One Year of Pet Expenses

dog sleeping

Thank you for your patience with me, readers of this blog. In part because of my new job, in part because of my 40th birthday, in part because of my family from Chile visiting, I have taken a sabbatical of sorts this summer, and have not been posting as often. I hope to get back to a more regular writing schedule soon. I appreciate you reading!

Just about one year ago, on August 6th, 2018, we brought Lucy the dog home from the Amish farm.

Lucy is our labradoodle who we bought from an Amish breeder at a farm just an hour away from our house in Davidson, North Carolina.

I resisted getting a dog for years, and with good reason: a dog is a ton of work. Taking care of Lucy has felt like taking care of another child, in a lot of ways. We had to potty train her (housebreak her), sleep train her (crate train her), set up playdates (dog park outings), and find babysitters when we go out of town (pet sitters).

There has been no small amount of expense related to my furry white daughter, as Mr. ThreeYear calls her (as opposed to my hairless Latino sons, I suppose?).

And although I am very firm in my decision that she is the last family pet that we shall have (stating it on the internet makes it official), she has brought a lot of joy to our lives.

In this post, I’m going to outline allll the costs involved in taking care of Lucy for the last year. I will include all the direct costs, like vet visits, food, and toys. I won’t include all the indirect costs, like the cost of replacing my favorite pen that she chewed up, or replacing my sister-in-law’s slippers, etc. We’ll just call those bonus expenses.

I actually have no idea what the total is going to be, so this should be fun (and make me all the more certain that she is our last family pet).

Adoption Expenses

Rehoming Fee: $450

Lucy is a first generation Labradoodle, meaning she is the product of a lab mom and poodle dad. She looks a lot like a Labrador Retriever with curly hair. For this reason, she cost a little bit less than a second or third generation Labradoodle with a more-Poodle like face. But, she’s been super healthy so we’re happy with our choice.

I’ve actually never bought a dog before; she is the first. Normally we rescue a dog at the Humane Society. But, for some reason, we decided to purchase a specific breed. I think Mr. ThreeYear wanted to ensure the dog would be good with the boys.

Food & water bowls, toys, treats, and leash #1: $30.58.

I went to Dollar General on the day we were bringing her home (August 8th), and stocked up on some basics. Dollar General had great deals on pet supplies, but I made the mistake of buying a small retractable leash, which she quickly ate through.

Pet food, Leash #2, more toys, a bone: $56.58

Carpet Fresh Carpet Powder, Amazon: $10.85

I think this expense speaks for itself.

Lucy the dog
Lucy as a sweet little puppy.

Lakecross Vet: $71.28.

One of the things I learned this year is that it’s important to price-compare. When we first brought Lucy home, I called all the local vets and priced out spays. Most vets quoted $450+ for a spay, plus the cost of her vaccinations.

Luckily, a friend came to visit and suggested we call the ASPCA, and see if they had low-cost operations. Low and behold, our local “Stand for Animals” clinic had a new puppy package where Lucy could get all her vaccinations plus a spay for $150, saving us hundreds of dollars.

Chew toys, bones, and another heavy-duty leash: $61.40

Total spent in Month 1: $680.69

Okay, so far, we spent a lot in Lucy’s first month with us. But a lot of that was the rehoming fee. How’d we fare in the next phase, Settling In?

Settling In

During months 2-4 of having Lucy, we continued to spend a fair amount on our furry daughter.

In September, October, and November, we spent roughly $176.92 on food. We decided to buy her really good quality food (Call of the Wild) from a local pet store. Each bag, which lasts approximately a month, costs about $50, tax included, which is a little more expensive than if I bought it online. But you get the 10th bag of food for free and also earn rewards points (once you spend $500 in the store you get $60 back, etc.) so with those combined discounts, I decided to shop locally.

We spent $255 on Lucy’s vet costs. We bought a New Puppy Package from our local “Stand for Animals” clinic at $150, plus an extra $20 for extra anesthesia because she’s a large dog. We spent $75 on heartworm meds.

I enrolled in a Puppy Obedience Class at Petco for $127.57. In hindsight, I’m really glad I did, because she’s much better behaved and I am a better owner now that we’ve both been trained. We could actually enroll in another class because we’ve both forgotten a lot from the class.

training the dog
Me training Lucy after one of our classes.

We spent $8.52 on water bowls and $58.38 on treats and rawhide bones (which I’ve now stopped giving her in favor of real, uncooked bones I buy at the supermarket).

We bought a used crate for our house for $40.

We bought a new leash that attaches around her middle for $32.16. That is the best leash we bought, because when we walk her, it moves her legs when we tug the leash, so there’s no pulling.

We spent $60 on a weekend of pet-setting.

And we bought a crate for the beach house, for $87.19 at Petco. While the crate has served us well, because it’s lived at the beach, I hated to spend that much when I knew we could get a used crate for so much less.

Total for months 2-4: $1,144.16

Frisky Phase

By the time December rolled around, Lucy was in high puppy form. She required twice-daily walks, chewed everything she could find, dug, and otherwise made us regret getting her, except when she curled up on our feet at night or snuck into the bedroom in the morning and licked Mr. ThreeYear good morning, or when Little ThreeYear wrapped his arms around her and gave her kisses.

This was definitely the height of us threatening to take her back to the Amish farm, however.

dog digging
What did you dig up now, Lucy?!

I think she must have eaten about 20 socks during this period (which she always threw back up afterwards-fun).

But how much did it cost?

Well, things definitely calmed down cost-wise, even if they weren’t calming down with our dog.

We spent a total of $131.37 on food during December through February.

We spent $51.80 on treats and toys. I’m not exactly sure what treats and toys we bought, but we learned early on that some toys last a day or two, while the more expensive ones last indefinitely.

During Christmas, my dad paid for us to board her, which cost $280.

In total, not including the boarding, we spent $183.17 during her Frisky Phase.


Lucy got spayed in February, and after that, she calmed down considerably. It took a little while, but gradually, she stopped chewing everything. Once we wised up and bought a shock collar, she stopped eating our socks and jumping on our cabinets and eating everything, which was a very annoying habit. The thing about the shock collar is that everyone in the family tested it on ourselves before we put it on Lucy. We only had to shock her twice before we could just push the vibration button or push the warning button (which beeps) and she’d stop the bad behavior. But it worked really well and maybe saved her life, because of all those non-food items she was eating (when she was spayed, they found a quarter, a paperclip, and a rubber band she’s swallowed).

Lucy the dog watching tv
Lucy likes to watch video games and tennis matches.

This period, which we’re still in, went from March through the end of this month, July. How’d we fare?

In the last five months, we spent $153.88 on food.

The next bag of food we get is free.

We spent $55 on her collar, a nail trim, and some meds for post-surgery.

We spent $26.39 on hearworm meds.

We spent $41.56 on treats, including her birthday treats (she turned 1 on May 31st).

Finally, we spent $250 to board her last week when we went to the beach. We try to avoid boarding her whenever possible, but last week we had my sisters-in-law visiting and lots of other family at the beach as well, so we thought it would be too crazy to have her.

That’s a total of $526.83 for the last five months.

That means that in the last year, we’ve spent a grand total of…

$2534.85 on our dog Lucy in Year 1 of her life.

Lucy the dog Fourth of July Parade First Year Pet Expenses
Lucy had a great time at the Fourth of July parade, with everyone squirting water at each other.

Going forward, I expect that the largest costs we’ll incur are food and yearly vet checkups. Our plan is to keep her as healthy as possible through good food and exercise so she won’t need to go to the vet so often.

You can spend lots of money on treats and toys, but those are generally bad for your dog. I think the best course of action is to get one or two high-quality toys, like a Kong, and buy uncooked bones from the grocery store or inexpensive crunchy dog treats and stick with that.

I am glad we brought Lucy home, because we all love her, and she’s turned into a loyal and sweet dog who follows us around all the time and makes us laugh.

What do you think about pets? How do your pet expenses compare to ours?

Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

12 thoughts on “One Year of Pet Expenses”

  1. This hits close to home today! My nearly 14 year old rat terrier has been very sick lately and is likely going to make the journey over the rainbow bridge soon. I did the math the other day on how much I have spent on vet visits, prescription food, and other things to keep him alive since his diagnosis in May 2018 and was slightly taken aback. I adopted him at 5 months, and he was in perfect health for most of his life. Aside from the set-up costs that you described (toys, crate, leashes, adoption fees) and annual vet visits, vaccines, and occasional teeth cleanings, the only other expense was food. Since he’s so small, a $30 bag of high quality food lasted a few months.
    In May ’18, after several months of intermittent vomiting, diarrhea, and anemia, he was diagnosed with a stromal tumor in his cecum (intestines). He wasn’t a good candidate for surgery, so I decided to just give him a kick-ass summer and keep him comfortable. He has outlived the vet’s prognosis by more than a year so far (!!!) but I think we’re winding down now. All together, I have spent over $5000 on him in the past 15 months. I am beyond grateful to have had the extra time with him, and I am fortunate to have the resources to afford the extra cost. That said, I don’t know if I can do this again. Aside from the heartbreak of watching your buddy decline, the expenses are outrageous. I can’t imagine if he’d had health issues earlier in his life. Thanks for this post. It’s so, so important that people consider the expenses associated with adopting pets into our family.

    1. Awww. Poor little guy. That’s a lot of money for his end of life, but I’ve heard similar stories from a lot of people. I know it’s got to be hard to watch him decline. I think you don’t realize how much you’re spending until you start to add it up. I’m also really glad that we found a low-cost vet, or I’m thinking our first year total would have been closer to $5000. Hope the rest of his summer is good! You’re a good mom.

  2. i just had to go back and re-read my post on dog expenses. i calculated ongoing costs for a medium 50ish pound dog to be around 800 bucks a year. we did have a 3 grand surgery for one dog but that was uncommon. we bought a fold up crate made by kong which is really handy and folds flat to fit in the trunk of our car. i’m glad you got that e-collar. you can train her to come back to you with that too if you haven’t already. we just saw the whole extended family this past weekend at a funeral and some of the nieces wanted a boxer dog like ours. i told them they had better be ready to train one as they don’t just come as calm as ours is right out of the box.
    here’s what i wrote about dog costs:

    1. Great read, Freddy. All your dogs are/were beautiful. That’s funny about the 50-ft leash. I’ve seen a couple of dogs at the beach on those. I agree with you about training–the more we train her the happier we all are with the results. It’s good to hear what a non-puppy costs for a year. Right now I’m budgeting about $75/month so I’m not far off your total.

  3. Lucy is so cute! Our dog is older and in good health, so expenses have been pretty low (other than that time he charged a buck and got gored), but we’re starting to think about getting a second dog to overlap their time a bit and I know expenses similar to yours are just around the corner! Good to focus on all the non-tangible benefits for the kids, right?! Take care, Laurie!

    1. Thanks Carol! Oh no!!! Gored!? Poor thing! Okay, get ready for the puppy years! Whew–I’m glad last year is behind me because it is so much work! But yes they are so much fun and add so much to the family.

  4. I don’t have a pet, but I do have two kids and hobbies such as dance which are investments on an ongoing basis. There is a lot on the + side of the column to balance out the expenses, not just the psychic compensation of loving your pet, but I have seen a lot networking happening among dog owners, which is a professional benefit. I also know an entrepreneur who took her love for pets (she’s a dog owner too) and learned all about the pet tech space, started and sold one company, and now advises a few others. So I know you didn’t buy a dog for the income potential, but happily it’s not all expenses either.

    1. That’s a really unique way of looking at it! Sort of the social capital your pet brings you. I will say that Lucy has brought my boys a lot of social capital at the bus stop. And I’ve met some really cool people at the dog park that I never would have met without her. What kind of dance do you do?

  5. I loved this! I had no idea of the first time costs with a new dog until we bought our Poodle 2 years ago. It does settle down after the first year a good bit. One thing I would suggest is try using when you need to board her. We’ve used it a bunch when we travel. You find people locally that are willing to watch your dog so they get a better home experience, and in my case it’s been much cheaper! Something to consider. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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