and that includes some major adjustments on the cost of owning a giant-breed dog, an important consideration before considering adoption or adding another dog to your pack.

A new study released just last month surveyed 1,200 pet owners and 100 veterinarians, and found that almost half of pet owners underestimated the lifetime cost of pet care. The “Lifetime of Care” study by Synchrony, the financial services company that owns Care Credit and Pets Best Pet Insurance, showed that the total care for a dog with a life expectancy of 15 years can cost up to $55,000. The first year can be expensive: dog owners spent between $1,300 – $2,800 in that first year of ownership, when initial vetting, crates, beds, toys, leashes and collars are purchased. And when you’re buying the biggest size available for your giant-breed dog, everything costs more, from heartworm prevention to beds. Luckily, NGPR’s adoption fee for an adult dog includes having them spayed or neutered, implanting a microchip, core vaccinations, heartworm tests (and treatment if necessary), and even some orthopedic surgeries for those who limped (or were carried) into rescue.

The supply shortage of raw goods has impacted everything from the cost of metal crates to availability of your pet’s favorite food. An industry newsletter explains how independent pet stores are coping with problems in the supply chain in this article.  Fight price and availability challenges by searching online for new places to buy the food and treats you use, or look for other protein choices within the same brand; ask your vet or pet store owner to recommend alternatives with the same protein source or similar recipes. Don’t rule out looking at food brands that may not be considered as “fancy,” but are still nutritious and get good ratings from sources like Dog Food Advisor. Expand your search to quality foods from Costco’s Kirkland brand or Diamond Naturals (available at Tractor Supply), both of which have varieties which receive high marks from Dog Food Advisor, where you can find a full nutritional analysis which can help find foods that fit your dog’s allergy requirements and flavor preferences. (And see the Your New Rescue Dog booklet provided with your NGPR adoption contract for a list of recommended foods.)

A big chunk of the money spent on pets is for medical care, both standard (and expected) to emergency visits and surgeries for anything from a torn dewclaw to bloat, and illnesses like cancer or kidney disease. The Synchrony study said that 45% of dog owners (and 38% of cat owners) underestimate their pets’ lifetime cost of care. An allergic reaction, urinary tract infection, or any of the orthopedic issues that can plague big dogs, can be a financial shock. One reason may be because the health-care options available for dogs have widened, such as new  medications for skin allergies, for example, and the advent of more surgical options like hip replacement and correcting orthopedic issues in younger dogs. If your Pyr has a complete tear of his cruciate ligament in his knee, the recommended surgery (TPLO) can cost $5,000 or even more in some areas of the country. (Not including the supplements and anti-inflammatory or pain meds your dogs will need later.)

Pet insurance companies tend to keep a close eye on the costs of treating common health issues in specific breeds (and Pyrs are far from the most expensive: just ask owners of Great Danes, Rottweilers and brachiocephalic breeds like Bulldogs). For example, this page from Embrace Pet Insurance’s website lists the average costs of diagnosing and treating common health issues like osteochondrosis of the shoulder ($2,000-$4,000). This is why we recommend adopters consider pet insurance, especially when an emergency means your wallet takes a big hit. No one wants to have to choose between saving your pet or your pocketbook, and the cost of insurance can be lower if you trim the coverages down or just choose coverage for “catastrophic” injuries or illnesses. In a pinch, ask your vet about applying for Synchrony’s Care Credit, or explore Scratchpay, which breaks up the bill into 5 payments.