October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month – a national pet holiday that reminds us that pet overpopulation is a persistent problem that leaves many dogs in need of a loving home. Adoption is the first step in caring for a pet; however the care that a dog needs exceeds adoption and continues throughout its life. The Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society (DAVMS) offers suggestions to potential dog owners for determining if it’s the right time to bring a dog into your home.
The cost of dog ownership goes beyond adoption fees, and can become expensive throughout its lifespan. There are expected costs like food and toys, but other expenses are less anticipated, such as annual wellness exams and supplemental veterinary care if a pet becomes sick or injured. If a pet does become sick or develops special needs – such as needing a prescribed diet or medication – the cost can increase to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
One way to be prepared for unexpected costs is to open a savings account that is exclusively for your pet’s needs.
"None of us want to think about our beloved pets becoming sick or injured. However, most pets are going to need emergency veterinary medical care at some point in their lives," said Dr. Erin Kane, DVM. "Depending on the situation, this care can be quite expensive and, unfortunately, the stress of having a sick pet can be worsened by the worry of not being able to afford the necessary diagnostic testing and treatments. Thus, it's best to prepare a pet emergency fund or find a pet insurance carrier that will help cover potential costs"
Just like you would want to have savings in case something happened to your car or home, pet owners should have a safety net in case something happens to their four-legged friend. Pet owners can also purchase pet insurance, which can cover some costs of veterinary care depending on the plan.
While owners should prepare for unforeseen veterinary expenses, there are other costs that owners can expect to have. Pet owners should have their pet spayed or neutered if not done prior to adoption. Pet overpopulation is a serious problem – the American Humane Association estimates that 8 million pets are taken into shelters each year – and can be reduced if more pets are spayed or neutered.
Additionally, dogs need to be vaccinated for parvovirus and rabies. Rabies vaccinations can be good for one to three years, but owners should be mindful of keeping vaccinations up-to-date in order to keep pets safe from unwanted deadly diseases. Some areas mandate rabies vaccinations, so ask your veterinarian about your area.
Finally, potential dog owners should educate themselves on different breeds. Some breeds have common health issues and thus require more care. For example, dogs with wrinkles, such as Pugs or Bulldogs, can get skin infections if they are not cleaned properly or often enough. Their short snouts also cause breathing problems, which can lead to more veterinary visits and high medical bills. Larger dogs like Great Danes or Boxers are more prone to cancer and joint problems. It’s important for potential dog owners looking for specific breeds or mixes to do some research to be sure the breed is a good fit.
While adopting is a great way to add a new member to your family, and helps an animal in need of a good, loving home, it’s important to make sure you’ve considered the financial implications of providing for a pet. Hopefully your furry friend will be with you for many years; with that long, happy life comes a responsibility to be prepared for the necessary expenses of pet ownership.