The hidden costs of pet ownership
Vet with dog and cat. Puppy and kitten at doc

Your furry friend is a bundle of cuteness, but you might not realize the cost(s) of owning a pet. On top of things like food and grooming, unexpected trips to the vet can be expensive. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to be aware of all the expenses that go into looking after your little (or big) buddy, so there are no surprises. Here are some realistic things to consider before getting a dog or cat so that you’ll be able to give them the life they deserve.

The basics – food, grooming, and toys

Whether your cat loves wet food, or your dog gobbles up kibble, all pets need to eat. You can expect to pay around $30 - $72 for meals and treats monthly – but this varies on the breed of your pet. And if you’re in the middle of training your dog or cat to be well behaved, you’ll want to have even more treats on hand.

Think the price for your haircut is pricey? Well, just wait until you have to shell out $40 - $75 a month for your four-legged friend to visit the salon. And depending how tall or wide they are, the groomer might need extra time. Don’t forget about tax and tip on top of that!

Still playing fetch with an old tennis ball? Your pup probably would like some special squeaky toys. Or if you have a cat, maybe they’d love a plush mouse with some catnip in it. Keeping your pal amused with toys can cost around $10 per month – depending on how much you spoil them.

Did you know? The fuzz on a tennis ball acts like sandpaper and will wear down your dog’s teeth down to the gum line. So, it’s best to get them dog-friendly toys.

What’s the biggest expense of owning a pet? Generally, the first year of owning your new pal is the most expensive. The initial cost of the pet, all their immunizations and vaccines, and all the things needed for them to be comfortable in their new home. After the first year, things like food, toys, and grooming will be the minimum expected costs.

Pet health – check-ups, dental care, and pet insurance

From routine check-up to flea and tick control – the cost of veterinary care can add up quickly. That being said, the cost of veterinary-recommended diets and preventative measures are always worth it. Here are some numbers to give you a general idea of how much these things cost.

Average annual vet costs for a dog

  • Flea and tick prevention $60 - $250
  • Annual vet check-up $80 - $120
  • Dental cleaning $500 - $700
  • Heartworm test $45 - $50

Total annual vet costs for a dog: $685 - $1120

Average annual vet costs for a cat

  • Annual vet check-up $80 - $120
  • Dental cleaning $400 - $600
  • Drop in visits $20 - $110

Total annual vet costs for a cat: $500 - $830

Did you know? Dogs and cats also need to brush their teeth. When dental issues in pets are left untreated, they can lead to heart or kidney diseases. So you’ll need to buy a couple of tooth brushes for your pet or special dental cleaning chews.

A necessary extra – pet insurance 

Yes, pet insurance is an additional expense, but it’s highly recommended to help reduce costs for the unexpected in the long run. How much is pet insurance a month? For a dog, on average, pet insurance costs $43 - $84 per month and for a cat it’s around $27 - $50 per month. But ultimately, the cost of pet insurance will depend on the age and breed of your pet.

You might be wondering, what does pet insurance cover? Well, it’s important to thoroughly research different policies and understand what is and isn’t covered in each policy. In terms of when to get pet insurance it’s best to get coverage right away. Many providers won’t cover pets with pre-existing conditions.

Most pet insurance covers:

  • Accidents
  • Dental
  • Illness
  • Exam fees
  • Alternative therapy
  • Behavioural therapy
  • X-rays and diagnostics
  • Surgeries
  • Medication
  • Preventive care

Most pet insurance doesn’t cover:

  • Any conditions where signs or symptoms were showing before the policy started or before the end of the waiting periods
  • Expenses resulting from pregnancy and associated conditions
  • Optional treatments you choose to carry out
  • Alternative medications that don’t have a drug identification number (DIN) or natural health product (NHP) number
  • Spay or neuter surgery
  • Food and special diets
  • Wellness coverage and routine care such as vaccines, annual check-ups, heartworm preventive medication, flea control medication, etc.

So, is pet insurance worth it in Canada? The short answer is yes. Even if you have savings set aside for vet emergencies, pet insurance could still help you save thousands of dollars. If you have multiple pets, pet insurance is a no brainer. Which pet insurance provider is the best? We might be biased but we think Sonnet Pet Insurance is pretty great. Not only do we offer competitive pricing there’s flexible payment options as well.


Are there any drawbacks to pet ownership? Most people would say no but unexpected vet trips aren’t something that you or your pet will ever look forward to. If you don’t have pet insurance or a pet emergency fund set aside, you could be spending a lot of money on trips to the vet. Just like humans, you never know when the unexpected can happen. This is why it’s important to have pet insurance or set aside money for these situations as a precaution. Part of being a responsible pet owner is providing love and care for your pet in sickness and in health.

Hopefully you never need to make an emergency trip to the vet. But you can’t predict if your dog accidentally swallows a sock and possibly needs surgery. Or what if your cat eats the string they were playing with and needs an operation? On average, a visit to the vet can costs around $200 - $1,500. So, if your dog or cat has a bad habit of eating things they shouldn’t, having pet insurance could end up paying for itself in just one or two visits.

After reviewing these costs, you might be wondering “is owning a dog or cat worth it?” You might think that you can’t put a price on the love you have for your pet. However, it’s important to be realistic about your finances and the costs of owning a dog or cat. Every expense adds up so knowing upfront what you can expect to pay will help you budget accordingly. But pets really do make enrich our lives so we think the extra costs are worth it!

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