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Published: Jan 03, 2024 11 min read

Whether you're adopting an animal from your local shelter or buying one from a breeder, you'll need to factor a number of new costs into your budget. Aside from basics like pet food, toys and medical care, here are the expenses experts say are most often overlooked in the excitement of picking out a new furry friend.

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1. Transporting the new pet home

In some cases, the extra costs can start rolling in before you bring Fido home. If you don't live near the breeder, for example, you'll need to arrange for transportation, says American Kennel Club executive secretary Gina DiNardo.

If you plan to fly out and bring the pup back with you, you'll need to invest in a crate approved by the International Air Transport Association if the puppy will be traveling in the cargo hold, or a carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you if you plan to bring it on board. Plus you'll need to pay the airline's fee, which could be a couple hundred dollars on top of your ticket.

Alternatively, many reputable breeders will ship puppies — for a cost of up to several hundred dollars.

2. Preventive veterinary care

Reputable breeders and many shelters will give pets in their care a round or two of vaccinations as well as parasite treatments, but be sure to ask whether this medical care is included. Young animals may also need additional treatments once you get them home.

"Get a good understanding as to whether a kitten has had all of her shots and comes with a health certificate that you can provide to your veterinarian," says Jodell Raymond, director of marketing and communications for the Cat Fanciers Association. "That document will help you to understand what shots and care will be needed for short-term and long-term care." (It's equally good advice if you're buying a puppy, of course.)

CareCredit offers a helpful rundown of the average annual cost of veterinary services and procedures.

  • Routine vet exams: $25 and $186 for puppies in the first year of life, and about half that for each subsequent checkup
  • Vaccines: $20 to $60 a year
  • Microchipping: $20 to $60
  • Heartworm, flea and tick prevention: up to several hundred dollars, depending on the brand and the size of your pet
  • Spay or neuter surgery: $160 to $220

Pet dental care is often overlooked but these services are essential for your furry friend's long-term health. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for a dental exam and cleaning, depending on your location, the pet's age and size and whether anesthesia is necessary.

The American Pet Products Association's annual survey on the costs of pet ownership finds that dog owners spend an average of $242 a year on routine vet care and $458 on surgical vet visits; cat owners pay an average of $178 and $201, respectively. You can cover these vet bills out-of-pocket or purchase a wellness plan from a pet health insurance provider.

3. Rental pet deposit and state licensing requirements

Landlords will likely charge a pet security deposit to cover any pet-related damages if a renter brings a four-legged family member to the property. The amount the landlord will charge depends on state laws — some states only allow landlords to charge up to one month's rent — the landlord's goodwill and the size of the pet.

Homeowners, on the other hand, might have to disclose the presence of a new pet to their homeowners' insurance provider and prepare for a premium increase.

Most states also require that pet owners license their companions so that they are easy to identify and return if they get lost. Annual licenses are issued for around $10 to $50, depending on whether the animal is fixed or not.

4. Training

Pet owners should invest in training classes with a professional, especially if they own a high-energy, clever or stubborn breed. You will feel more confident handling your dog and your pet will be better equipped to navigate the human world. The average cost of these training sessions is typically between $40 and $250.

Of course, you can save money by training your dog on your own, but you'll have to invest a lot of time and effort to be successful. Should you choose to go with self-directed training, follow expert training advice from trusted organizations like the American Kennel Club.

You can also find online courses and tutorials from professional trainers who specialize in training methods vetted by veterinary behaviorists.

5. Toys, bedding and household items

Your pet will likely need a designated sleeping area in the form of a bed or crate. For dogs, chew toys and puzzle feeders will go a long way in keeping them entertained, and cats can benefit from cat trees, scratchers and catnip.

Other furnishings that may prove necessary are baby gates to keep your dog away from certain rooms and indoor enclosures or barriers if you need your cat to stay indoors at all times.

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6. Grooming needs

New pet owners might forget to budget for a groomer when they bring their new pet home. Medium- and long-haired dogs require regular hair cutting, de-shedding and detangling to avoid matting. And that's in addition to the basic grooming service that every dog needs: nail clipping, ear cleanings and, in some cases, anal gland expression.

At Petco, a national pet care retailer, these services start at $38 for small dogs like Chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers and at $66 for extra large breeds like Bernese Mountain Dogs and Great Danes.

7. Exercise needs and dog sitting

People can underestimate the need for, and the cost of, services like daycare and boarding, says Carolyn Evans, executive director of My Furry Valentine, an annual adoption event in Cincinnati. "I think people just don’t think about, 'I’m going away for the weekend,'" she says. If a neighbor or relative can't take care of your pet when you're away, you'll need to pay for a pet sitter or boarding facility.

Evans adds that people sometimes underestimate the amount of exercise certain dog breeds need, so be prepared to shell out for a midday dog walk or doggie daycare. Costs vary by market; while it's easier to find dog walkers and doggie daycare facilities in big cities, you'll also pay more.

Wag — a popular app for dog care services — reports that dog walking services cost an average of $13 to $37, depending on the duration of the walk. Overnight stays, on the other hand, average between $39 to $59 for one dog. (On the upside, chances are it's less than reupholstering the sofa if your pet starts tearing apart the cushions out of boredom.)

8. Chronic or breed-specific health issues

Nobody wants to think about this, especially when you're bringing home a tiny, adorable fluff ball, but some pets are more susceptible to health problems than others, especially as they age. "Certain dogs are prone to certain injuries or breeding problems or hip dysplasia," Evans points out.

While you can obviously reduce the risk by doing your research and finding a reputable breeder — or picking a shelter pet that isn't of a breed known for health issues — there's no guarantee. If you have your heart set on a purebred, educate yourself about its potential health problems and the kind of veterinary care it may require down the line.

Nevertheless, dogs with unknown lineage can still develop hereditary or congenital conditions. Hip dysplasia is common in large dogs, so if you adopt a big pooch at the shelter, know that there's a higher chance of it developing this condition and budget for it, if possible.

Pet insurance, which can cost a couple hundred dollars a year, can help cover these unexpected costs, but be sure to read the fine print. Some policies have age caps, waiting periods and exclusions for breed-specific ailments. You could be paying into a policy for a year and your pet won't be covered if it develops hip dysplasia or a joint problem within six months to a year.

Though pricey ($60 to $200), a DNA test is a great tool to prepare for future medical expenses. These tests can identify your pet's lineage and pinpoint what issues are most likely to develop. While there are plenty of DNA test kits on the market, the most comprehensive one is Embark, the official dog DNA test of the Westminster Kennel Club.

9. Your pet's expected lifespan

Pet parents tend to underestimate the lifespan of cats, Raymond says — especially indoor cats, which can make it to 14 or 15 years old or more. Likewise, many dogs, especially smaller breeds, live well into their teens. So whether you buy or adopt an animal, go into pet ownership understanding that, if you're lucky, the commitment you're making could last a good long time.

To learn more about pet ownership and pet care, check out the following:

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Summary of Money's guide to the costs of owning a pet

In addition to adoption fees and the cost of the initial vet visit, it's essential to budget for the following pet ownership expenses:

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