Pets Planning for the costs of pet ownership March 21 2022

Aussies love pets. A whopping 40 per cent of households have a dog, and more than a quarter of Australian homes a feline family member.

And it’s little wonder. More than ever, we’re discovering how much pets give us. Beyond companionship, they positively impact mental wellbeing, from alleviating stress to reducing loneliness.

They’re a part of the family, and we care for them deeply – but pets take more than emotional investment. Keeping our furry friends happy and healthy can sometimes be surprisingly costly, especially for first-time pet parents.

While you’re preparing for an exciting adventure together, it’s important to understand and plan for the financial commitment involved. As a vet of more than 15 years, few people know the costs better than Dr James Carroll.

We asked him to break them down.

Their early years

For the littlest pups and kittens, some of the biggest price tags are attached to preventative care. The first 12 months generally include:

  • Two to three vaccinations, depending on the pet’s age (and area)
  • Products for heartworm, fleas and ticks
  • A desexing operation

Ultimately, as a pet owner, you’ll be spending the most on food, and Dr Carroll believes you get what you pay for. Premium pet food generally has ‘real’ protein sources, while cheaper brands can be packed with fat and salt.

“Nutrition is a very controversial subject, and there’s no right or wrong answer,” he says. “Some people greatly support commercial dog food and others will want to feed their dog natural wholefoods”.

“Either way, you have to ensure that the food is complete and balanced – and that can be a challenge.”

Woman cuddling dog on couch

The in-between years

In pet ownership, as in life, one thing is certain: accidents happen.

Whether it’s scurrying across a busy road, or coming off second best with another animal, cats and dogs can run into all kinds of trouble, and the resulting vet visit may be costly.

Australians are lucky to have excellent public healthcare, but it means we often undervalue veterinary expenses, Dr Carroll says.

“There’s no Medicare for animals, so whenever we’re dealing with animal health costs, we’re dealing with the true cost – not a subsidised cost.”

In an emergency, initial consultation and hospitalisation is often over $1000 – and the total bill can be many times that.

“When you’re faced with an animal who’s just suffered significant trauma and the interventions are very expensive, it’s nice to be able to take money off the table and do what’s right by the pet.”

Their later years

Just like people, cats and dogs can run into health issues as they age. This can differ by breed, so if you’re set on one, it pays to do your research ¬– particularly if it’s a sought-after designer type.

These don’t come cheap, and can be vulnerable to potentially expensive health conditions.

Arthritis – a degenerative joint condition – is prevalent in ageing pets who spent their early years running around and being active. Cancers are common in later life too, according to Dr Carroll.

While it won’t cover everything, pet insurance can protect your dog or cat against accidental injury and illnesses. The policy documents and PDS will let you know exactly what’s covered, so be sure to check them before making your decision.

The never-ending payoffs

Pets come with unavoidable costs, and every animal has their own individual needs. But at the end of the day, it’s all worth it. The mutual support, shared memories, and joys of discovering the little quirks that make your pet unique are hard to beat ¬– not to mention the real health perks they offer.

The science says pets, particularly dogs, may help cardiovascular health, while pet-loving kids have stronger immunity (if exposed early in life to their furry friends) , plus high levels of empathy and self-esteem.

“The emotional and psychological benefits of pet ownership have been shown time and time again,” Dr Carroll says, including on mental health and social wellbeing.

“The benefits of pet ownership are well documented and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.”

Grandmother, Grandaughter And Dog
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