Lifetime Costs of Dog Ownership

Kids have no idea how much they cost in real dollars. When you spell it out in words – one hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars by current estimates – it really brings home just how expensive it is to raise a child to the age of 18.

But dollars cannot measure the roller-coaster experience of raising children. It’s a collection of sensations, emotions and shared experiences that are beyond words and worth more than mere money.

So it is with pets. If you average the cost of a dog over his lifetime, the dollars add up to a surprisingly high amount. The actual bottom line, though, is the happiness you and your pet shared together – even those times when a pet might have soiled an expensive Persian rug or destroyed a priceless Ming Dynasty vase.

Still, it is instructive to know what the actual costs are over a pet’s average life span. Forewarned is forearmed, so to speak – you can plan your short-term and long-term budget better.

The purpose of the tally that follows is not to reduce the human-animal bond to a dollar amount. Instead, it’s meant to help the pet owner and prospective pet owner know what the average dollar cost is to own a pet. Knowing the cost will help you plan ahead to keep your pet healthy and happy.


Puppies generally cost more to take care of their first year. This is because they require a menu of vaccinations to prevent trouble later. They should be vaccinated several times against distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus, as well as a single rabies injection. Afterward, booster shots for rabies are given either every year or every three years, depending on local laws. Some dogs may be vaccinated against Bordetella and Leptospirosis. Most dogs are then vaccinated every year.

Small to medium-sized dogs (from about 55 pounds and under) tend to live longer than large to giant breeds. Remember, the life spans of individual dogs can vary, so the figure given here is only a rough average; how well dogs are taken care of and whether they see a veterinarian for checkups regularly is usually the biggest factor in their life span.

Small to medium-sized dogs


With cats, the biggest factor affecting their life span is whether they live indoors or outdoors. Indoor cats, on average, often live considerably longer than outdoor cats. An outdoor cat is at risk of injury and diseases, particularly from other cats.

Traffic is an obvious risk, but so are other cats. Besides injury, cats spread many dangerous illnesses. Feline leukemia virus, for instance, is one of the most dangerous infectious diseases outdoor cats face. The virus is spread cat to cat through bite wounds or close contact, such as grooming. Then there’s the threat posed by other animals, such as dogs, and even humans.

On average, an outdoor cat’s life span is roughly 5 years. By contrast, an indoor cat, which is much less likely to face these threats, has an average life span of about 16 years. As with dogs, the first year is more expensive.

Outdoor Cat

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