Americans adopted a lot of pets during quarantine. In 2020, US pet ownership rates rose to 70%, their highest yet. More than half of newly adopted pets went to people who had never adopted a pet before.
While this is great news for a lot of animals, being a pet owner is a major responsibility. The cost of pet ownership can be high. For dogs, the first year of owning one can range from $1,314 to $1,843 depending on the size of the dog. This year is the most expensive thanks to an array of one-time expenses like spaying/neutering, training, initial vaccinations, and a crate. Annual costs tend to fall to $580-$875 in subsequent years.
Across all pet owners, pet spending is a massive industry in the United States. In 2020, the pet industry hit $103.6 billion. The two most expensive categories of pet spending are food/treats and veterinary care, at $42 billion and $31 billion respectively. The main driver of high vet bills are unexpected accidents or illness, such as poisoning or cancer.
Conscientious pet owners can fight back against unexpected vet bills with annual checkups. 80% of pet owners take their pet to the vet at least once a year for regular health examinations. Other important steps include consistent dental care, flea and tick prevention, and environmental safety. Some houseplants and foods are toxic to pets.
Another great way to limit medical costs is to invest in pet insurance. Right now, 3.1 million pets are covered by health insurance. Despite pet insurance being a relatively new phenomenon (only beginning in 1982), there are 20 major providers of pet insurance in the US market today. Plans range from routine care coverage to accident and illness protection, with premiums shifting accordingly. The average annual premium for routine coverage on a dog is $120. For cats, premiums average about 40% less than dogs. Insurers may offer discounts for service dogs or multi-pet households.
While pet insurance can save an owner thousands on medical costs, it is an expense unto itself. Not every owner opts for it. Moreover, plans may not cover pre-existing conditions, breed-specific conditions, pet screening, or dental work. Do your research as a pet owner and consider the variety of plans available to you. Your pet relies on you to keep them healthy. Pay them back for the love they give you every day.