26 Mar 20230 Comments
When it comes to caring for our pets, it’s safe to say that many Westchester pet owners spare no expense. Depending on where you live, your lifestyle, and the age, breed and number of pets you own, costs will vary. Factor in food, supplies, medical care, and other recurring costs and you’re looking at an annual expenditure that can climb to several thousand dollars. And that doesn’t include pet pampering: the toys, treats, classes and even doggie day care.
New pet owners should budget at least $1,000 for veterinary care during the first year of a pet’s life, says Dr. Phillip Raclyn, founder and director of Westchester Veterinary Associates in Yorktown, Peekskill and Cortlandt. “But it’s significantly less if they sign up with our wellness plan,” he adds, referring to annual fixed-price plans that help defray routine costs. Pet health insurance (see below) is another approach to cost management that can help cover major or unexpected veterinary expenses.
Once you decide to adopt a dog or cat, a lot will depend on where you go to obtain your furry friend. Local shelters offer cost-effective options. Breed-specific rescue organizations charge premium prices to acquire and supply purebred animals that aren’t found in shelters. Expect to pay an adoption fee, which may include spay/neuter surgery, a leash and collar or a litter box, and a few cans of food. Community adoption fairs often waive fees if you take an animal home that day.
Pet food options range from discount canned or dry food to organic products purchased in a specialty store. How much you spend on feeding your dog or cat depends on your priorities and budget. The more you pay for food, the better the quality, say some experts. Look for the words “complete and balanced” on the label. To those who cater to their pets’ finicky tastes or allergies by making their own food, Dr. Patricia Doherty, a veterinarian at Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital in Tarrytown, offers a word of caution. “Many dogs on homemade diets are overweight or suffer from nutritional deficiencies,” she says. She recommends finding a veterinary teaching hospital that offers online nutrition consults so you can get the right recipe for your pet.
Pet owners on a limited budget should consult the American Kennel Club to find clinics, charities or grant programs that assist with veterinary expenses. Bear in mind, these programs are competitive and may require travel to obtain services. Large corporate practices sometimes charge slightly lower fees due to greater volume, but you won’t always see the same vet.
A mobile vet service can be a boon for pets and people with mobility issues, busy lifestyles, multi-pet households and pets whose condition or temperament impedes travel. Dr. Sonja M. Ghersini of Westchester Mobile Veterinary Service, PLLC, says, “House visits allow me to observe pets and owners where they are most comfortable, and I can provide much-needed education.” Ghersini says her fees are comparable to most brick-and-mortar veterinary offices in Westchester, though clients are willing to pay a little more for the convenience.
Some pet owners pay their dogs and cats little attention beyond basic food and shelter. Others shower pets with regular grooming, toys, special foods and even luxury services or experiences. Such optional expenses can be recurring or you might decide on the occasional splurge. See the chart on the next page for a sampling of these services and average costs.
HEALTH INSURANCE FOR YOUR PET
Yep, we humans aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a good health insurance policy. That’s because, as a pet owner, you can expect to incur at least one bill for emergency veterinary care at some point during your pet’s lifetime; that cost can run into the thousands of dollars. Health emergencies or hereditary conditions that surface later in a pet’s life sometimes force their families to make agonizing decisions: preserve the pet’s life and health at great expense or euthanize because treatment is not affordable.
Yorktown veterinarian Dr. Phillip Raclyn comments that “not enough” patients in his practice have pet health insurance, but the ones who do are glad they have it. To illustrate, he says, “A chronic condition like pancreatitis can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket, with no guaranteed outcome. That’s a hard gamble without insurance.”
Pet health insurers range from established companies (Nationwide, Trupanion) to newer players (Lemonade, Fetch), which may be more affordable or flexible. You’ll pay a monthly or quarterly premium, based on factors like breed, condition and age of your pet, where you live, and the amount of your deductible. After a brief waiting period, covered costs incurred for the care your pet receives will be reimbursed to some amount, depending on the particular insurance plan.
Most plans offer three levels of coverage: major medical, for accident, injury, or hospitalization; wellness, which may include shots, annual checkups and dental care; and comprehensive plans. Though they come with the highest premiums, some comprehensive plans may cover certain pre-existing conditions like diabetes or hip dysplasia.
Unlike pet health insurance plans of the past, most of today’s insurers cover annual exams, flea, tick and heartworm prevention, vaccinations, and blood tests. Websites like Rover, Money and CNET offer comparisons and reviews, along with links to the insurer’s website for an instant price quote for your specific pet
THE REAL COSTS
The average first-year costs for a newly adopted cat or dog are shown below, along with typical ongoing expenses as your pet ages. For those pets who are truly cherished family members, spending becomes a personal choice with a wide range of items you can spend your money on—from puppy day care to grooming to spa services and more. We’ve grouped together the ownership costs for both dogs and cats, with smaller animals on the low end of the spread.
Adoption Fee (Westchester); does not reflect the cost of acquiring a specific breed dog $125-$400
Spay or Neuter* $200-$800
Initial Vaccinations and Veterinary Costs* $100-$250
License/Collar Tags* $20
Pet Supplies (e.g., crate, litter box, scratching post, toys, treats, bed, leash, carrier, training pads, etc.) $150-$350
*May be covered by adoption fee
Food (cost will be higher for large breed dogs and specialty food) $200+ per year
Recurring Veterinary Visits (vaccinations, wellness, illness, emergencies) $150-$750 per year
Preventive Medications (for ticks, fleas, heartworm, etc.) $100-$300 per year
Pet Supplies (cat litter, toys, bedding, cleanup bags) $120+ per year
Kennels or Pet Sitters $20-$45 per night/per visit
Pet Insurance $30-$75 per month
Grooming and Spa Care $95-$150 per visit
Behavior Training (house manners, aggression, etc.) Group Classes: $50 per session; Private Training: $125 per hour
Puppy Day Care, Socialization Classes, etc. $45 for a full day; $200 per week
End-of-Life Costs $200-$300
(Data compiled from CNET, Canine Journal, Consumer Reports, American Kennel Club,US News & World Report, Rover.com)