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Healthy Pets

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Are You Ready to Get a Pet?

What you need to consider before you get a pet.

Can You Afford a Pet? continued...

Among household pets, dog-related expenses tend to be the highest, according to the ASPCA.

First, there are initial costs once you’ve adopted a dog. For a medium-sized dog, it costs about $200 to spay or neuter your canine, $70 for basic medical expenses such as deworming and blood tests, and another $300 or so for other one-time costs such as training, a crate, and a collar.

Every year, the average dog owner spends about $120 on food, and $235 on regular veterinarian visits for exams, vaccines, and heartworm, flea, and tick prevention medicines. Tack on toys, treats, and other smaller expenses, and that’s at least $500 annually, the ASPCA says.

Cats are generally the second-most pricey. Up-front costs after adopting a cat are about $145 to spay or neuter, $130 for first-time veterinarian expenses, $25 for a litter box, and another $90 in smaller expenses, according to the ASPCA. Annual recurring costs run about $115 for food, $160 for regular medical expenses, $165 for litter, and other fees, adding up to about $500 a year.

Rabbit owners should expect to spend about $1,055 the first year. Small mammals, birds, and fish run in the $200 to $350 range.

Veterinarian fees are one of the biggest expenses with many pets, but there are ways to cut these costs.

Pet insurance, which costs as little as $15 a month, can assist with unexpected medical bills from accidents or illness. Check out a policy carefully before you sign up, so you know what's covered.

Adopting an adult animal means avoiding initial vet fees for things like exams, vaccines, spaying, and neutering, Singleton says. Also, picking a smaller mammal with a short lifespan such as a rodent means you will probably never have to visit the vet.

Age (Yours and Your Pet's) Matters

When considering a pet, ask yourself this question: “What am I going to be doing in 10 years?” Will you have gone off to college? Will you be retired? Moved into assisted living?

When people adopt pets, they often fail to consider their long-range plans.

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