When considering buying a pet it’s important to think carefully. Can you afford to keep this animal? How will it fit into your life? What will you do if you can no longer care for it?

Around 7.6 million companion animals (dogs and cats) enter animal shelters every year, according to DoSomething, a US-based campaigning group. And that’s in the US alone.

Meanwhile, one in ten British pet owners give away their puppy less than four weeks after buying it, according to a survey published by pet food maker Forthglade. Of those 24% of owners admitted to be totally unprepared for the expense of owning a puppy.

Owning a pet can be one of life’s joys but it’s important to remember that if you can’t give an animal a good life then you shouldn’t get one to begin with. And, unfortunately, one of the most important things for owning a pet is being able to fund them.

How much does owning a pet cost?

Some prospective pet owners think that once they’ve bought an animal, the only real cost is feeding it. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to it than that. Vets bills, pet insurance, toys, grooming, and kennel/cattery bills do tend to stack up.

Considering that most dogs live up to 16 years, and cats can live over 20, it’s important to factor these costs in.

We’ve broken down the costs for some of the most popular pets to work out roughly how much owning one will cost for it’s lifetime.

A large dog

cost of owning a dog

While it’s tempting to group all dogs as one, large and small dogs do have different requirements. Large dogs require more food, more exercise (and therefore enrichment activities), and generally cost more to ensure. However, in general, larger dogs don’t tend to live as long as smaller breeds so that might also factor into costs.

The average age a large dog lives to varies by breed but it tends to be around 12 years according to Pet MD.

Food cost per month: £35-£50

We based this on a wet-dry combination food diet suitable for a medium to large dog. Very large breeds such as huskies or great danes may well cost much more to feed per month.

We also include the cost of of a few treats in there too.

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Puppy training (one-off cost): £75-£100

This is based on a six week course of lessons. We looked into a variety of puppy classes across the country and worked out an average price.

Of course, some classes cost more, others course less. It really depends on how much you’re willing to pay and what is available to you locally.

Pet insurance per year: £121.20

The average cost of insuring a dog is £121.20 per year across all levels of coverage, according to Compare The Market. It’s worth noting though, that different breeds cost different amounts to insure and larger dogs generally cost more.

In addition, dogs with behavioural difficulties tend to cost more so breeds like pit bulls and rottweilers might be more expensive to insurance.

However, like most kinds of insurance, there are different levels of cover including accident-only, time-limited policies, maximum-benefit policies, and policies that cover a dog’s entire lifespan.

Older dogs and pedigree dogs also tend to be a little more expensive to insure.

Vets visits per year: £280-£300

The Guardian reports that an annual booster for immunisations for dogs costs about £40.

In addition, there’s the costs of about £20 per month for treatment for worms and ticks, as well as oral health check-ups. Factoring in all the usual scrapes and shenanigans dogs get into, that can lead to a lot of vets bills.

Micro-chipping (one-off cost): £15-£20

Many adoption services include this service for free, but when buying a puppy it is another expense.

Toys and accessories (entire lifetime): Approximately £1,000

We worked this one out based on taking a look at the cost of accessories on popular pet one-stop-shop, PetsAtHome.

This calculation is based on the cost of the following: one dog crate, three leads, three collars, two dog tags, two dog beds, one water bowl, one food bowl, one food storage tin, one new toy every three months for 12 years, two bones/rawhides every month for 12 years.

Dogs with a more destructive streak may need more toys than those of a more placid nature.

Kennels per year: Approximately £500

This is based on the owner being away for a total of 20 days holiday across the entire year (as is standard for UK workers) and a night in the kennels being charged at £25. Different prices will apply to different kennels but based on an internet search this seems about standard for large dogs.

Grooming per year: £60

This one really varies by breed. Long-haired dogs like golden retrievers or poodles will need grooming all the time. However, other breeds like labradors will require less specialist attention and can often be cleaned in the bath. We calculated about £100 based on three grooming sessions yearly.

Cleaning and miscellaneous expenses per year: £250

Calculated based on the difference between a specialist pet hair vacuum cleaner and a standard one. We’ve supposed two vacuums might be purchased over the pet’s lifetime. We’ve also added another £100 for general breakages and things eaten. Because dogs do tend to chew things they’re not supposed to.

Total cost: £16,890

This will vary depending on the dog breed. Based on our calculations above and factoring in a dog’s lifespan of 12 years, this is the total cost of owning a large dog for it’s entire lifespan.

A small dog

A smaller dog generally costs a lot less to feed, kennel, and house. Still, smaller dogs tend to live longer so that means they can cost a lot. The average age of a smaller dog tends to be about 14-15 years.

Food cost per month: £20-£35

We based this on a wet-dry combination food diet suitable for a small dog. We also include the cost of of a few treats in there too.

Puppy training (one-off cost): £75-£100

This is based on a six week course of lessons. We looked into a variety of puppy classes across the country and worked out an average price. Of course, some classes cost more, others course less. It really depends on how much you’re willing to pay and what is available to you locally.

Pet insurance per year: £121.20

According to Compare The Market the average cost of insuring a dog is £121.20 per year across all levels of coverage. It’s worth noting though, that different breeds cost different amounts to insure and smaller dogs generally cost less. However, like most kinds of insurance, there are different levels of cover including accident-only, time-limited policies, maximum-benefit policies, and policies that cover a dog’s entire lifespan.

Vets visits per year: £280-£300

The Guardian reports that an annual booster for immunizations for dogs costs about £40. In addition, there’s the costs of about £20 per month for treatment for worms and ticks, as well as oral health check-ups. Factoring in all the usual scrapes and shenanigans dogs get into, that can lead to a lot of vets bills.

Micro-chipping (one-off cost): £15-£20

Many adoption services include this service for free, but when buying a puppy it is another expense.

Toys and accessories (entire lifetime): Approximately £900

We worked this one out based on taking a look at the cost of accessories on popular pet one-stop-shop, PetsAtHome. This calculation is based on the cost of the following: one dog crate, three leads, three collars, two dog tags, two dog beds, one water bowl, one food bowl, one food storage tin, one new toy every three months for 14 years, two bones/rawhides every month for 14 years. This calculation is slightly lower for small dogs because things like collars and leads tend to be cheaper.

Dogs with a more destructive streak may need more toys than those of a more placid nature.

Kennels per year: Approximately £400

This is based on the owner being away for a total of 20 days holiday across the entire year (as is standard for UK workers) and a night in the kennels being charged at £20.

Different prices will apply to different kennels but based on an internet search this seems about standard for smaller dogs.

Grooming per year: £60

This one really varies by breed. We calculated about £100 based on three grooming sessions yearly.

Cleaning and miscellaneous expenses per year: £250

Calculated based on the difference between a specialist pet hair vacuum cleaner and a standard one. We’ve supposed two vacuums might be purchased over the pet’s lifetime. We’ve also added another £100 for general breakages and things eaten. Because dogs do tend to chew things they’re not supposed to.

Total cost: £18,073

This will vary depending on the dog breed. Based on our calculations above and factoring in a small dog’s lifespan of 14 years, this is the total cost of owning a small dog for it’s entire lifespan.

A cat

In general, a cat will live a lot longer than most dogs. Most indoor cats live up to 17 years, and some can live even beyond that, according to cat-themed website, Catster.

The oldest cat ever, according to Guinness World Records is 27 years old. This can lead to increasing costs.

Food cost per month: £15-20

We based this on a wet-dry combination food diet suitable for a cat. We also include the cost of of a few treats in there too.

Pet insurance per year: £61.68

According to Compare The Market the average cost of insuring a cat is £61.68 per year across all levels of coverage. It’s worth noting though, that different breeds cost different amounts to insure, with rarer breeds costing more. However, like most kinds of insurance, there are different levels of cover including accident-only, time-limited policies, maximum-benefit policies, and policies that cover a cat’s entire lifespan.

Vets visits per year: £160

Pet Website reports that an annual booster for immunizations for cats costs about £40. In addition, there’s the costs of about £12 per month for treatment for ticks and £10-15 for worming every three months.

Micro-chipping (one-off cost): £15-£20

Many adoption services include this service for free, but when buying a kitten it is another expense.

Toys and accessories (entire lifetime): Approximately £700

We worked this one out based on taking a look at the cost of accessories on popular pet one-stop-shop, PetsAtHome. This calculation is based on the cost of the following:  three collars, two tags, two cat beds, one water bowl, one food bowl, one litter tray, one scratching post, a lifetime’s worth of cat litter, one new toy every three months for 17 years.

Cattery per year: Approximately £220

This is based on the owner being away for a total of 20 days holiday across the entire year (as is standard for UK workers) and a night in the cattery being charged at £11.

Different prices will apply to different catteries but based on an internet search this seems about standard for smaller dogs.

Grooming per year: £50

This one really varies by breed. We calculated about £50 based on one grooming session per year.

Cleaning and miscellaneous expenses per year: £200

Calculated based on the difference between a specialist pet hair vacuum cleaner and a standard one. We’ve supposed two vacuums might be purchased over the pet’s lifetime. We’ve also added another £50 for general breakages and things eaten.

Total cost: £12,776

Clearly owning a cat is far cheaper than owning a dog, even in spite of their long lives. Still, those long lives do make owning a cat a serious commitment, so it shouldn’t be taken any more lightly than dog ownership.

A tropical fish tank

cost of owning a dog

Fish are often seen as one of the easiest and cheapest pets to keep. And yes, for a common goldfish, that’s probably about right. Once you’ve bought a tank, plopped in a few decorations, and added the water and the fish that’s about all you need to do (aside from feeding it once a week.)

However, keeping an aquarium of tropical fish is a much more involved affair. For a start, water filtration and lighting mean modern aquariums use electricity in away that classic goldfish bowls never did. On top of that, specialised fish food is often necessary as well, and special equipment to monitor the water.

This will be different based on the type of fish, the size and modernity of the aquarium, and the tools needed.

However we’ve done a small round-up based on a 200 litre tank with LED lighting heated to 22 degrees celsius. We’re also basing this on keeping an aquarium for 20 years.

Over that time, new fish will no doubt be added, but we have no included these replacements in our costings.

All our data is estimated from Pets At Home prices and conversations with aquarium owners.

The tank itself (one off cost): £250-£300

Food per month: £2

Electricity per month: £3.50

Accessories for a lifetime: £300

Total cost: £1,895

Owning fish is by far the cheapest option. However, it’s worth remembering that different fish will have many different requirements. There are probably more variables in fish-keeping than any of the others pets mentioned here, so our ballpark figure could vary wildly depending on what kind of fish, what kind of tank, and how much effort you put in.

Of course, all of the costings we’ve calculated here are based on a near perfect run of health for the animals in question. Even a single trip to the vets can end up causing costs to spiral. Pedigree dogs and cats are often prone to genetic disease which can make caring for them as they grow older more expensive.