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What to Expect When You're Expecting; Puppy Edition

Updated: Apr 8

So you're getting a puppy! That's fantastic! You're entering an exciting chapter, one filled with immense joy and one filled with challenges that we feel are well worth the reward of being loved by a canine. But what exactly should you expect when adding a dog to the family? Surely it isn't all fun and puppy cuddles, right? Well, the cost of a puppy certainly doesn't stop with the money you're about to PayPal to the breeder, and it pays to know that ahead of time.

Let's talk money. Dogs are not cheap, and it may be easy to add up food cost and overlook the other expenses associated with responsible dog ownership. For example, puppies should be vaccinated. And not just once. This can get a bit confusing, but I'll try to break it down as simply as possible.

Typically, a puppy should be vaccinated at the age of 6 weeks for Distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and parainfluenza. This is administered in a single injection that covers all four of those things. At our hospital this will then be repeated at 9 weeks, 12 weeks, 15 weeks, and 20 weeks, but with the addition of the leptospirosis vaccine added to each injection. Some breeds may not get Leptospirosis vaccinations, and this can be explained by the doctor at your visit if that is the case. Other hospitals may implement a slightly different schedule, but there should be 4-5 total core vaccinations for a puppy, not including Rabies. You can view our vaccine schedule here.

Speaking of Rabies, that is typically administered once at around 15 weeks old. Again, this may vary slightly from hospital to hospital. But the thing we're focused on here is the cost. All of these vaccines total approximately $400. If you are acquiring your puppy from an ethical breeder, then you shouldn't have to worry about the 6-week and 9-week vaccines because those should be done prior to picking up the puppy at 9 weeks old. Some breeders let the puppies go at 8 weeks, in which case you would have to get the 9-weeks vaccine booster (heads up: if your breeder lets the puppy go before 8 weeks, this may be an indicator that you are not dealing with a reputable and ethical breeder). On top of vaccines, you will almost certainly need to do fecal tests and dewormings, because intestinal parasites are extremely common in puppies. One fecal test that is sent to an outside lab can run approximately $90. If the test is positive, then there will be medications that can range in price from $20 to close to $100, depending on the parasite(s) that are present. And sometimes parasite treatment has to be repeated. Your puppy is 20 weeks old and you may have already spent close to $700, and that's just on the routine stuff. This can be quite a bit higher if there are other issues that present themselves which require medical attention, such as an injury or illness. Acquiring your puppy from an ethical breeder can sometimes mitigate many of the possible health issues that could arise, but that doesn't mean something couldn't still go wrong.

You also have to consider heartworm, flea, and tick prevention. Most of these options are given monthly, year-round. Options vary in price, but on average you can expect a year supply of full protection to cost approximately $360 for one canine.

A potential cost saving measure can be pet insurance. There are many companies to pick from if you're interested. I only have personal experience with Nationwide Pet Insurance and it was wonderful, but there are several others you can check out here. Depending on the company and the plan you pick, some may cover annual vaccines, emergency vet bills, and some even cover some or even ALL medications. Definitely consider looking into it.

Then there's the food bill. Growing puppies need a high-quality grain-inclusive diet. Adjustments to your dog's diet may need to be made over time, but a staple diet such as Purina Pro Plan is a great start. Depending on how much your dog eats, this can add up. So be sure to shop for food before deciding to get a dog so you have an idea of what this will cost you. Keep in mind that diet alterations may be necessary for many dogs due to various health issues and allergies, and some of those foods are quite a bit more expensive.

There's also the stress. The sleepless nights. The destroyed power cords. The half-eaten sneakers that result in projectile diarrhea all over your newly carpeted living room. The chew marks on the door frame from that little bundle of love trying to get into the bathroom while you're taking a shower. And of course the vet bill that results from him eating your Azaleas, which are poisonous. Many of these can be avoided, but you have to know to anticipate them first if you're to take precautionary measures. Check out tips on puppy proofing your home and year here.

Additional considerations of time and finances should be socialization (dog parks, for example, may have a fee), grooming (grooming can be quite pricey, especially if the dog's coat isn't well managed between grooming appointments), and supplies such as dog crates.

With a lot of patience and good medical practices your puppy will mature into a healthy adult dog, and that healthy adult dog will live on into its senior years. This, too, comes with it's share of expenses and challenges. Older dogs often require the addition of routine medications, such as things for pain management or heart medication. Some may end up needing insulin. This is a cost that can balloon rather quickly at times. But bigger than any amount of money they may cost you is the challenge of approaching the time to say goodbye. Unfortunately, our beloved canines don't live as long as we do. Depending on your breed or breed mix, you can expect a lifespan from 7-16 years. People who have never owned a dog before often get surprised by how hard this time can be, knowing the day is coming closer and closer. And when you finally say goodbye, the emotional toll is a heavy one. Being cognoscente of this fact of life is important and can help you prepare for helping not only be financially prepared but also help your pet through this time and assist any children who may be in the home as they process the aging and eventual loss of their friend. A somber note, I know, but worth a mention nonetheless.

When it comes to puppies, it pays to be prepared. Do your research on potential hazards. Make sure you can afford medical care and routine vaccinations prior to getting a puppy. It's estimated that on the low end a dog can cost around $17,650 over the course of it's life, but this can be significantly higher. I think puppies are worth it. All of it, and then some. But before I take on that responsibility, I have to be able and willing to provide it. I have to be able and willing to endure the hardships so that I can enjoy the boundless benefits of their companionship. And I have to be able to eventually say goodbye.

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