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Big Dog, Big Budget? How to Manage Pet Care Expenses

By Susan Doktor

It makes perfect sense—and you’ve probably already surmised—that a 120-pound Great Dane mix is going to cost more to feed than a teacup poodle. That extra-large harness costs more than the petite version. But big dogs are big fun and many adoptive pet parents will happily pay the price for the extra serving of joy that comes with taking long hikes in the woods or playing endless games of fetch with an indefatigable retriever.

At Big Paws of the Ozarks, we know that many things make up a good fit between pets and their parents. Where you live, the size of your home, how much time you can spend exercising with your dog all come into play. We strive to steer you to the right dog for your lifestyle, for the sake of both of you, really. And one of the questions we want you to ask yourself before adopting is, “Can I comfortably manage the costs of owning a big dog?”

Budgeting for a Large Dog

How much does it cost to raise a large pooch? Assuming your pet lives about 10 years, a lifetime of care for a pretty healthy big guy or girl adds up to about $15,000. When you share your life with a plus-size pup, you can expect food to make up $1870 of your life-long pet care budget. But that’s nothing compared to the cost of veterinary care. According to the American Kennel Club, if you take your dog to the vet regularly for wellness checkups, vaccines, and lab tests, your costs will run between $750 and $1500 per year. That’s because we love our dogs and take care of them when they’re sick, too. Diagnostic tests, prescription medicines, treatment for chronic conditions, and the occasional surgical procedure ups the ante. And unfortunately, many large breed dogs are more susceptible to illness than their pint-size cousins. Hip dysplasia, arthritis, and, sadly cancer, are some of the health problems more common in large breed dogs. We’re not saying you should expect the worse. Especially if you adopt a mixed-breed dog

, some of these health issues aren’t seen as often as they are in purebred dogs. When you adopt a dog from Big Paws of Ozark, we’ll do our best to help you anticipate the costs of your adopted friend. Parenting a dog is a big commitment, both emotionally and financially. We want to be sure you go into it with eyes wide open.

It doesn’t take long for pets and humans to grow attached to each other. And that attachment brings with it an enormous sense of responsibility. Just as Fido takes every opportunity to alert you to danger by barking his fool head off, humans want to protect their dogs, too. How much do we love our dogs? A 2021 survey conducted by found that nearly 70% of pet owners would spend everything they had to provide life-saving medical care for their furry companions. It’s heartbreaking when they can’t. That’s something we want to protect you against. See “eyes wide open” above.

But Don’t Let the Dollars Discourage You

More than a hundred years ago, someone has a brilliant idea: the first animal insurance policy was issued in Sweden in 1890. It covered commercial livestock like cows and horses, but Sweden again led the way and in 1924, offered the first canine coverage. Here in the United States, Lassie, who starred in hundreds of TV episodes and films, became the first American dog to enjoy the benefits of health insurance.

Nowadays, the pet insurance industry has grown to include about 20 major pet insurance carriers. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, there are $3.1 million insured pets in the US. As a percentage of all pets, that turns out to be a pretty small number. But the number of insured pets has risen steadily for the past decade.

The best pet insurance policies include coverage for both accidents and illnesses. You can buy a pet insurance policy online with just a few clicks. And depending on the coverage you choose, you may be able to find a policy