The Hidden Costs of Pet Ownership: Can You Really Afford an ESA?

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Guest Post

When you’re considering getting an emotional support animal (ESA), it’s tempting to focus on the emotional side of the equation — it’s in the title, after all. The thought of having a companion to comfort you and reciprocate your affection can be an attractive one.

However, it’s also important to slow down at some point and conduct a good, old cost analysis, as well. Can you afford an ESA? Specifically, can you afford to have a dog in your life right now? It isn’t an easy question. Nor does it have a simple answer.

The best way to decipher if you can afford a dog at the moment is to add up the potential costs involved. In 2020, nearly $100 billion was spent on pets. The expenses ranged from obvious items like food and treats to vet care, medicine, and other services and supplies. Here are a few of the more obscure costs associated with canine ownership.

Specific Breeds Can Be Expensive

The first thing is to consider is your wants versus your needs. Do you have a specific dog breed in mind? You may want an ESA friend with a certain kind of disposition. If that’s the case, a purebred can often cost thousands of dollars and may come with additional breed-related care expenses

If you find the cost of a purebred too steep, you can still adopt from a local shelter. In either case, it’s important to consider what it costs simply to adopt a dog in the first place. 

Training Can Be an Investment

Training is a common activity for a dog. However, the costs to train your animal can vary. For instance, there are both basic and advanced training options. Basic training can cost dozens or perhaps a few hundred dollars — although it also requires lots of time and mileage as you attend classes. Advanced training only increases the resources involved.

Additionally, consider the fact that some breeds require more or very specific training. This is especially the case when the societal perceptions of a breed or group of dogs often leads to that behavior manifesting itself. This nature versus nurture style of raising a dog can’t be avoided, but it can be managed. It’s all about managing your own training expectations. For instance, a Golden Retriever learns quickly while a Great Dane may require more time to pick up the same queues.

Accidents Will Happen

No matter how well you predict the needs of your pet ownership journey, you can bet that there are going to be accidents sooner or later. 

Some of these will be no more than a slightly nibbled slipper or a puddle of pee on the rug. Others can be far more destructive. If a table leg is chewed to bits while you’re away or a carpet is ripped up while you aren’t looking, you may have to replace the items entirely.

Vet Visits and Insurance

When “going to the vet” is brought up, it likely conjures images of a quick trip to the animal doctor’s office. Sure, it’ll cost a hundred bucks or perhaps a little more, but paying up for an annual visit once a year isn’t too bad.

Except that it’s hardly ever that simple. If you live in certain regions you may need to get additional treatments, such as tick medication or a heartworm shot. If anything goes wrong during the year, you may find yourself visiting the vet more than once, possibly for a more intensive surgery that could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Of course, you can always count on saving up for these kinds of possibilities. If you have good credit, you can even fall back on taking out a personal loan with minimal interest. You can also get good pet insurance to help lower the costs. Regardless, though, vet visits and their related expenses are going to add up over time.

The Miscellaneous Stuff Adds Up, Too

Finally, there are the miscellaneous items. Caring for a living animal always comes with a lot of unforeseen stuff and plenty of unexpected costs. These can include (but are not limited to) things like:

  • Paying for professional grooming.
  • Shelling out cash for dog-sitting.
  • Caving in and buying your dog unnecessary items, like fancy collars or warm-weather sweaters.
  • Replacing beds and crates as they’re worn out over time.

Counting Up the Costs

Numerous costs should be considered if you’re thinking of getting an ESA. Just to be clear, though, this isn’t an attempt to talk anyone out of getting an animal. 

On the contrary, it’s important to understand that you can afford your emotional support pet if you want the relationship to last. Otherwise, you’ll be putting you and your animal under unnecessary stress as you navigate the unexpected costs. 

So review the list and add up the potential expenses along with obvious items like food and a dog bed. Then consider if you’re financially ready for an ESA. If you are, congratulations! You’re about to embark on a fun stage of your life. If you aren’t, that’s still okay. You now have a financial goal to work toward as you prepare for a life spent with a loving animal that can provide a critical lifeline of support in times of need.

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