The dog ate the budget: The high cost of pets

Looking at the high cost of pets

Published: Monday, Feb. 6 2012 5:00 p.m. MST

For example, a large dog costs $875 annually and a small dog $580. Cats are about $670 a year. "Until I saw these numbers and then crunched them out on my pet, I did not realize what I was spending on my pet," Buchwald said.

There is food, vaccinations, litter for cats, toys, treats, license fees, collars, cages, training, boarding during vacations, grooming costs and a multitude of expenses large and small.

But seeing the numbers puts people in a position to make better decisions about getting a pet.

And this isn't even looking at the cost of buying the animal in the first place.

A pet may live a long time, and the longer it lives the more likely it may incur expensive veterinary bills. A hip problem on a dog could cost $2,000. Cancer treatments could cost $30,000.

Arky has pet insurance for his three dogs, Sunny, Shay and Chica. The $30-a-month-per-dog insurance covers medical emergencies and surgery. Buchwald encourages pet owners who don't get insurance to set aside an emergency fund to save up money for future needs.

But even if a person makes an educated decision and adopts a dog or cat from a shelter, economic circumstances can change.

In those situations, it might be tempting to skimp on veterinary care or vaccinations. Buchwald said, however, that there are programs across the country to help people with their pets. She said to contact local shelters for referrals.

The time to consider giving up a pet is when it becomes such a financial burden or a time burden that the owner can't provide an adequate quality of life for the animal. But this is a hard decision to make without input, and Buchwald recommends asking friends and family what they think about the situation. "The worst thing to do is nothing at all," she said. "Don't keep it quiet. Call friends and relatives. Call the local shelter. Look for resources. Be proactive."

Moulton with the American Humane Association said to first look for another home. "Shelters are just stuffed with animals," she said. "If you can find a different solution, that would be great. Try whatever you can."

But if a person has to give up their pet, Buchwald also recommends planning and calling a shelter to see the best times to bring in a pet. Shelters do not have infinite room. Some aspects of animal relinquishment are seasonal. For example, cats have kittens in the months from April to about September — and so the chance of an adult cat finding an adoptive home among all those cute kittens is quite slim in those months.

Ultimately getting, keeping or losing a pet is about costs. Cost of money. Cost of time. And cost of love.

"Having a pet is, for me, the only way to live life," Buchwald said.

"It is incredibly exciting to come home with a new friend,"

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com TWITTER: www.twitter.com/degroote @degroote FACEBOOK: facebook.com/madegroote

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