Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dog Ownership for Poor People

I'm sure this article was well intended. It was perhaps written to remind potential dog owners that nothing in life is free - even a free dog - and that there are financial responsibilities that come along with dog ownership. That said, I must offer my low/no cost alternatives to some of the expenses listed in the article:
Basic supplies: Food bowls, a leash and toys can cost $35 to $50 even if you restrain yourself. Crates can cost an additional $50 to $150, depending on the size.

Food and water bowls can be picked up from the Dollar Store (they don't have to say DOG on them yo) or you can use something from your own cupboard. Washing bowls regularly is more important than paying for ones with fancy designs. A slip leash (the kind I prefer) can be purchased very inexpensively. Your Vet might even be willing to sell you one if they have adequate supply. Toys depend very much on the individual dog (you don't want the dog ingesting the toy) but a few ideas: empty plastic milk jugs (can be tied together), raw beef bones, knotted up socks or other old clothing bits, empty water bottles. If you need a crate, try checking your local paper or one of the many online resources (like freecycle or craigslist) where folks pass on used household items at no/low cost. Crates are easily cleaned so as long as the condition is good, there is no need to buy a new one.

Food: What you can expect to pay to feed your new pet will depend on the size of your dog and the quality of the food. A 15-pound bag of dry food from a well-known national brand should cost about $17 at a grocery store, and will last two to four weeks, depending on the size of your dog (an average of $225 to $450 per year). Canned, or wet, food tends to be more expensive.

Healthy table scraps help me save on food costs because I share much of what I eat with the dogs and therefore, almost nothing goes to waste. For example, I may not finish the entire carton of eggs before the "sell by" date, but when I see it's getting close, I can hardboil the rest for the dogs.
Health care: Expect to pay $200 to $300 a year for nonemergency vet bills, including an annual exam and preventive care for common problems such as heartworm, fleas and ticks.

Heartworm meds can be purchased at a far more reasonable cost than what the major brands go for, without a prescription, at your local feed store or online. HUGE savings right there.
Grooming: Professional grooming services are a necessity for certain breeds.

Two thoughts:

If interested, you can learn to do at least a passable dog haircut yourself from books at the library or by searching for "how to" pages online. I used to groom a Toy Poodle that showed up in our yard one day. He wouldn't have won any beauty contests with my grooming but it kept him from turning into the Shaggy Dog.

Alternately, if you don't have the desire to give regular haircuts at home (I feel ya), you can get a dog that doesn't need them.

Related Reading: Straight Talk on How You Can Keep Your Dog During the Economic Crisis


Lisa said...

I just checked to make sure it wasn't different in Houston or something, and their local HS includes with the $150 adoption fee the spay or neuter, first shots, rabies, health check, microchip with registration, and first vet visit. They even throw in a bag of food.

In my experience, anyway, you usually also get a simple but functional collar and leash, various coupons and discounts from pet related businesses; and sometimes some community group throws in a toy or a goody bag with new adoptions.

People do need to be prepared for the costs of food and vet care, but as far as startup costs, most shelters I've been to include almost everything you need at first in their adoption fees. In fact, if you add up the market value of all the add-ons, they're practically paying you to adopt a dog.

Besides, I'm of the belief that, for many people, a dog is one of the best investments you can make to improve your quality of life. They keep you active, cheer you up, entertain you, and just plain make your life happier, healthier, and all around better in ways that nothing else can.

pitbull friend said...

Amen to the healthy table scraps idea. My dogs get their (vegan) kibble supplemented with all sorts of veg, grains, legumes, etc. They're ancient & in sterling condition. The vet recently kept asking me, "I've got to come to your house. Do you have something special in your water?" because they are in such good shape at ages 12, 14, 16. As with people, a lot of their not needing additional expensive care comes from treating them with common sense throughout their lives and keeping them at a reasonable weight.

Kasha said...

In my case, pet ownership seems to be more pricey than that. However, I knew that before we got this large breed. She eats a lot of food and costs more at the vet because she is so big. Any toy will do though. She seems to be content just ripping up important documents rather than cool toys we buy her.
Kasha and Africa

Liz and Dulce said...

You can get almost anything from a Dollar Store, or Thrift Store. Such as leashes, collars, harnesses, bowls, toys.

Even Target has great pet products in the $1 section that I buy for our Shelter.

I buy high quality dog food, getting about 40lbs every 2-3+ months. Buying in bulk helps.

Chain pet stores are way pricey.

At our Shelter, the Adoption fee includes:


FREE Vet Exam

FREE bag of Science Diet (ew)
First set of Vaccs
Microchipping (BONUS!)

So it's a bargain to ADOPT at a Shelter!

Calsidyrose said...

I agree that the basic adoption fee at many shelters makes adopting a dog a "bargain," but the honest caveat is that you'll still need to get your own vet check to determine the animal's overall health.

Things such as heartworms, mange, bone or joint problems, digestive issues, tooth or gum issues are often unknown factors at adoption time. Even if the dog has been given an exam at the shelter, you can almost assume that it was cursory at best. Heartworms, digestive issues, joint problems and such often show up after the fact. These things can be costly.

And while the Dollar store is fine for a starter leash and collar, they don't last long (I buy them by the dozen for my off-site adoption dogs). Slip leashes like the ones we use at the shelter don't provide any real control over the dog, plus they break (the remnants litter the kennels).

Pet ownership requires some standard expenses, even if you avoid cutesy doggie clothes, pricey "natural" kibbles and feed some table scraps. It's unfair to new pet owners to gloss over the on-going expenses.

When we buy large items such as cars or computers, we accept the fact that there are add-on and maintenance costs. I don't understand why so many people think that a living creature should be "cheap."

When people complain about the expense of our shelter's adoption fee of $100 (spay/neuter, rabies, micro-chip, yearly shots and heartworm test), I really wonder if they're ready to deal with vet care when needed.

Besides, the routine stuff isn't the big-ticket cost at the vet--it's emergency care or major illness that racks up the bill: $285 for snakebite anti-venom and meds for a medium-size dog bit on the nose by a copperhead (the dog lived), $2,500 for a surgery and treatment for a obstruction of purloined corn on the cob (that dog lived, too!) and $800 to treat deep neck wounds on a dog that was attacked by another dog.

The dog that develops diabetes, UTI, kidney stones etc (not to mention cancers) will not be a cheap dog.

BTW--I get blankets and dog beds at Thrift stores and garage sales. Run 'em through the washer and they're fine. And Tuesday Morning is worth checking out if you desire designer stuff at close-out prices. I found my favorite leashes there.

YesBiscuit! said...

It's not that I feel dogs should be "cheap", it's that I want to promote the fact that poor people can (and do) own dogs and take care of them pretty well. Some seem to feel that dog ownership should be reserved only for the wealthy which IMO is rubbish.

Liz and Dulce said...

I don't think she was trying to say that owning a dog can be "cheap", she was just putting ideas out there for lower income families that may be struggling with the REGULAR costs of dog care.

I bought 2 dog collars at the Dollar Store, and I've put them through the wash a dozen times, and they have not even shown any wear. Goes to show not EVERYTHING at a Dollar Store is poorly made. They are there because of overstock mostly. Things I have bought in the Dollar Store or section at Target, have been some of the best things ever - And have lasted longer than some of the expensive items I have purchased.

I buy cheap dog beds that are just the same as the expensive ones at ROSS. Wal Mart (NOT for food), Target, Big Lots, are all great places to shop for regular pet supplies. Ross, K-Mart.

To the person above - Adopting from a Shelter DOES make a difference in price than if you bought a dog from a breeder, or Back Yard Breeder. You pay 100's of dollars for just the dog. There still is the need for Spay/Neuter, Heartworm prev., flea and tick med., vaccinations, wormings, food, Vet visits, supplies.

What I was saying is most of that is INCLUDED in Adoption fees, and gets owners off to a good start.

Sara Reusche CPDT, CVT said...

Toys: I have seen dogs with severe mouth wounds and intestinal obstructions caused by milk jugs and/or water bottles given as toys. Giving old socks is a common practice that I abhor. Your dog cannot distinguish between the old sock or shoe you just gave her and your brand new socks or running shoes. If she eats your new shoes, you cannot get angry with her.

That said, one $5 Kong toy will last forever and will function as a chew toy, stuffable puzzle toy, fetch toy, and you can even thread a rope through the tiny hole at the top to make a tug toy. Fleece scraps can also be braided together to make a tug toy, although this should ONLY be used as a cooperative-play object and should never be left down for the dog to chew on.

Heartworm meds are only guaranteed by the manufacturer if purchased through your vet (and, obviously, used according to instructions). If you buy your dog's heartworm meds through your vet and your dog still gets heartworms, the heartworm med company will pay the full costs of your dog's treatment. If you get your dog's heartworm meds online and your dog gets heartworms, you have to cover the entire cost of your dog's treatment (several thousand dollars usually) by yourself. This is a case where spending a little extra may be worth it as insurance. I personally buy heartworm meds online because I don't follow the package instructions anyway (my dog has severe allergies which are worsened by the meds, so only takes a pill every 45 days, as per my vet). Just something else to consider.

YesBiscuit! said...

Sara - If you can afford to buy Kong toys and your dogs like them, good on you. Not everyone can afford them and of the dogs I've had over the years, ZERO have ever played with a Kong. They avoid even picking them up.
The thing that is simultaneously great and awful about the internet is you get a chance to hear everyone's personal experiences. I don't doubt the experiences you relate are accurate but would offer that mine are as well. As are I'm sure the experiences of others who post on blogs and forums about such things as a dog being choked to death because another dog got a tooth caught in the collar (so *never* leave collars on dogs, that person will advise) and a dog being returned home when escaping from the owner because he was wearing his collar with a phone number on it (so *always* keep a collar on the dog, that person will say), etc. I have read personal experiences from dog owners who believe kibble is great for dogs and credit it for health and longevity they've experienced, others who blame kibble for making their dog sick or even causing death, and the occasional warning that kibble can be inhaled and cause a dog to choke to death.
The truth is, there are inherent dangers in eating, breathing, and walking around - for all living things. It's up to each owner to educate himself and decide what's best for his dogs. Hopefully that education will include more than dog blog research such as advice from Vet.
Heartworm meds bought from the Vet's office are way more expensive than using Ivomec off label. Not a difference of a few dollars, especially for those who have multiple dogs. Again, a personal decision to be made after researching benefits/risks.
My view tends toward the "I won't tell anybody what to do and I don't want anybody telling me what to do". Sharing experiences is a great thing IMO. Making rash decisions based solely upon someone's internet posting that "X could be dangerous" is foolish.

Liz and Dulce said...

A $5 Kong? Where can you find that?? I'd love to know. I pay at least $20 for the big one. Not even the TINY puppy ones are that cheap...