Making Cents: Counting up the costs of getting a dog for Christmas

Gráinne McGuinness offers consumer advice on getting a pet and warns that while a furry friend brings many rewards, there are costs involved. 
Making Cents: Counting up the costs of getting a dog for Christmas

How much is that doggy in the window? Around Ireland at the moment there are children persuading parents that this Christmas is the perfect time to get a pet.

Pet ownership brings many benefits, but readers should be aware of the costs involved before deciding to introduce a furry friend to the household.

The upfront costs of buying a dog or cat vary considerably. If you are keen to have a purebred animal it could set you back several hundred euros depending on the breed.

On their website ikc.ie the Irish Kennel Club offer advice on how to choose the right dog for you. Be careful of buying dogs online at cheaper prices than those of breeders recommended by the IKC.

Not only could you be participating in the cruelty of illegal puppy farms, but the animal you buy could have health problems that cost you more in the long term.

If you want a cat and don’t mind about the breed there is always someone keen to find homes for kittens. Check out the health and living arrangements of mommy cat before bringing baby home. A free kitten that is feral or has health issues will quickly become very expensive.

Animal shelters around the country have dogs and cats looking for homes. You will probably have to make a donation to adopt an animal but the shelter will have had them spayed/neutered and vaccinated.

Once you bring home your new family member you have to settle them into the household. They will need a bed, food bowls, toys and a collar. Add in a lead for a dog and a litter tray and scratching post for a cat. That first trip to the pet store to kit them out could easily cost well over €100. A dog also needs a license - currently €20 and available from An Post.

Next up a trip to the vets to get them vaccinated and given a flea dose - cost varies around the country but in the region of €70 for a dog, €60 for a cat. From 2016 it will be the law to have your dog microchipped. Also done by the vet, this costs between €20 and €50.

Unless you want to breed your pet, a few months later you will be back with the vet to get him or her neutered or spayed. For cats this will cost roughly €70; for dogs it depends on the breed but starts from about €90 with bigger breeds costing much more. If you are on a means-tested social welfare payment you may be able to get some help with this cost, call the Dogs Trust National Neuter Hotline on 1890 946 336.

As well as these initial costs, you also need to consider the ongoing cost of a pet - food, grooming, vet check-ups and shots and possibly boarding fees while you go on holiday. Given the high cost of vet care should your pet become ill or get injured you should also consider insurance - see panel for more information. Kennels, when you’re on holidays, cost about €15 a day.

The Dogs Trust suggest you should expect to spend around €10,000 over its lifetime depending on the size of the dog. Cats will cost less but still add up to a significant amount.

In November, the charity placed four-foot wrapped model dogs across locations in Dublin, as part of an awareness campaign to promote their A Dog is for Life, Not Just For Christmas ® message.

“This campaign is very much about encouraging people to stop and think really carefully about the commitment you are taking on when you consider buying that puppy at Christmas,” explained Mark Beazley, Executive Director at Dogs Trust.

“We are at the front line of the sad reality of abandoned and unwanted dogs every day.

“We really would encourage anyone who is set on getting a dog this Christmas to wait until the busy festive period is over and to consider adopting from your local rescue centre, pound or Dogs Trust.”

Deal of the Week

Owners can choose from four different levels of insurance cover for their pet.

The cheapest is “accident only”, which covers the treatment of accidental injuries, such as being hit by a car. Sickness is not covered under this policy.

Next is “per condition, with a time limit”. Competitively priced vet fees will be covered for accidents and illnesses for up to 12 months, wth a maximum amount per condition.

More expensive again is “per condition, no time limit”. Insurers provide cover for a set-fee limit, but do not impose a time limit on how long the treatment lasts. This then becomes a pre-existing condition and is excluded from any future claims you make.

“Lifetime cover” is the most expensive option. It gives you the same amount of cover, no matter how many times you make a claim, once you keep renewing your policy.

I compared allianz.ie, petinsurance.ie, and petinsure.ie for “lifetime cover” for a two-year-old, mixed-breed small dog and got the cheapest quote from Allianz, at €148.43 per year.

Always get several quotes before committing to a policy and bear in mind the types of cover offered when comparing quotes.

Insurers also have upper age limits for animals that they will take on, so be sensible and don’t wait until your pet is elderly to research cover.

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