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"Free" Puppy....Really..??

Dr. Streitof revised for website 2Dr. Streithof of TVV Decatur Emergency reports...

So you’ve been thinking of adopting a pet for awhile. You’ve thought it over, and you know you’re ready. It just so happens, your friend on Facebook has some adorable pictures posted of some puppies that absolutely need a home now! And they’re FREE!  Really? ... Look away from those cute pictures for a minute, because there may be one important aspect of pet ownership that you haven’t completely considered.


Many people don’t take the time to investigate the expenses involved in caring for a pet. They adopt a pet thinking they’ll just need a couple of vaccines and some food and then are surprised to find out some of the additional expenses involved.  The following is a list of expenses to consider before you adopt a new pet. Do a little research and find out how much these items will cost, so you can prepare by saving and budgeting to take care of your new friend.


Some of the initial expenses of puppy and kitten care include:

        • Adoption fees
        • Initial vaccine series and wellness care
        • Spaying/neutering
        • Training for puppies (do not skip this!)
        • Litter boxes, leashes, collars, crates and other accessories
        • Fencing for your yard if you are getting a puppy
        • My advice is to call the veterinary clinic that you chose to use and get an estimate for initial medical expenses. Browse the pet store to see how much accessories cost before you even adopt your new pet.

Expenses that you will likely need to budget for every month include:

        • Monthly heartworm and flea prevention
        • Yearly vaccines
        • Food (not a small expense if you get a large or giant breed dog!)
        • Disposable items such as litter and pee pads
        • Treats, toys, clothes and other accessories
        • Cost of boarding or pet sitters when you go out of town
        • Doggie daycare

Please note that cheaper is not always better with veterinary care, food and medications. Some of the less expensive vaccination options will not provide advice, continuing care or medical care if your pet gets sick. In addition, some inexpensive foods are lower in quality and may not be nutritionally optimal for your pet. Some over-the-counter flea medications may cause problems in cats and small dogs. The caveat “you get what you pay for” can be applied to pet care as well.

Finally, please be aware of unexpected expenses, such as visits to the emergency room for sudden illnesses or accidents or chronic illnesses that require regular veterinary care and medications.

As an emergency veterinarian, I can attest that many people are often surprised by emergency expenses and are often unprepared. The ER visit can be an emotional time, and adding a financial surprise adds to the stress. I urge you to be prepared for these moments financially, so you can concentrate on helping your friend regain health. Additionally your pet may be diagnosed with a chronic problem that may include ongoing treatments, medications and diagnostics. Emergency room visits may cost $200-$1500. If your pet needs emergency surgery, you may be looking at a $3000-$5000 estimate. If your pet has an ongoing illness, medications, special diets, and diagnostics may add $100-200 and up to your monthly pet budget.

OK, take a deep breath. I’m really not trying to scare you away from giving that adorable pet a home. (I know, you’ve fallen in love just looking at the pictures!) However, I urge you to do research into the realistic expenses involved in pet ownership. Once you know how much it will cost, I suggest some basic budgeting so your pet can fit financially into your life. Determine the amount of money you will likely spend on your pet per month ($100-200) and set it aside for 5-6 months. By doing that you will have saved up enough for initial expenses and be used to spending that money every month on your pet. Another option is to look into various pet insurance programs. These programs will likely help in emergency situations as well. Consider setting aside $1000 for a pet emergency fund. Another solution for financing emergency situations is Care Credit, which is a credit line you can apply for to help pay for medical and veterinary expenses.

Having a realistic understanding of the expenses involved in pet ownership and planning for them will eliminate potentially unpleasant surprises and allow you to enjoy your new pet that much more!

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