Taking the Bite Out of Pet Care Costs

Jun 22, 2016

MoneyLife100 Spending on pets hit an all-time high in 2015, topping $60 billion, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). The highest costs were for food, veterinarian services, and supplies and medicine. How can you take good care of your furry friend without breaking the bank? The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) offers these tips.

The Breakdown

How much does pet ownership cost? According to the ASPCA, the costs for a dog, which includes food, medical care, and licenses, can range from about $600 to almost $900 per year, depending on the animal’s size. Cats cost nearly $700 a year. (Figures include estimated yearly health insurance premiums of $225 for dogs and $175 for cats.) Costs for small mammals and birds can be high too, averaging $300 and $200, respectively. 

Putting Medical Costs in Perspective

Veterinary care bills were more than $15 billion in 2015, according to the APPA, and if you’ve ever had a pet with a serious illness, you know the costs add up quickly. Pet medical insurance has become increasingly popular, but many people question whether or not it is worth the price. An alternative would be to self-fund future expenses by setting aside money each month in a pet medical nest egg. Average annual vet bills generally range between $500 and $1,000, so monthly savings could help pay off some of those expenses in addition to unexpected surgeries or medications. If you decide to buy insurance, read the policy carefully to determine precisely what it covers, the deductibles and co-payments, the limitations on payouts, and if there are any special service fees. Also, while it’s likely the policy will not cover a pre-existing condition, find out whether certain procedures—or illnesses common to some breeds—are excluded. Some breeds are more likely to succumb to certain illnesses or injuries. For that reason, it’s a good idea to do some homework in advance to learn about the breed that interests you, and talk to a vet about the medical costs you should expect. In addition, be aware that premiums may rise as your pet gets older or as vet care rates in your area go up. With all this in mind, add up your vet bills for the past year. Compare them to the insurance premiums you would have to pay, and decide whether or not the insurance would be worth the cost. 

Save Money Up Front with a Shelter Pet

One easy way to save money right off the bat is by adopting a pet from a reputable local shelter or rescue organization rather than buying a purebred from a breeder or pet shop. The cost of buying a purebred can range into the thousands of dollars, while shelter adoption fees—which usually include spaying or neutering and some initial vaccinations—typically add up to no more than a couple hundred dollars at most. By adopting a shelter pet, you can do some good and save money at the same time. 

Talk to Your CPA

Keeping a rein on pet-related costs is one of many steps to hold down your household expenses. If you want advice on any of your family’s financial concerns, be sure to consult your local CPA. He or she can offer smart advice on saving your money. To find a CPA in Pennsylvania by location or area of expertise, ask your family or friends for recommendations or use PICPA's CPA Locator

Original publication date: Sept. 22, 2013

The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a premiere statewide association of more than 22,000 members working in public accounting, industry, government, and education. Founded in 1897, the PICPA is the second-oldest state CPA organization in the United States.

Money & Life Tips are a joint effort of the AICPA and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.