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The true cost of owning a dog

Ever wondered how much a dog will cost you? We look at the true costs of owning a dog | ClearScore

09 March 2017Hannah Salih 4 min read

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We’ve done some digging to find out a bit more about the facts and figures of owning a dog.

It’s no secret that we’re a nation of dog lovers. In fact, there are 8.5 million pet dogs in the UK, which works out at around 25% of homes with a furry friend under their roof.

But, incredibly, the majority of people under-estimate how much they’ll spend on a dog over its lifetime.

Pets are not cheap. While you may be able to purchase a pet for a small amount (unless you get it from a specialist breeder), or even get one for free, the cost of raising a healthy pet can be higher than you would think.

It’s a bit like the printer and printer ink sale model, or the razor and razor blade sale model, or the vacuum and vacuum bag model. The cost of the main product (printer/razor/vacuum) is surprisingly cheap. But to keep it working well, you need to buy expensive refills (printer ink/razor blades/vacuum bags).

Similarly, a pet bought for a small price can feel like a bargain – but healthy food, accessories, veterinary care, pet insurance, and pet-sitters are expensive. And the expenses continue for years.

If you are considering a furry addition to the family, make sure you consider and budget for the potential costs involved.

When Totally Money asked about expectations of the average cost of a dog over its lifetime, 1 in 4 people believed it would cost no more than £1000. So you might be pretty surprised to hear that, depending on the size and breed, a dog could actually cost you around £19,000 in total.

That’s a pretty significant difference. So what are the costs you should be bearing in mind?

The upfront costs

The majority of spending on a pet will occur over the course of its lifetime, but the upfront costs of getting a dog can also add up. Here are the basic costs you may initially encounter:

  • The price of your pet. This tends to vary depending on the breed and whether you buy from a breeder or you adopt. Certain sought-after breeds can cost in excess of £1000. If you adopt an older dog, you might be able to save on many of these upfront costs.
  • Microchipping. It’s now compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped to help reunite stray and stolen dogs with their owners. This tends to cost around £10, but charities sometimes run events offering it at reduced prices.
  • Neutering. This is not obligatory but if you aren’t looking to breed, it can make your dog easier to look after and it will save you money caring for a pregnant pup. There’s more advice if you’re considering this here.
  • First vaccinations. If you’re buying a puppy then it’s advised by vets to vaccinate them to help them stay healthy. The initial course of vaccines costs on average £50 - £80.
  • Accessories e.g. leads, toys, a collar, dog bed.

The ongoing costs

As the saying goes, a dog is for life, so there are a number of costs that you’ll be paying throughout their lifetime. Here are some of the ongoing costs to bear in mind:

  • Food. Dogs are hungry creatures. Food for your pet could cost between £300 - £450 per year.
  • Pet Insurance. It can seem expensive at an average of £30 per month, but should your dog get sick, then insurance could save you a lot of money in vet bills. There’s lots more information about this from the Money Advice Service.
  • Booster vaccinations. Just like in people, vaccinations will need to be topped-up to keep your dog protected. Some need annual boosters and others are every few years. These tend to cost between £40 - £60 each. Many insurance policies require you to stay on top of vaccines.
  • Health costs. Dogs need regular flea treatment and de-worming, for example.
  • Grooming. If you want your pup to look and feel good, then this might be an important cost for you.
  • Training classes. If you don’t fancy yourself as much of a dog-whisperer, then you may wish to pay for behavioural lessons to help house train your dog, or even to teach it a trick or two.
  • Kennel costs. If you ever want to go away without your dog in tow, then you may have to pay for a kennel or a dog sitter. For this you’re looking at costs of around £10 - £20 per night depending on location and type of dog.

Of course, it’s not just about the money. You should also consider whether you have the time and energy to keep up with your four-legged friends: there’s going to be a lot of walking. Dogs Trust has lots of advice on buying a dog.

And if you’re ever tempted to enter your dog into a competition like Crufts that’s a whole new level of costs to consider.

According to the PDSA, you should expect a dog to cost you at least £5,000  but, depending on the breed of the dog, their cost could be a minimum of £12,200  over their whole lifetime: 

  • Small dog breeds: At least £5,000 - £9,600
  • Medium dog breeds: At least £6,600 - £10,400
  • Large dog breeds: At least £5,400 - £12,200

They also estimate that it will cost an owner at least £11,100 to care for their cat over their whole lifetime.


Totally Money - estimated and actual lifetime cost figures.

pets4homes - estimated food cost figures.

Bought by many - average pet insurance figures.

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Written by Hannah Salih

Content Creator

Hannah is currently studying for a Master's in Comparative Cultural Analysis. She knows all about personal finance, but as a student, she's an expert in money saving tips and tricks.