How much does a dog cost? The real price of dog ownership

Reviewed by our experts. More info
Cindy Feng

It’s no secret how much we adore our four-legged friends, and we know the relationship between a pup and their parent is a deeply special bond.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, we’re right behind you. But we also know that owning a dog is not just about love and it’s not for everyone.

Welcoming a dog into your home is a lifetime commitment. According to the Pet Ownership Report 2022, the average annual household spend on owning a dog is over $4,000.

Thousands of dogs are surrendered to rescue shelters each year — a staggering amount. Unfortunately, an increasingly common reason for relinquishing a dog is affordability.

The best decision is an informed one, which is why we’ve created this detailed article to give you a clear understanding of the true cost of owning a dog.

The initial cost of buying or adopting a dog

Whether you’re thinking about buying a purebred puppy or adopting a dog, the initial cost of ownership can be anywhere between $600 (for adoption) and $25,000 (for rare breeds).

We’ve used our Puppy Essentials Checklist to give you estimated set-up costs for your new dog. We recommend shopping around for ethical products and the best deals.

Don’t forget to add the ongoing costs of food and treats too, which will vary based on your choice of food and your dog’s needs.

* The cost of a microchip and first vaccinations may be absorbed by the breeder or shelter or may be incorporated into the cost of buying or adopting. Speak to your vet about annual booster vaccinations or a titre test to check the level of antibodies in your dog’s blood.

** The cost of registration varies with state and territory and is often dependent on whether the dog is sexed or desexed.

Other extras include a dog crate, puppy pads (for little accidents), stain and odour removal products, and toys.

The ongoing costs of dog ownership

Along with initial costs, you can expect ongoing expenses like grooming, exercise, accommodation, veterinary healthcare, and food throughout their life.

As your pup gets older, they may require specialised care and equipment from access ramps to orthopaedic beds and raised food bowls.

A lifelong commitment your dog means caring for them in every life stage. It’s easy to get excited about sharing your world with them when they’re young, but what about in their golden years?

Groom for improvement

From hair everywhere to a tamed mane; there’s nothing cuter than a freshly groomed pup!

Grooming is a regular commitment for all dogs, but it can be more expensive for the breeds that have double coats or long hair.

Unless your dog is a mud magnet that can’t resist a puddle, they should only be washed every four to six weeks. Remember to use a dog-friendly shampoo that has the right pH levels for their skin: human shampoo tends to be too acidic and can cause skin irritation.

All dogs should have their nails trimmed every 2-4 weeks to prevent discomfort when walking.

Grooming is not just about maintaining your dog’s good looks — it’s an essential healthcare routine to maintain their skin and coat. It’s also the perfect opportunity to check skin, ear and oral health to look for abrasions, parasites or infections.  

You can do this at home if you know how to wash and groom your dog and have the right equipment. But it comes with a warning: it’s often a lot harder than it looks, especially if you have a wriggly one that can’t stay still!

Walkers, daycare and boarding prices

Before getting a dog, try matching their needs to yours. If you work in an office, can they be left home alone?

Along with regular bathroom breaks, they may need company or stimulation to keep them from destructive boredom-related behaviour or separation anxiety — a notoriously difficult condition to manage.

Breaking up their day by using the services of a professional dog walker can help, which can cost around $25-50 per hour.

If your pup needs longer supervision or activity, the cost of daycare is approximately $50-70 per day. You can usually add on extras like mealtimes, treats and grooming too.

Planning a holiday or a business trip?

The cost for overnight stays can be anywhere between $30-120 per night. Always check the facilities in person before you make a booking so you can be assured of your dog’s comfort and safety.

Before leaving your pup at boarding kennels or a pet resort, make sure they’re up to date on their vaccinations and parasite prevention. If you’re worried about over-vaccinating your dog, you can speak to your vet about a titre test to check the level of antibodies in their blood.

If your pup isn’t vaccinated or doesn’t have a titre test certificate of protection, you may be declined from accommodation or daycare services because of the risk to other dogs.

Veterinary healthcare fees

Vet bills, like doctors’ fees, are unavoidable — it’s just part and parcel of the cost of healthcare for pups and parents.

A standard veterinary consultation fee can vary anywhere from $50-150, and the cost of any treatment is always in addition to that.

Try to factor in the cost of a vet appointment in the same way you’d consider the cost of a doctor’s appointment, which can be anywhere up to $100 before the Medicare rebate. Although our dogs don’t receive Medicare, some pet insurance policies do offer partial refunds for consultations. Always check the small print!

Extended or holistic veterinary appointments are usually more expensive, just as integrated doctors or complementary therapies are for humans.

A check-up appointment with your vet is recommended every six months, so issues can be identified and diagnosed early.

To give you an idea of vet bills, according to PetSure, these were the top five most common dog diseases last year and the average treatment cost:

Should I get pet insurance for my dog?

Whether you decide to get pet insurance or not is your choice, but it’s worth considering.

Most pet insurance companies offer a range of packages from basic emergency treatment to comprehensive cover that often includes routine care like parasite treatment.

The benefit of an insurance policy is that it can usually cover the bulk of expensive procedures, minus the excess amount, which may be prohibitively expensive otherwise.

If you decide not to take out an insurance policy, you could start a savings account for them instead. You never know when your pup’s natural curiosity will get them into trouble!

The real cost of dog food

The cost of feeding a dog is usually the first thing new parents consider. If it’s your first time with a pup in the home, the choice and responsibility of researching pet food can feel overwhelming.

Not all food is the same: your dog’s diet should do more than fill a hungry tummy. There are numerous pet food options on the market: dry kibble in large economical bags, wet food in individual servings, freeze-dried, air-dried, raw meals, or fresh, gently cooked wholefood recipes.

Both our bodies and our dogs’ bodies respond better to a clean, wholefood diet full of high-quality ingredients that aren’t loaded with added flavours and unnecessary colours or preservatives. The best food for your dog is a minimally processed, high-quality diet that contains an abundance of macro and micronutrients for their optimal health and wellbeing.

The hidden cost of giving your dog sub-optimal food may be presented in vet bills for chronic health issues like skin allergies, and gastrointestinal problems like diarrhoea, or pancreatitis — often triggered or affected by a bad diet.

Millions of microorganisms in your dog’s gut microbiome help your dog’s digestive system break down the food into useful nutrients. The microbiome is also a powerhouse responsible for the moderation of the immune system, reinforcing its ability to defend against illness and disease.

Feeding your pup fresh dog food containing probiotic dietary fibre is also a great way to boost their microbiome and immune system.

How to minimise your ongoing dog-care costs

Owning a dog will inevitably incur expenses — it’s just part of being a dog parent. But there are many easy things you can do to prevent illness and minimise the amount you spend on your pup’s healthcare.

  1. Diet and nutrition
    The way to your pup’s heart may be through their stomach, but so is the way to their good health and wellbeing.

    Feeding your dog a nutritious diet is central to preventative care because it provides all the essential proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals from bioavailable ingredients that your dog needs.

  2. Canine enrichment activities
    Exercise and stimulation keep your pup fit and sharp but also minimise the risk of developing diseases in exactly the same way as it does in our lives.

  3. Grooming routine
    Committing to regular grooming can allow you to check your pup’s skin and coat health to ensure their first line of defence is robust.

  4. Bi-annual vet check
    Vets aren’t just there for when something goes wrong. A check-up every six months can identify issues before they become real problems.

    A holistic approach to human care is an effective way to maintain optimal health and wellbeing. We know it’s important to eat well, hydrate, stay active, stimulate our minds and steer clear of toxins and we’re highly confident that these principles are exactly the same for our dogs.

    Comprehensive holistic care that promotes your dog’s overall health and wellbeing often means reduced vet expenses over time. Happy pup: happy parent.

Help your dog live their best life for longer

For most pet parents, the joy of ownership far outweighs the cost.

We may only share a short portion of our life’s journey with them, but for our dogs, we are their whole life.

Dogs live an average of 12 years, depending on the breed. Many dogs live beyond that, and a few live well into their 20s.

At Lyka, we believe dogs should be living twice as long as they currently do, and we think a change in focus from lifespan to health span is central to this. It may sound like they mean the same thing, but health span promotes the longevity of health, instead of just age.

At Lyka, we don’t believe a dog is ever ‘just a dog’: they’re far more than that.

When weighing up the cost of adding a pup to your family, looking at the world through their eyes can give you a deeper understanding of your future pup’s needs.

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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