So you’ve decided you want a pet. You’ve checked out all the options… cats, dogs, birds, etc. You’ve chosen a breed. You’ve found the perfect one. You’ve evaluated and determined you have enough TIME for a pet. Now you must decide, do you have enough MONEY? The way I see it, you should budget for your pet in four stages: 1. Acquisition 2. Initial Veterinary Visit 3. First Surgery 4. Maintenance. Let me explain.
ACQUISITION- what will it cost you to get your new pet? This may be the price at a pet store (hundreds to thousands of dollars), the price of adopting through a shelter or rescue league, or even free under some circumstances. Regardless of where you get your pet, it’s best to pay in full at the time of purchase. You’ll have other things to pay for along the way, trust me.
INITIAL VETERINARY VISIT- regardless of where you get your pet, even if you are told it is healthy, take it to YOUR vet. Don’t have one? Ask your friends who they use or call around until you find a clinic you are comfortable with. It is important to establish a relationship with your new pet’s doctor immediately. Your new doctor should review any vaccinations your pet has had and will need, discuss heartworm and flea prevention, and advise spay or neuter (if not already done) or dental (if needed). Vaccinations, appropriate prevention and alteration are essential to your pet’s health. I recommend having saved $500.00 for this initial visit. It may be overkill, but better to be prepared. Heartworm and flea prevention can be expensive and depends on the size of your pet. Additional vaccinations may be needed. Your vet may determine your pet is in need of blood work or other diagnostic tests or treatment. New pets are not always healthy pets and you should not assume they will be so. Nor should you be discouraged if they are not. With appropriate care, most of our pets live long healthy lives.
FIRST SURGERY- I recommend budgeting $300 for your pet’s first surgery. If you adopt a kitten or puppy from a shelter or rescue, it may already be spayed or neutered and this expense may be avoided. However, if you adopt or buy a pet that is not altered, you’ll need to budget for that. If you acquire an older pet, it will probably need its teeth cleaned, so its best to be prepared. I recommend you follow through with the advised spay/neuter or dental as soon as your veterinarian advises so your pet can get off to a healthy start in its new home.
MAINTENANCE- you will incur expenses on a regular basis as long as you own your pet and although you may be expecting the expense of food, grooming and boarding, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. Many people choose to save back a credit card for use if a pet emergency arises. This isn’t a bad idea, but once the emergency is over you are left with debt to pay back. A better approach is to start saving now. I recommend setting up a separate savings account for your pet expenses. If you put $20 per pet per week in the account, you’ll accumulate $1040 per pet per year to use toward pet expenses. I don’t recommend using this fund for food, grooming or boarding as these are regular ongoing expenses and should be part of your personal budget. Rather, I recommend using this fund for your pet’s annual exam and vaccinations , heartworm and flea prevention, and any diagnostic tests or treatment your pet may require. You’ll find that over the first several years of your pet’s life you will build up a surplus in this account. Although you may be tempted to spend that money in a different way, I encourage you to let it sit so you’ll have it when you need it. As your pet ages its medical needs will also change. Think of how nice it will be to have the funds available when your vet recommends a diagnostic test, prescription food or medication. By planning ahead you’ll be free of the burden of making difficult choices based on your finances, and better equipped to provide the care your pet needs for a long healthy life.
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The Virtual Vet