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Unexpected Expenses of Owning a Pet

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If you own a pet, you already know that budgeting for your furry friend is a basic part of care—just like walking the dog or scheduling regular vet visits.

If you’re starting to look for your own “man’s best friend,” it might be time to start thinking about all the expenses that go into owning a pet.

Before taking a trip down to your local shelter or pet store, you’ll want to ensure you can provide for your pet’s regular needs and can respond to emergencies. Searching for pet expense worksheets online is a good starting point and will provide rough estimates for things like adoption fees, food, medicine, supplies, and pet services.

“We budgeted pretty well for our first puppy … but I was still surprised by bills that came after some unexpected emergency veterinary care,” said Amanda McNutt, SELCO Insurance Services Personal Lines Specialist.

It can be challenging to anticipate how changes will influence your monthly spending. To help you prepare, we’ve outlined three categories of unexpected expenses. Though the guide is written with dogs and cats in mind, similar expenses exist for other pets.

Pet-Proofing

Identifying and eliminating potential hazards before you bring your pet home helps reduce preventable injuries and illnesses (not to mention the associated veterinary bills). Modifying your living space also makes your home safer for your pet.

Depending on your pet and your living situation, pet-proofing may include a combination of the following expenses:

  • Gates, grates, and outdoor fencing. Barriers in strategic places keep your pet from escaping and away from indoor or outdoor hazards (like fireplaces, space heaters, and busy kitchens).
  • Houseplants. Many common houseplants are toxic for your pets; remove or replace them with pet-friendly varieties.
  • Storage containers. Small storage solutions protect your pet from choking hazards such as batteries, buttons, paper clips, dental floss, and hardware like washers and screws.
  • Ramps and pet stairs. Human-scale staircases aren’t always safe for pets to climb. Pet steps make your home more accessible for smaller breeds or those with mobility issues.

Mischief

Even if you’re a watchful pet parent, it’s reasonable to expect a little (or a lot!) of mischief from your new pet. Budgeting for a little extra property damage will ease the pain when Sparky decides that your shoe is his new favorite chew toy. Though obedience training will help limit the frequency of pricey pet shenanigans, don’t be surprised if you have to replace or repair the following at some point:

Budgeting for a little extra property damage will ease the pain.

  • Wood furniture. Table legs and chair legs can be magnets for teeth and claws.
  • Sofas and soft furnishings. With a pet in the house, expect more snags, rips, and tears to cushions and soft furnishings.
  • Curtains. You may need to replace tangled and claw-marked curtains with more durable window coverings.
  • Rugs and carpets. Muddy paws, “accidents,” and general wear and tear can dramatically reduce the lifespan of your floor coverings.
  • Cleaning supplies. You may find that you’re spending more on specialty stain- and odor-removal products, or on appliances like pet hair vacuums.

‘In-Between’ Veterinary Bills

As a new pet owner, you should already be budgeting for routine veterinary visits and have a pet-specific emergency fund set aside for serious medical issues. You may even be considering investing in pet insurance for your furry friend.

“We did our research and found an insurance plan that fit our specific needs,” McNutt said. “Preventive care is just as important as emergency coverage, and we’re glad to be covered for both.”

That said, there are some pet health expenses that fall outside of regular checkup territory and emergency territory. Depending on your pet’s needs, you may be faced with one or more of the following medical expenses:

  • Allergies. Your pet might be sensitive to certain allergens and may require specialty foods that drive up your monthly food costs.
  • Ear and dental care. Some breeds need extra attention when it comes to cleaning their ears and teeth. If you don’t have the time or ability to do it yourself, make sure you make room in your budget for those extra trips to the groomer or vet.
  • Injuries from hiking or other animals. Encounters with other critters—both wild and domesticated—can result in bites, scratches, and stings that require medical attention. Keeping a pet first aid kid can come in handy in case of a medical emergency.
  • Preventive medication. Some medicines, such as heartworm or flea and tick medication, are a regular part of your pet’s well-being and need to be budgeted for.

There are so many pet-related expenses that, even with the best of intentions and lots of preparation, it’s easy to overlook a few of them. By factoring in the unexpected expenses of pet ownership, you’ll be better able to keep your pet happy, safe, and well cared for.

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