Personal Finance 
23
comments

Our New Dog Expenses

For the last few weeks, my wife and I have been visiting the local shelters and adoption shows to try to find a little guy to join our family. A few weeks ago, we met Tobey, a 7 year old Beagle who hasn’t had a “real” home in quite some time (I say real because he’s been a combination of fostered and kenneled, but treated very well throughout the whole process). This past weekend, we had a quick home inspection and we passed! We were a little surprised but they let us keep him that very day!

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 Insurance 
30
comments

Is Pet Insurance Necessary?

Cute PuppyI wrote about the total cost of owning a dog a few weeks ago and a couple of you chimed in about including pet health insurance. Even one of my friends, Nick, IM’d me to say that I should really consider getting pet insurance (he recently got a dog and had some medical issues to contend with) because it’s worth the peace of mind. I’ve never had a pet outside of some fish so I didn’t even think about getting insurance but it makes some sense.

For those, like me, who aren’t familiar with pet insurance, it’s just like your medical insurance. You pay monthly premiums and the pet insurance covers certain medical procedures and checkups. The more comprehensive the insurance, the more it covers and the more it costs. The big difference between the two is that with regular medical insurance today, the doctor usually interfaces directly with the insurance company. With pet insurance, you typically pay out of pocket and then request a reimbursement from the insurance company. I prefer the first way because then the doctor is often compelled to accept the price negotiated between the company and the doctor, which is often lower than the standard fee. By paying out of pocket first, you have to do the negotiating. (this may just have been the case with the insurance plans I saw)

Nick sent me a link to Veterinary Pet Insurance, the company he has his dog’s insurance with, and in reviewing the documents it seems pretty straightforward. VPI covers 90% of the scheduled allowance after a $50 per-incident deductible. If the procedure costs $1000, their benefit schedule covers $900 for that procedure, then they will pay out $765 ($900 – $50 x 90%) for the incident. Much like your standard medical insurance, they have a benefit schedule. Unlike your standard medical insurance, they don’t negotiate with the practitioner, you have to negotiate with them. I don’t know how flexible vets are about pricing but as I mentioned earlier, it’s easier if its the insurance company doing the negotiating (especially if you’re feeling the pressure because you know your pet needs the procedure!).

I entered in a quote for a two and a half year old Scottish Terrier and the comprehensive plan, with a $14k annual benefit allowance, cost $20.92 a month ($251/yr). The standard plan, with a $9k benefit allowance, was $11.33 a month ($136/yr). How does $251 a year stack up against the typical procedures a two and a half year old dog will face? I don’t know. I imagine though that, given it’s insurance, $251 is probably a bit above average (that’s how insurance companies work!).

Will we get pet insurance? Not sure yet, I think we will have to decide once we’ve adopted a dog and have a better idea of the types of medical expenses the breed will likely face in their lifetime. Another option would be to cover them when they are young and then once again when they are older. This opens up the potential for uncovered issues in the middle but depending on the price, it might be worth it. I don’t want to make an emotional decision but I also don’t want to be taken to the cleaners either way.

Anyone have experience with any other pet insurance companies or with pet insurance in general?

(Photo: cloneofsnake)


 Family 
31
comments

Total Cost of Owning A Dog

Cute PuppyMy wife and I had been tossing around the idea of getting a dog for the last few months and our recent trip to England, to visit good friends of ours, gave us a little reminder of how much we liked having a dog around. So, now that we’re back, we’re going to check out the local animal rescue and pounds to see if there are any little guys over there that we like and that also like us! As with any major decision (I consider getting a dog a major decision), you always have to consider the financials or you’ll probably find yourself in a rough spot someday.

Now, back to the matter at hand, we are looking to get a smaller type dog (around the size of a terrier rather than say a lab) so this brief total cost of ownership analysis will be focused on a small dog. We’ll also be going with a pound puppy rather than a bred dog because we feel that since it will be a pet, and not a working dog (my friend hunts, so for him a pure bred Labrador is a must-have), it’s better to go that route. We understand that there is always the potential for future health issues and unknowns about the puppy but that’s a risk we’re willing to accept.

Acquisition Costs

As mentioned earlier, we’ll be going with a pound puppy so we won’t be paying a breeder any fees and chances are all the initial veterinary and medical costs (for things like spaying and neutering) are mostly covered. However, let’s say that none of them are covered and let’s work from there and let’s call them acquisition costs. In reading various resources online, the estimated cost of the first year’s vet and medical costs can range anywhere from $100 to $700. So, if you know how much you can buy your dog for, add on around $500 (just to be safe) for medical costs and you have your acquisition cost.

Fixed Costs

Fixed costs refer to all the things you probably will buy once and then replace as needed. These are things like a water bowl, beds, toys, a crate, cleaning supplies, etc. This varies greatly but you’re talking a base of around $150-250 depending on where you live. Urban areas are obviously more expensive than suburban or rural areas and the best way to determine this is to just go to your local store and start adding things up.

Another fixed cost you may have is training. You can try to train a puppy yourself through the help of books or websites, which is very low, or you can go with a professional. The benefit of professionals is that they know what they’re doing, but they aren’t cheap. Training could cost you several hundred dollars, but training is essential for your mental health! :)

Variable Costs

Variable costs really are variable! They include the replacement of some of your fixed costs since they will be used and deteriorate. However, those will out be likely dwarfed by food. The best way to determine this is to ask the place you’re getting your dog from or looking up online. A quick search shows that dog food for a Westie is around $30 a month, or $360 a year. You may also have other variable costs like various medical items to keep your dog healthy, remember to include those as well.

Total

If you estimate the average lifespan of a dog is around twelve years, the cost of the dog could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. It’s important that you’re aware of this before you get a dog because you don’t want to one of the many owners who are forced to abandon their dog at the pound because you can’t afford them. It’s an unfortunate circumstance but it happens all the time.

One quick note about emergency funds and pets, we will be boosting our emergency fund whenever we get a pet (much like we would with kids) because pets can have accidents and problems just as people can. I’m not exactly sure how much we will adjust it upward but we definitely will.

Time to look for a puppy!

(Photo: cloneofsnake)


 Your Take 
31
comments

Your Take: Are You a Cat or Dog Person?

Cute Cat Cute Puppy

I’m a dog person myself, though I’m not an anti-cat person… I just happen to be allergic to cats. :)

I’ve always liked dogs because you can play with dogs. You can throw toys with them, you can chase them around, they can chase you around, and they’re a lot of fun. You can’t really “play” with a cat outside of flicking around stuff for them to try to scratch.

Are you a cat person or a dog person? Or perhaps you are a hamster, rabbit, or hedgehog person?

(Puppy photo: klash, Cat photo: dougwoods)


 Personal Finance, Shopping 
29
comments

Cost Of Getting A Dog or Cat

Cute PuppyMy girlfriend and I have been briefly discussing getting a pet, either a dog or a cat, and she was warning me that the “acquisition” costs can run into the hundreds depending on where we go for a pet. She’s leaning towards the shelter because the pictures of the dogs and cats at the library make her, and me, sad and so I think it’s time for me to fully understand how much it costs just to get a new pet. As a kid, we never had pets because my parents didn’t want to deal with all the hassle. The hassle of walking a dog, or cleaning up after a pet, or teaching it to not rip everything up, and most importantly, dealing with crying kids whenever the pet died. The most we ever had were fish that had lifespans of a few weeks before my sister managed to kill it by petting it. (just kidding!)

Since right now I’m just looking at the acquisition cost, it’s boiled down into several major categories: Purchase Price, Spaying/Neutering Costs, Immunization/Misc. Shots and I suppose food.

Purchase Price: I think our best option is to visit the local shelter and see if there is one we like. With this option we’ll have to shell out a hundred or so dollars. I don’t really see myself forking over $1,000 just to get the pet of my dreams when there are so many worthy pets waiting for homes in the shelter.

Spaying/Neutering Costs: Psychologically I don’t like the idea, maybe it’s an issue of transference, but my girlfriend says it’s a healthy thing to do. This procedure can run about $50 to $100.

Immunization/Misc. Shots: “They” say that a visit to the vet and the first shots (which may be handled by the shelter, I have no idea) can run somewhere between $75 to $100. There are also annual shots and tags that will be around $50-$100 a visit.

Food: $4-$10/wk on food, not a big deal.

So all told, the actual acquisition costs can run anywhere from $225 to $300 or so. Does that sound right? Am I missing anything (we’re just talking acquisition costs now)?

(Photo: klash)


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