Regina – “She’s a Velcro dog. She follows me everywhere,” Chrystene Ells said of her 9-year-old dog and best friend, ‘Moxie’.
The bond between owner and pet begins immediately. Unfortunately, the bond between a pet and an owner’s bank account begins right away too. We asked experts how much Saskatchewan residents are really paying for their pets.
“There are certain costs in the beginning,” Dr. Lesley Sawa with the Animal Clinic of Regina said.
House pets need three sets of vaccinations right away to protect against diseases like rabies or parvo-virus. That comes at a cost of $100 per vaccination.
“From there, they need to be spayed or neutered, and depending on the size of the pet it can vary,” Dr. Sawa said.
The average procedure will cost about $300.
You’ll also probably want to make your pet comfortable, and for that you’ll need accessories: a kennel, food dishes, toys, leashes, collars, beds etc.
Jason Honeysett, the pet division manager for Cowtown, said there’s quite a range of set-up costs.
“I would say if you budgeted, for a mid-sized dog, around $200-$500 depending on how much you want to spend,” he said.
After that, pets start to become less expensive and more fun. To keep playtime at a premium, you will need to visit the vet once a year for a check-up. That’s pegged at about $100 per year, but doesn’t include oral check-ups.
“They get tartar build-up or some cats get legions on their teeth, so they need to have their teeth cleaned. A cleaning can run anywhere, depending on how extensive it is, from $500 if it’s easy to $1200 or $1300 if it’s very, very extensive,” Dr. Sawa said.
There are things you can do to keep your pet costs down, like feeding your animal a high quality food.
You can feed your pet for anywhere between $1.50 and $5.00 per day. That pegs feeding the average pet at about $90 per month.
It all comes down to three main ingredients: protein, vitamin-mineral packs, and coat conditioners. The protein and vitamins keep your pet strong and build muscle, and the higher quality the coat conditioner, the less your pet will shed.
“You’re getting better meat proteins. You’re getting better vitamins and minerals, better coat conditioners which in turn raises the price on it. But, when you do that, you end up feeding less. Your (pet’s) coat is better and there’s less clean-up in the backyard,” Honeysett said.
Food isn’t the only thing your pet will chew through. Toys are an important part of an animal’s development. Without them, they can fall into bad habits like chewing or scratching.
“Toys are an interactive thing. It keeps their mind busy. They’re just like kids. If you keep them busy, they’re less likely to become destructive or annoying,” Honeysett said. He estimates the average pet toy cost at about $30 per month.
“Giving them grooming and looking after their skin so they don’t get skin infections is very important,” Dr. Sawa said.
Brittney Maskewich, Cat Grooming Manager at Zoom Zoom Groom, says grooming is her favourite thing to do.
She gets pleasure out of making pets look and feel their best. She’s saved multiple cats from having to be shaved to the skin because of painful fur mats.
“They almost get very cement like, very thick. They actually will break open the skin of cats and will start slowly killing them. They become septic. I see a lot of cats with mats that underneath the mat is red and sore, and there’s infection already starting,” Maskewich said.
It’s also important to make sure paws are well taken care of.
“I have seen a lot of ingrown nails. That’s when the nail grows around and into the pad,” she said.
Experts recommend nail trimming and grooming every six to 12 weeks depending on your pet’s coat.
“I think if you can at least put away between $30-$40 dollars a month to help maintain the health of your pet, that’s extraordinary,” Maskewich concludes.
Unexpected Health Costs
Springing for proper grooming and food is something the experts say maintains your pet’s overall health, and will hopefully save you money in the long-run.
“By looking after your pet in a proactive way, in a wellness way, a preemptive way, you can help keep some of the costs down,” Dr. Sawa said.
But sometimes you can do everything right and still, the unexpected happens.
“My husband was playing fetch with her, and she, I think, stepped in a hole or something he said and twisted her leg. She immediately yelped and sat down and for her to not complete a fetch is huge. He knew something was wrong. She had her back leg pulled up tight and was not using it at all. He carried her home,” Ells recalls.
Moxie’s emergency vet visit revealed the dog had wrecked a joint in her knee. The surgery to fix it was $2000.
“It was like getting punched in the gut. I’m a contract artist. I don’t have a regular job, so $2000 seemed like an awful lot. We looked at our finances and said, if we don’t do it she’s going to be a three-legged dog,” Ells said.
“That’s a big bill all of a sudden, and very difficult for some people to come up with. But, pet insurance would cover that,” Dr. Sawa said.
In her opinion, pet insurance isn’t held by enough pet owners. For as little as $25 per month, it can cover things like unexpected surgery or even annual vet or dental check-ups.
Dr. Sawa said most owners faced with bills in the thousands are forced to pull out the credit card, get a loan, or ask for money from family and friends. If pet insurance isn’t for you, she recommends putting a little money aside every month just in case. If your faced with high bills and you aren’t ready, you can be forced to make heart-breaking decisions.
“We’ll offer the gold standard at first, the best thing we can do. Maybe they say we can’t afford that. Well, then we can this,” Dr. Sawa explains. “We try to tailor it to their ability to pay for it, and sometimes they can’t. That’s a very, very difficult situation. For some people that might mean they have to euthanize their pet.”
It all comes down to responsible pet ownership. The worst may seem impossible, but there are going to be big expenses along the way.
So, why do we do it? Why do we come up with thousands of dollars when our furry friend is in need?
“She recovered really quickly, and now she can do all the stuff she used to be able to do,” Ells said. “She was only six when we had the surgery, and she’s almost 10 now. It’s given her four years, hopefully more, of activity and getting to have a good life.”