Budgeting for Your Small Dogs

posted: 05/15/12
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How to Budget for Your Small Dog's Health
Kirk Weddle/Getty Images | David Troncoso/Getty Images |

In 2010, American pet owners spent $13.01 billion on veterinary care, a 78-percent increase from the $7.3 billion they spent in 2002, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.  While the cost of pet care is on the rise, the increasing expense of pet care also is a result of the changing attitudes towards domestic animals. Rather than viewing their animals as simply pets, people are more and more likely to think of their pets as members of the family.

As technology and medicine develop, more health care services are available to pets, and many more pet owners are willing to pay the price for expensive veterinary care.

Although you might think that a small dog is a relatively inexpensive pet, it actually costs $1,314 to care for a small dog during the first year of his life, according to a 2008 study by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). This includes food, a collar, obedience classes and medical costs, among other things. If you are prepared for the expenses of keeping a small dog, you can better budget for all of his needs so that you're ready in case of an emergency.

Health care costs can quickly add up, so you may want to think about investing in pet insurance. Major medical pet health insurance could run you around $250 annually.

You can save on health care by investigating alternatives to expensive prescription drugs for your dog. Go for generic rather than name brand, and search online for less expensive sources. Get a prescription from your vet and compare costs through online pet pharmacies. You could also ask your vet for some sample medications.

Also, consider adopting a dog that is already spayed or neutered rather than getting a new puppy. That way, you won't have to pay any additional fees for surgery.

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Initial Small Dog Medical Costs
Kirk Weddle/Getty Images | David Troncoso/Getty Images |

Adopting a new dog is an exciting and rewarding experience; however, if you're not prepared for the expenses involved, your new pooch could wallop your wallet.

First off, you'll need to spay or neuter your dog if this was not already done. These procedures cost between $150 and $200 depending on the gender and size of the dog. Spay and neuter procedures are generally less expensive for small dogs than larger breeds.

Additionally, during your small dog's first visit to the veterinarian, he'll also have to be dewormed and microchipped. Your vet will also conduct basic blood tests to make sure that your dog is healthy. These initial procedures will cost about $70, according to the ASPCA.

In addition to the initial medical costs, you also should budget for annual health  care costs. Veterinary exams, vaccinations, heartworm prevention medication and topical flea and tick preventative medication will you back about $210 each year, according to the ASPCA.

Here are some other quick and easy ways to save on pet health care costs:

- Do it yourself. Rather than paying up to $200 for a dental-cleaning vet visit, do it on your own. You can also ask your vet how to clean your dog's ears if he is prone to ear infections.

- Don't overfeed. Read the food package carefully so that you are feeding your dog the appropriate amount for his weight. According to MSN Money, food can account for up to 40 percent of your pet care budget. Serving only the correct amount will save money and lessen the chance of obesity.

- Don't buy the cheapest dog food. Even though it might save money in the short term, high-quality food that is packed full of nutrients will keep your dog healthier and out of the vet's office.

Wondering whether you should also budget for pet insurance? The price may seem well worth it once you look at the costs for common surgeries for small dogs on the next page.

Cost of Common Surgeries for Small Dogs Small dogs can need a variety of medical procedures due to a variety of illnesses, ranging from digestive issues to health problems related to aging. For example, as a dog ages, cataract surgery might be essential to improving his vision. According to 2010 claims processed by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the largest pet insurance company in the U.S., cataract surgery cost an average of $860. VPI also reported that surgery to treat gastric torsion (bloat) cost $2,585. Medical treatment of hip dysplasia ran $156, while surgical treatment cost $1,340. Laminectomy, surgical treatment of a slipped disc, was $3,278 in 2010; medical treatment of a slipped disc came in at $327.  Given the staggering costs of medical procedures for pets, you might ask yourself which ones are worth it. You should discuss the long-term payoff of the surgery with your vet. For instance, will this surgery allow your dog to live pain-free for many years, or will it buy your beloved pet just a few months during which he might experience pain and suffering? In the end, whether or not to proceed with an expensive surgery is a personal decision. Some people might be willing to spend thousands of dollars on pet surgery, while others may not think that it's worth it. One way to prevent expensive medical procedures is to take precautions so that your small dog doesn't need surgery in the first place. Go to your vet for routine checkups and closely monitor his diet and activities. Investing in preventative medical care will save you money in the long run and help to keep your pooch healthy and happy.

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