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Are you pet-prepared?

Know what costs to expect when it comes to raising a pet. 

The majority of Canadian households already have a pet, and most would probably agree that one of the few upsides of the pandemic is spending more quality time at home with their furry friend.[1] And what better way is there to alleviate some of the boredom and stress during this time? After all, some studies have shown that in addition to the benefit of loyal companionship, pets can reduce anxiety and even the effects of some physical and mental health conditions.[2]

The pandemic has also led more people to consider bringing an animal into their lives. But while a cuddly companion can bring a lot of joy to your daily life, the financial costs of raising a pet can come as a shock if you’re unprepared.

Plan ahead

Regardless of which kind of animal you have your heart set on, it’s wise to do some serous thinking before choosing that perfect pet.  One of the most important considerations is how well a particular animal will blend with your lifestyle and routines. For example, will a big, boisterous dog that requires constant attention and exercise align with your busy schedule? Likewise, a smaller pup with limited endurance could have trouble keeping up with an adventurous, on-the go owner. 

Make sure the breed and temperament of the animal suits how you envision spending time together. This is especially important if there are children or other animals in the home, because introducing a new pet could become a safety issue as it adjusts to new surroundings. Also, be aware of potential animal allergies, which can cause problems if a family member’s health is affected. 

Costs can be ruff

Although taking in a pet is a heartwarming emotional investment, it’s a financial one, too. A new four-legged friend will have an immediate impact on the family budget and can take a bite out of the funds you normally set aside for other essentials. 

If you’re fortunate enough to locate a breeder or supplier of the animal you want, expect to pony up for the privilege. Puppies are fetching thousands of dollars each, while the price of kittens, especially exotic breeds, can also hit hair-raising amounts. Most of the uptick in prices can be directly attributed to a dwindling supply due to surging demand during the pandemic. But if you’re priced out of buying your perfect pet, you don’t have to abandon your search. You can look to alternatives, such as local rescue and adoption services that may offer animals for appropriate owners at considerably lower prices. 

Taking care of a pet cost Canadians an average of $2,275 in 2020. Dog owners faced more than $3,000 in related expenses.[3]


Everyone wants their new best friend to lead a healthy and active life. Much like a person, the more nutritious food and exercise your pet gets, the less likely it is to experience serious health issues, including weight gain. Today, it’s possible to spend up to $1,000 a year to feed a dog (slightly less for a cat) depending on its appetite and the quality of the food. One way to reduce the expense of food is to look for wholesalers in your area or buy in bulk. Some retailers offer discounts as part of their loyalty reward programs, so signing up could bring some welcome savings. 


Whether your animal occupies a cage, an aquarium, a crate, a bed or even a designer hammock, the list of accessories and equipment is endless. This calls for discipline. Buy only what you need for the comfort and safety of your pet, but you’ll also need to invest in keeping them happy and stimulated. Purchase some durable toys and a steady supply of treats to reward good behaviour and strengthen the bond between you. 

Visits to the vet 

Annual check-ups, preventive medications and vaccinations can run well into the hundreds of dollars – and much more if specialized treatments, surgeries or drugs are prescribed for a health problem. Dental issues, too, are expensive to fix. Costs during the first year of ownership alone can increase significantly when you add spaying or neutering. If you can be proactive and stick to some do-it-yourself care practices, such as regular exercise and dental hygiene, you could avoid some future trips to the veterinarian. 

Regardless of the actions you take to protect your pet’s health, consider setting up an emergency fund to help cover any unanticipated expenses. Just as with an investment account or retirement savings plan, regular transfers to a separate account will grow over time and become a reliable source of funds for your animal’s ongoing needs.


Covering the costs of housing and feeding a pet can be a challenge, but they are largely manageable if you avoid too many extravagances. It’s the spending on extras, those additional products and services that most animals can live without, that can get excessive. The key is knowing the difference. Obedience training, while pricey, may be a good investment, for example. Regular grooming is also necessary for most breeds of dogs (and some cats) and can rival the cost of a trip to an upscale salon. Be sure to do some research on how often your pet should be groomed and try to limit it to a change in seasons, such as early in the spring and fall. 

If you travel regularly or are planning on returning to work outside the home when it’s safe to do so, fees for kenneling and dog-walking services can add up quickly. There are also costly, unexpected mishaps that occur from time to time. Many pet owners can share stories about having to replace household items, such as shoes, clothing or, in extreme cases, furniture, after a dog or cat has made a particular object into a favourite toy or scratching post. Continuous training will decrease the likelihood of further losses as the animal matures. 

Landlords are also known to ask renters for a pet deposit in case of any damage or messes that occur on the property. Regardless of where you and your pet live, factor in the cost of cleaning supplies and the appropriate accessories for those daily walks or litter-box changes. 

Pets, not debts

Welcoming a new furry companion into your life can be a wonderful experience. Animals need to be taken care of just like any other member of the family, so setting aside the necessary funds to keep them happy and healthy is well worth the fun and affection you’ll receive in return. If you’re unsure how you might handle the costs, speak to an advisor about how to prepare a budget and stay on track to afford life with a pet, and all the other day-to-day costs you encounter. 

naughty puppies make a mess.

Pondering pet insurance

Like life insurance, pet insurance isn’t mandatory, but it’s growing in popularity in Canada. Each insurer generally carries its own coverage of treatments that include physiotherapy, chiropractic care, therapeutic supplements and dental services. It’s important to note, however, that most plans don’t cover routine check-ups, vaccinations, pre-existing health conditions and the waiting period between the time you purchase the insurance and when it comes into full effect. 

Of course, deciding how much is too much money to spend on providing for and protecting a companion animal is up to each individual owner, so pet insurers offer a variety of plans that range from basic to sophisticated coverage. Monthly premiums can range from $25 to over $100, depending on the level of coverage and, in some cases, the breed, since some are more susceptible to certain health conditions than others. In any case, be sure to review the terms carefully and be aware of any limitations before committing.


[1] www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-and-risks-of-pet-ownership

[2] www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-and-risks-of-pet-ownership

[3] www.statista.com/statistics/1015882/number-of-pet-cats-and-dogs-canada

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