Beyond food and toys, be prepared for the real costs of owning a pet

*This article appears in the June 2014 issue of Parent News*

dog on beachI’ve had dogs my whole life. It feels like I can’t live without them. When our beloved old lady passed away in the summer of 2012, we vowed to wait a year before adopting a new furry friend. We needed to heal. It had been a long journey with her. Her health was failing for years. While we supported her through it and it was difficult to know when it was time to let go.

My girls would tell me, “It just feels so sad when you come home and no one is wagging when they see you.” I couldn’t agree more. We lasted eight weeks.

It feels like when I was young, a dog went to the vet for her yearly exam and that was about it. Our elderly girl was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was less than two years-old and also developed Cushing’s disease and horrid arthritis. She required multiple medications daily and routine blood work. My yearly investment was more than I want to admit, but what choice did I have? I had taken responsibility to provide her a good life and I had to make good on it. Plus, she was a sweet pooch. I loved her dearly. I wanted both to prolong her life as well as keep her pain-free.

When we adopted our puppy almost two years ago, I looked forward to having a healthy dog. Flash forward to last week. We noticed something was weird her with one of her eyes. It seemed sensitive and there was redness. When I took her to the vet to get it checked out, I fully expected to get anti-histamine for allergies. I wasn’t at all prepared for the doctor to tell us we needed to see a canine ophthalmologist in Charleston because she had a progressive eye disease for which there was no cure. Our fears were confirmed a few days later and now we’re on a regimen of daily eye drops for the rest of her life in hopes of sparing her sight.

All too often I see people posting on Facebook about how they don’t have money to get their animals the proper veterinary care for minimal things like annual vaccinations. Before anyone gets their feelings hurt, of course humans come before animals. And I definitely understand how hard financial times could fall on any of us. But I beg of anyone reading who is considering getting a pet to consider the high end of how expensive they can be and how their discomfort is real.

My shelter dog was $150, which included her spay (over $300 at my vet) plus her first two rounds of shots. She was a bargain! Within a few weeks we learned she had a sensitive tummy and requires one of the most expensive brands and types of dog food. Factor in things like boarding when we travel, the new expenses associated with her eye condition, regular veterinary visits, specialist veterinarian visits, obedience training, toys, and treats and my annual total makes my kids’ college funds cry! But I don’t think I’m alone.

My mother’s dog requires $50 in grooming each month. If you’re not home for long stretches of time, you may require a dog sitter or doggy daycare. I know these things may seem laughable, but it’s not fair to leave a dog cooped up for 12 hours a day. We’re all they have!

Animals bring me so much joy. I can’t imagine my life without them. Just remember that when you make the choice to bring one into your home, that you take on the financial responsibility associated with the care they need, even if it’s expensive. Be honest about your ability and willingness to do that before adding a fur baby to your family.

On a final note, please consider adoption. Our local shelters and rescues are overflowing with animals that are no less worthy of your love and comfort than a purebred.

Locally, check out the following organizations for your new furry friend.

Grand Strand Humane Society
Horry County Animal Care Center
St. Francis Animal Center

Photo credit: Flickr

Want to read more? Check out the latest on the Myrtle Beach for Families blog.

About Melissa Byers

My name is Melissa Byers and I've been a Grand Strand resident for 13 years. I love living and raising my family here! We're all about the events, activities, discounts, RVing, travel, and crab cakes.

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