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How to save on dog expenses

Whether you opt to spend big on a purebred puppy or adopt a dog from a shelter is just the tip of the iceberg: Caring for your new pet can cost thousands of dollars a year. Here's how to save. Associated Press

Choosing

Purebred puppies — thought to be more predictable in temperament and physical characteristics — usually cost $800 to $2,000 or more, according to American Kennel Club spokeswoman Lisa Peterson. Basic vaccinations and some equipment are usually included. Spaying or neutering — $50 to $225, depending on the dog's weight — typically is not.

Adopting from a shelter or rescue group runs $50 to $250 — including health costs, spaying or neutering, other fees and some equipment — though a rare breed can cost $500, according to Julie Morris, senior vice president of community outreach for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Bottom line: Save several hundred dollars by adopting.

Feeding

Dry food runs $120 to $600 per year, canned $250 to $700 or more. A big dog's food will be at the high end, while a small dog's will be at the low end. Figure in a couple of bowls for $2 to $20-plus each. Treats like biscuits and chewables typically range from $3 a pack to $20-plus per week depending on the type, packaging and how frequently you offer them. Though they can help keep a dog healthy, treats aren't a must-have.

Bottom line: Save hundreds by adopting a smaller dog and limiting treats.

Playing and sleeping

Toys run $5 and up. Instead of specialized balls, try old tennis balls. But during a puppy's early years, when chewing is everything, spending on durable toys can save you twice over: They last longer, and you're less likely to donate as many of your shoes and your kids' toys to the canine cause. They're also much safer for your puppy.

You may want to offer your new friend a bed, for $20 to $50 or more, but remember there's no guarantee she'll use it.

Bottom line: Spending on toys or a bed is optional but conservative purchases can save you in the long run.

Grooming, training and walking

Obedience classes can run $10 to $100 each, depending on the number of "students," but they're not always needed.

A long-haired dog requires frequent grooming, at $250 to $400 a year.

Leashes run $7 to $50, depending what they're made of and whether they're retractable, a collar is $5 to $40-plus, and a license is $10 to $20. All three are necessary.

Bottom line: Save by choosing a short-haired — but not short-tempered — dog. And remember you must walk her at least twice a day or pay someone else to.

Traveling

If the puppy's coming with you, you'll need a carrier or crate, for $40 to $100 or more. If not, boarding her at a kennel or with a dogsitter can run $30 to $50 a night. But a friend or relative may swap for other favors — or care for their pets.

Bottom line: Save up to $350 per week on travel costs by bartering.

Health care

Some vaccines are legally required, including those for distemper, rabies and other contagious diseases, and they can amount to $100 to $200 or more for a puppy. An older dog may not require as many. Plan to spend $160 to $200 a year for flea repellent in warmer climates, where fleas are a year-round problem, less where it's colder, plus $50 to $90 a year for heartworm prevention. Pet health insurance, which usually doesn't cover preventive care, runs $100 to $500 a year.

Bottom line: Count on spending up front for vaccines (though some will be included in initial fees), plus $200 a year for preventive care. But probably skip the insurance.

How to save on dog expenses 01/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 4:21pm]

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