9 Unexpected Costs of Pet Ownership

Adding a four-legged member to the family is priceless, but the unexpected expenses can really add up if you’re not careful.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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If you’re considering adding a cat or a dog to your family, you’ve probably already factored in the cost of their food, bedding, toys, and other miscellaneous supplies, like a litter box or a leash. But much like humans, pets come with an added set of expenses, some of which we may not anticipate (or be able to control).


Figuring out how to pay for unexpected vet bills may alleviate some of your stress, but you’ll want to consider more than just the standard vet bills as well. Before you bring your new pet home, make sure you’re as prepared as possible for these hidden costs.

Extra veterinarian expenses

Rawpixel.com/Adobe pet insurance care guarantee concept

Even if you adopt a healthy cat or dog, it’s recommended to make an annual trip to the vet. While most pet owners do anticipate paying for vaccines and vet visits, many don’t realize they may get a pet with an allergy or medical condition. Your pet could also be unexpectedly injured, and those bills can add up quickly.

Pro tip: Shopping for the best pet insurance before you adopt your cat or dog can help alleviate some of that pressure. But pet insurance itself can be rather costly, and it doesn’t cover everything. Make sure you read the fine print and get the policy that’s best for you.

Preventive care

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Preventive care is key for all living things. For a pet, this can mean flea and tick prevention, heartworm treatment, regular grooming, medication, or special food. Pets can develop allergies and sensitivities just like we can. Keep that in mind when you’re working on budgeting for a new animal.

Injuries

Maria Sbytova/Adobe female veterinarian doctor during the examination in veterinary clinic

No one can predict the future. Your pet could get injured or be involved in an accident at any time, regardless of the circumstances of your living situation. The cost of an emergency vet visit or emergency surgery could be exorbitant. Much like you have a savings account for emergencies, you should set aside some money in case the unexpected happens to your pet.

Illness

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Some dog breeds are more susceptible to illness and chronic conditions than others, but no pet is ever immune to them. Many illnesses and diseases can be treated, but they may be very expensive. This is another good reason to save some extra money put aside before adopting your pet.

Dental care

135pixels/Adobe veterinary clinic

Animals develop tartar and plaque on their teeth, just like we do. Pet dental care begins at home, with regular brushing and special treats that can help clean their mouths. Dogs and cats may also get professional cleanings, although the frequency of those cleanings will depend on their breed, age, and overall dental health.

Pro tip: Just like our dental visits, dental costs for pets can be quite expensive. A professional dental cleaning for your pet could result in a bill over $300, and the price tag can be even higher if the pet has periodontal disease or needs tooth extractions. Most pet owners don’t think about budgeting for this, but just like with your own teeth, regular cleanings can save you money in the long run.

Extra security deposits

Tatiana/Adobe cat is on the big bed in hotel room

Many pet-friendly home and apartment rentals require an extra deposit, and some require an added monthly “pet rent” to offset the costs of the damage an animal can do. Even if your little darling is completely housetrained, you may still have to pay extra to have them as roommates.

If you have a dog you’d like to travel with, prepare to potentially pay more at pet-friendly hotels and vacation rentals as well. Extra security deposits are often required, and you’ll likely be on the hook for any damage that is done.

Home repairs

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Our pets sometimes break, chew, scratch, and vomit on things. This could mean damage to walls, floors, doors, and stair railings. Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, you’ll need to handle this potential extra cost to make these repairs.

Pet sitting

jb325/Adobe pet boarding

Going out of town isn’t as easy with a pet. Your choice of pet sitter will largely depend on your pet’s comfort level. While some animals will handle pet boarding well, many prefer to stay in the comfort of their own homes. Pet sitters aren’t cheap, so make sure you factor them into your budget.

Training

Christian Müller/Adobe woman with a young boxer dog on a dog training field

Enrolling your dog in obedience classes at a young age is a great way to develop a happier, healthier relationship with them. Although most dogs only need obedience school in their first year or two, dog training is an ongoing process. Some pups also have separation anxiety or other conditions that require additional resources. Plan on buying extra books and watching videos even as your dog ages.

Bottom line

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While there will always be extra expenses involved in pet ownership, it’s a relationship that is deeply rewarding. The love between a human and their pet is unparalleled. Pet ownership is also a great way to teach young children about responsibility and rewards.

Even though your four-legged friend adds expenses, there are ways you can look into saving money, too. A monthly pet supply subscription can cut down on costs, and looking into a “bark box” delivery is a great way to spoil your pup without constantly having to refresh the toy supply. You may also save money on a pet sitter by taking your dog on vacation with you since there are so many dog-friendly vacation spots ready to roll out the red carpet for you both.

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Author Details

Jessica Wick

Jessica Wick is a content writer living in (and loving!) the Pacific Northwest. When she's not balancing the family budget and finding ways to save money for trips, she's writing for work, reading for fun, spending time with her friends, or traveling with her husband and daughter.