The Surprising Costs of Pet Ownership

man taking a selfie with his dog
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Owning a pet can be expensive. According to a survey of 1,000 pet owners by LendEDU, 20% of respondents have found themselves in debt due to pet costs averaging $1,566.96. Sure, everyone knows that a pet needs the basics, such as food, water and a place to sleep — but what about other expenses that arise? For example, according to the survey, 45% of pet owners spend as much or more on their pet’s healthcare than their own.

To find out what kind of unexpected costs pet owners may encounter, GOBankingRates interviewed pet lovers and experts. Whether you’re planning to become a first-time pet owner or you’re getting an additional pet, here’s the insight you need to prevent or deal with these potential surprise costs.

Initial Costs

When you’re considering adopting a new pet, you’re likely dreaming of the relationship you’ll have  — not the total cost of everything you’ll need to get started. According to Daniel Caughill, co-founder of The Dog Tale, many soon-to-be pet owners don’t take into account the total upfront costs of buying or adopting a brand new puppy, “On day one, you’ll need a dog bed, potty training supplies, a crate, food, toys, a leash and harness and grooming gear. All of that equipment will cost you somewhere between $300 to $500.”

Dental Care

While regular dentist checkups are probably something you’ve come to expect for yourself, dental care for your pet may be a different story. Pets need preventative dental care, such as cleanings, and they also have dental emergencies. Plus, some pets may have more dental needs than others.

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Sam Zelinka, pet owner, who tracked every penny he spent on his retired racing greyhound in 2020 knows firsthand how much pet dental costs can add up. “Our most surprising cost was dental work ($360). Studies have shown that 39% of greyhounds have bad teeth and this is much higher than any other dog breed.”

Damage to Your Personal Belongings

It’s difficult to put a price tag on what damage to your personal belongings might cost, but it likely won’t be cheap. Carol Tompkins, pet owner and business development consultant at AccountsPortal knows these costs all too well. “I had to buy new pairs of shoes and socks, as well as replace my living room blinds because of my dog’s destructive behavior.”

And in Tompkins’ case, one unexpected expense led to another. “I then realized I needed to have him trained so that he can stop being destructive, which was another huge cost I had not budgeted for.”

Pet Emergencies

Pet emergencies are another unexpected cost you could encounter, and the bill could quickly reach thousands of dollars. Just like you should have an emergency fund for yourself, you should consider having an emergency fund for your pet, too.

Jake Thomas, the owner of, a blog about golden retrievers, shared his own pet emergency story: “Last summer at the beach, our dog accidentally breathed in water and it got in his lungs. He got aspiration pneumonia and had to spend the night in the animal hospital in an oxygen tank. It cost $2200 and it was totally unexpected!”

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Special Diet Needs

Stephanie Mantilla, an enrichment specialist and positive reinforcement-based animal trainer at Curiosity Trained, cautions of the unexpected costs related to a pet with food allergies.

“Often, food allergies develop over time; so while your pet was fine eating a food before, it could develop a protein allergy,” said Mantilla.” This will cause you to have to get food with a different type of protein. Sometimes these foods are much more expensive due to the exotic protein like lamb, rabbit, or even kangaroo.”

It’s Smart To Plan Ahead for Unexpected Pet Costs

Having a plan in place can make dealing with unexpected pet costs easier. Consider creating an emergency fund for your pet and contributing to it each month. You could also look into pet health insurance, especially if your pet is prone to health issues. Forbes Advisor’s analysis reveals that the typical monthly cost of pet insurance for dogs is $44, while the average monthly price for cats is $30.

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