The True Cost of Pet Ownership

Jul 27, 2023 at 11:51 am

When pet parents prepare to bring home a new pet, they likely plan for the obvious expenses, like adoption fees, food, bowls, toys, and a bed. However, many unexpected costs can come up. And since prices are increasing all the time, it can be easy to underestimate not only the cost of pet ownership, but also the need for pet insurance.

But knowledge is power. If pet parents have an idea of what to expect, they can be prepared to provide for their beloved cat or dog, even when the going gets tough.

The overall cost of pet ownership

According to a 2022 study by Synchrony, the lifetime cost of caring for a cat is $15,000 to $45,000, and the lifetime cost of caring for a dog is $20,000 to $55,000.1 About half of pet parents surveyed in the “Lifetime of Care” study admitted that they underestimated these costs.2 In fact, one out of every three pet owners will face an unexpected bill that causes them financial worry.

The yearly cost of owning a dog averages between $1,300 and $2,800. According to the survey, this breaks down to include:

  • Food (excluding treats): $434–$684
  • Basic veterinary care (vaccinations, medications, parasiticides, and dental care): $534–$1,285
  • Treats, toys, and grooming supplies: $231–$551
  • Cleaning products, pet costumes, and other costs: $70–$283

For a cat, the cost is $960 to $2,500 on average. Here’s how that breaks down:

  • Food: $351–$584
  • Basic veterinary care: $374–$965
  • Treats, toys, and grooming supplies: $169–$698
  • Cleaning products, pet costumes, and other costs: $66–$239

For both cats and dogs, these costs don’t include things like initial adoption fees and microchips, spaying or neutering, or technology the pet owner may choose to invest in, like smart feeders, health monitors, or trackers.

Unexpected expenses can cause surprise

The cost of veterinary care is rising, and for good reason—the quality of care pets receive is top-notch. When it comes to preventive medicine and treating emergencies, you only want the best for your dog or cat. But many pet owners say a bill of just $250 is enough to make them nervous.

In the Lifetime of Care study, pet owners shared some of the expenses and costly conditions that caught them by surprise.2 Some of these were kidney disease, hair loss, allergic reactions, vaccinations, urinary blockages, weight loss, dental problems, growths, cancer, injuries, and a pet eating something that was toxic or requiring surgery.

In addition, about one in five dogs will experience joint issues at some point in their lives.3 Approximately 14 million adult dogs in the U.S. have osteoarthritis, and about 90% of cats over 12 have evidence of the condition, too.4  So, the chance that a pet may need veterinary care for joint issues at some point is high.

How can you help pet parents prepare for the unexpected?

Of course, none of this should dissuade someone from adopting a dog or cat and enjoying the warmth and unconditional love a pet can bring. But preparing for the unexpected so they can feel empowered to help their pet when the time comes is critical.

Encourage your clients to consider pet insurance for their new furry friend. Once enrolled, they can enjoy peace of mind knowing that their pet will always be able to get the care they need, and they won’t need to worry about unexpected veterinary bills.



  1. “Synchrony Study Reveals Pet Owners Spend as Much as $55,000 During a Pet’s Lifetime,” CareCredit, Last accessed August 30, 2022.
  2. “Lifetime of Care Study,” Synchrony, Last accessed August 30, 2022.
  3. “Mobility Matters,” Boehringer Ingelheim, Last accessed August 30, 2022.
  4. “Ow, That Hurts – Osteoarthritis in Dogs and Cats,” Morris Animal Foundation, Last accessed August 30, 2022.
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Colleen Rencher is a dedicated professional with over 10 years of experience in the pet and veterinary industry. Currently, she serves as the Pet & Vet Industry Channel Director at Pets Best, where she is responsible for overseeing the sales objectives for the vet channel by increasing awareness of Pets Best and pet insurance in the veterinary community. Prior to her current position, Colleen worked at CareCredit calling on veterinary and dental practices, gaining valuable experience in healthcare financing. Colleen's love for animals extends beyond her professional work. She is an avid horseback rider and co-director of a local cat and kitten rescue organization, having fostered more than 80 kittens in the past 3 years. Colleen holds a master's degree in industrial/organizational psychology, and is a licensed insurance agent in several states.

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