Tuesday, May 5, 2015

One year of Abby expenses

I first introduced readers to our dog Abby on last year on May 31, 2014.    We are now coming up on our first full year of dog ownership.  During this time, Abby has been both a joy and a pain – but mostly a joy!

We got off to a good start with Abby when we were able to acquire lots of dog supplies including a dog crate, bed, toys, collar, leash, food, and treats for free from donations.  We also did not pay any adoption fees since her previous caretaker gave her to us. 

After reading a blogger’s post on her Frugal Hound, I was inspired to sit down and add up all of Abby’s expenses over the last year.  How much does it really cost to own a dog? 

I’ve documented all of our first year costs associated with being Abby’s parents.

Medical costs
Initial veterinarian visits including vaccinations, shots, registration, spaying, and medication cost us $261.80.  When Abby wouldn’t take her tablet medication, we picked up Greenies Pill Pockets to help hide her medication inside a tasty treat ($6.33).  When Abby developed a sudden urinary tract infection and needed immediate treatment, it cost us $216.26 for the office visit, urinalysis, and medication.

To keep Abby protected from fleas, we made our own Frontline Plus kit.  We did this by purchasing a large size of Frontline Plus at Costco and dividing up the dosage to use for a small dog; both sizes have the exact same concentration of medication.  This allows us to save money by getting 4 to 6 times the treatment dosage per unit.  Our one Frontline Plus purchase ($39.95) should allow us to treat Abby for 3 years (instead of 6 months).

Total medical costs: $525.34.  We will continue to do routine preventative examinations and treatments.

Dog Food and Treats
We were given a few months worth of free dog food when we first adopted Abby.  When we ran out we discovered that she really loves a brand called Taste of the Wild.  Since Abby is a small dog (~15lbs.) she only eats 2 small cups of food per day.  Over the last year, we’ve spent $97.71 on dog food
Treats have been a good way for us to reward Abby for good behavior as well as get her trained and calmed.  We’ve tried lots of different treats from Milk Bones ($10.98), to rawhides ($9.99) which we later found out can be bad for our dog’s digestion, to hard doggy treats ($13.83) to soft doggy treats ($16.55) to a StarMark Everlasting Treat Wheeler with refills ($29.55).  We finally found a nearby holistic Pet shop where we now get most of our treats ($137.04). 

Total spent on dog food and treats: $315.65 

Dog Toys
Although we were given a lot of doggy toys when we first adopted Abby, she has destroyed many of them.  Her teeth are extremely sharp and can easily chew through many weak points in the various toys.  We have purchased a lot of toys for her over the last year: from braided ropes to various squeaky toys, balls, stuffed animals, and a Kong toy. 

One thing we learned is that dog toys absolutely do not need to be expensive!  Abby’s favorite 2 toys are a $1 braided rope and an old microfiber car drying towel. 

Total spent on dog toys: $58.96.  This will definitely be much less next year.

When we first got Abby, we did not know how to properly groom her.  We found a local highly rated groomer who would groom Abby for $35 per visit.  Each visit included a wash, haircut, and nail clipping.  After 3 visits, and $105 later, we decided it was time to groom Abby ourselves.  Thankfully, it is not difficult maintaining Abby’s shaggy appearance!

We still have plenty of dog shampoo that was given to us when we first adopted Abby.  Because she is so small, we go through the shampoo very slowly.  We just use my haircutting scissors whenever Abby needs a trim.    

A friend gave us a guillotine nail clipper and taught us how to properly cut Abby’s nails.  While it took a few months to feel comfortable doing this, it is now a quick and painless process.  Luckily we never cut her quick, the blood vessels and nerves that supply the claw.  We did buy some styptic powder ($9.74) to stop the bleeding in case we ever cut too deep on accident.  We always have the styptic powder ready but have thankfully never needed to use it.    

When it comes to grooming, I think of Abby as our family member.  Would you pay to have someone wash your baby and cut your baby’s nails for you or would you just do it yourself?  I can see recurring grooming expenses really adding up for those that take their dogs to the groomer monthly.  We are glad that Abby’s fur is low maintenance.    

Total spent on grooming: $114.74.  This will definitely be much less next year.

Dog Supplies
We bought a lot of miscellaneous dog supplies that can really add up over time.  These include: 
Pet ID tag - $3.50
Two Superyard Metal Gate enclosures for Abby to stay in - $219.01
Nature’s Miracle stain and odor remover - $10.61
Grannick’s Bitter Apple Spray deterrent for Abby to avoid chewing on furniture / shoes - $10.84
Retractable dog leash - $11.99
Better retractable dog leash after the first one broke - $19.94
Baby wipes for Abby’s feet after her outdoor walks - $53.72

Total spent on dog supplies: $329.61
Abby's home

All this comes out to be $1,344.30 of Abby expenses over the last year.  WOW. 

At first look, this seems like a large expense.  However, when I break it down, I do not expect to spend this much money on Abby next year.  One of our biggest expenses was the purchase of two Superyard enclosures ($219.01) for Abby.  This was a one-time purchase that we can eventually use for our baby boy.  We also spent $114.74 on grooming expenses, which should be a lot less going forward as we groom Abby at home.  I know people who get their dogs groomed at least once a month for $40 a pop, that’s $480 a year on grooming costs alone!  Going forward, we also won’t be spending as much money on expensive doggy toys and treats.

Owning a dog is priceless to us
Anyone seriously considering pet ownership should consider the financial aspect of it.  Yes, owning a dog can be expensive.  But Abby has added a lot of happiness in our lives that we can’t put a price on. 

We walk Abby around the block a minimum of 3 times a day.  This has been a nice way to get a little bit of exercise daily, as well as clear our minds of the distractions inside our home. 

I personally walk / run Abby a minimum of 2 times a day, and my pregnant wife walks Abby a minimum of 1 time each day.  Each time I take Abby outside, we go for a distance of about 0.5 to 1.0 mile.  It feels great to start every morning with a nice brisk jog / walk.  

All of Abby’s outdoor time walking and going to the dog park has made her very sociable and friendly towards people and dogs alike.  We’ve had a chance to meet several of our neighbors and their dogs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) find that pets can help their owners lower their blood pressure, cholesterol, and anxiety as well as boost their immunity.  Having good health is priceless.      

Potential dog owners also really need to consider how much time they can dedicate towards their dog.  We are lucky to both live within a 15-minute drive of our offices.  If you have a long commute, are you going to leave your dog to sit and wait for you all day at home?  Do you travel a lot for work or leisure?  Will you need to find a dog sitter or board your dog at a kennel?  Owning a dog is a huge responsibility. 

Providing your dog with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and preventative health care does not have to be expensive.  You don’ t need to spend a ton of money to keep your dog happy.  Dogs need your love and want interaction time with their human parents. 
Abby when she was 6 months old, now she's about 1.5 years old.
Do you own a dog (or other pet)?  If so, how much does it cost to take care of your dog?  Are you keeping track?  Websites like clearcheckbook.com and mint.com will help you track your finances. 

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