Every week at the vet hospital we encounter distraught pet parents facing a medical emergency. Sadly, sometimes the pet owners have not budgeted for the unexpected when it comes to pet ownership. Many people save up hundreds or even thousands of dollars to purchase their dream pet. Very excited over the extravagant purchase, they head home with the pet they have always wanted. Unfortunately, the dream can quickly become a nightmare if they have not researched the costs of pet ownership.

With a bit of online research, information can be located regarding the annual costs of pet ownership. Money magazine, Forbes, Rover, the ASPCA, and others have compiled the average cost with a few minutes of research. The annual costs are dependent on species. The exotic pet costs are based on my own personal pets and pets of my employees.

When considering a dog, it is important to consider the care and medical history of each breed. For example, dogs that require grooming, such as a poodle, will be far more costly than low-maintenance breed such as a chihuahua. Other considerations should include health conditions that are breed specific. If you adopt a King Charles spaniel, you will probably need to budget for heart medications, a bulldog will likely face life-long allergies, and if you adopt a boxer, statistically you may deal with cancer. All of these variables factor into the cost associated with raising a dog. No matter what breed you select, all dogs need leashes, chew toys, food, shelter, training, vaccines, medical care, and don’t forget about the pet sitter while you are away. It is estimated that depending on the breed, your geographic location, and a bit of fate when it comes to medical emergencies, the annual cost can range from $450 to $4,000 or more. The first year of puppy ownership is going to be expensive with puppy supplies, vaccines, microchip, and spay/neuter. On average it is recommended to budget between $1,000 and $4,000 to be prepared. Once the first year is behind you, there will be annual costs of food, flea prevention, and vet care of an annual check-up, vaccines, and for many dogs, dental care. The planned for expenses are excluding medical emergencies.

Considering a cat? Cats come in at a much lower cost than dogs. According to the ASPCA, the annual cost of cat ownership is approximately $50 per month. Just like with dogs, the first year of cat ownership usually costs more. You will need to purchase kitten supplies such as a litter box, dishes, a carrier, food, etc. Your kitten will need vaccines, a spay/neuter, and a microchip. Overall, indoor cats are relatively inexpensive. They do not need training, leashes, or a pet sitter if you leave for a day or two. Like dogs, cats will need annual checkups, vaccine boosters, and some need dental care. Indoor cats are much safer than outdoor, so emergency visits for an indoor cat are far less common.

Is a feathered friend your perfect companion? Exotic birds range from an inexpensive budgie to very costly parrots such as an African Grey.  Depending on which species you choose, your initial investment will vary from $300-$1,500, for a cage, perches, carrier and supplies. Regardless of species, your bird will need food, toys, perches, cage liners, etc. The recommended budget is $240 - $1,200 per year. An annual checkup with the veterinarian is recommended in addition to regular beak, wing and nail trims. Emergency veterinary care should also be budgeted for since birds sometimes become ill or get injured from flying, or an attack from another pet. Another thing to consider is life span. Parrots can live 30 – 50 years, so ownership will be a long-term commitment of time and money.

Is a cold-blooded companion in your future? To set up a reptile enclosure can cause some serious sticker shock! In addition to purchasing the pet, you will need a terrarium, UVB light, heat light, hides, water dish and food. The initial set up depending on species will be anywhere $400 - $1,500. Once your pet is established, feeding a reptile can be expensive. Many eat live food such as crickets or pinkies, so it will require weekly trips to a pet store. The UVB light will need to be replaced every six months and on average cost between $20 - $35. Annual care is $300 to $1,000 per year depending on species. Reptiles will need an annual exam with a veterinarian, but they do not require vaccines.  Reptiles may need emergency vet care for things such as being egg bound, injuries, or illnesses, so owners should budget for that as well.

Is a pocket pet right for you? Pocket pets such as hamsters, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. are inexpensive to purchase. The set-up costs for housing and supplies vary depending on the species. A budget of $400 is adequate for most pocket pets. Monthly supplies for pocket pets range from $20 - $100 for food, vitamins, bedding and chew toys. For example, a rat will be less expensive to care for than a guinea pig.  Whatever pocket pet you choose, it should visit the veterinarian annually for a check-up. Some pocket pets have very specific nutritional needs and will become critically ill if deprived of appropriate food or vitamins. Dental care is another concern for rodents with teeth that continually grow. Additionally, emergencies should also be budgeted. Compared to many other pets, pocket pets can be an inexpensive companion.

Perhaps a pet with gills is your fancy! To set up a small five-gallon aquarium will cost approximately $300 for the fish and needed equipment. The monthly maintenance for one to  five small freshwater fish is minimal, approximately $5 per month for the heater and filter to run. With proper water maintenance, most fish do not need to visit a veterinarian. Salt-water aquariums can be very costly and are much more difficult to maintain.

Whatever pet you choose, do your research. Many pets have very specific care needs to maintain good health. Research the commitment financially and time commitment involved for care and life span. As a veterinarian, I want healthy happy patients and happy owners. With a bit of research, your family can find a pet that fits your budget and time commitment.

Dr. Kaitlen Lawton-Betchel grew up in Lemoore. An alumni of West Hills College and Fresno Pacific University, she graduated from Midwestern University in Arizona with her doctorate of veterinary medicine and her business certificate. Dr. Kait currently practices out of Karing for Kreatures Veterinary Hospital, also known as K+K.

The hospital is located at 377 Hill St., Lemoore. To make an appointment, call 559-997-1121.

Her column runs every other Thursday.

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