How much does it cost to keep a pet?

14 September 2021 - 4 min read

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What is the cost of keeping a pet?

The average cost of a dog across its lifetime is between £21,000 and £33,000, according to the latest PDSA PAW report. 97% of pet owners interviewed by the PDSA believed that their dog would cost them less across its lifetime to keep than this.

For cats, this figure drops slightly, the average being between £17,000 and £24,000. Similarly, 98% of owners estimated that their cat would cost them less than this.

The average cost of a rabbit over its lifetime is between £10,000 and £15,000. Again, 98% of owners underestimated this cost.

More tellingly, 12% of all the pet owners surveyed thought that their pet would only cost them up to £500 over the pet's entire life. The majority of owners estimated that their pet would cost between £1,001 and £5,000 over its life.

The PDSA PAW report says the average price is calculated using current market prices and include: initial costs of the purchase of pet(s); neutering; first vaccinations; microchipping and accessories as well as the ongoing costs of food; booster vaccinations; pet insurance; toys; grooming; worming; flea treatments and cat litter in the case of cats.

It has not included the cost of veterinary treatment so if you don't have pet insurance and your dog or cat becomes sick or injured, costs could be much higher. Vet bills can run into thousands of pounds and a recent report from the Association of British Insurers found the average pet insurance claim was over £700.

Check out our guides to the best pet insurance for dogs and cats.

What could I buy for the same amount as keeping a dog?

For $39,999 (£31,000), you could buy Chandler Island in Maine, USA. However, it is just one acre in size.

You could also spend the money on a wedding instead, the average cost having been calculated as £30,000 for 2017 by the Daily Mail.

If it took your fancy, for less than £30,000 you could purchase a new Audi TT or Mazda MX-5. Or, if cars aren't your thing, you could eat your way through two $15,000 gingerbread houses, and have some money left over.

However, it's our firm belief than none of the above will bring you the same joy every day as a dog, cat or rabbit (except maybe the wedding).

What you can do to lower the cost of keeping a pet

Did you know you can use online pharmacies to get the same medication your vet would give you at cheaper prices? And it can be more convenient because you can order at any time from your phone or computer and have the medication delivered to your door. Find out more about online pharmacies here.

While there are some things you can't get out of buying for your pet - food, for instance - you can significantly lower the risk of your pet becoming ill by making sure they are in as good shape as possible.

A previous PDSA report suggested that one in three dogs, one in four cats and one in four rabbits in the UK are overweight. The most recent report suggests that only around half of pet owners are aware of their pet's weight.

An overweight pet is at risk of a number of health conditions similar to those that affect humans: diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and even some types of cancer.

There are ways of preventing this, though. Your vet can give you advice on help your dog stay close to its optimal weight. The PDSA highlights the fact that over 4 million pets are fed scraps or leftovers as a part of their main meal.

The diet you give you pet will also make a difference to their health. For instance, PDSA reports that muesli is still one of the main meals for around a quarter of rabbits. Unfortunately, vets think muesli can be detrimental to a rabbit's health, with 85% believing it should be completely removed from sale.

Moreover, many pets may not be getting enough exercise. Over half of vets thought that the main reason more and more pets were becoming obese was because they suffer from a lack of exercise. It says 94,000 dogs in the UK are never walked at all.

Aside from your pet's diet and exercise, there are many preventative treatments that can improve the health of your pet. For instance, the majority of pet owners - 84% - have had their pet vaccinated with a primary course. Of these owners, 67% give their pet regular boosters. Vaccinations can reduce your pet's risk of getting ill and therefore of you having to pay for vet bills.

On top of vaccinations, neutering can improve your pet's health. Male neutered dogs have a lower chance of prostate disease, and neutered females are less likely to get breast cancer or womb infections.

Getting insurance to bring the cost of keeping a pet down

Insurance can help you pay the cost of your vet bills. Vet expenses will vary depending on the pet you have and the treatment they need. However, they can be more expensive than the price of a monthly insurance policy; for instance, the average annual premium for dog insurance is £366.

Read more about the cost of dog insurance here.

Bear in mind that pet insurance doesn't cover everything. It won't include routine checkups and pre-existing conditions. Many policies also won't include dental treatment - although our Complete policy features it as standard.

Remember that your premiums can increase at renewal, especially if you have made a claim.

However, MnayPets has insurance products unique to pet insurance. These include Pre-Existing, which can cover non-chronic pre-existing conditions.

Irina Wells
Content Marketing Executive

Irina is a former content marketing executive for ManyPets. She has contributed to a number of personal finance sites, including Loot Financial Services and Claro Money.