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Aug. 26 Is National Dog Day — Here’s What You Need to Know About Dog Financing

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Aug. 26 is National Dog Day, which means two things: Countless Instagram posts of adorable pups and an influx of adoption stories.

But along with the many pets and belly rubs, there’s usually a plethora of costly ownership questions. Do I need pet insurance? How much does it cost to adopt? How many pet beds are too many? It’s no surprise that almost half of owners have had pet-related debt.

If you’re looking to adopt a dog — or even if you’re already a proud pooch owner — here are a few tips to manage the financial side.

How to prepare financially for dog ownership

No. 1: Understand the full scope of owning a dog

“Before you adopt a dog, make a list of the various expenses you expect to face — everything from adoption fees, pet insurance and vet bills to poop bags and squeaky toys,” says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “Don’t forget occasional costs like boarding the pooch when you’re on vacation. It all adds up.”

First-time owners may not know what pets require, so this exercise can help avoid surprises. Even if you’re a long-time owner, listing the various costs that can arise as your dog ages can help you figure out how much money you’ll need to ensure that their needs are continually met.

You should also prepare for the inevitability that your pet may react to new purchases in unexpected ways. For instance, they may not like the fancy new food you purchased in bulk. (When you can, ensure a good return policy for the things you buy for them.)

No. 2: Consider creating a separate dog budget

Your dog’s expenses can be widespread, and there’ll always be more ways to spend money on them. It can be difficult to account for everything (and also avoid going overboard) if you don’t set aside a specific amount of money for each potential expense.

That’s especially true, as some charges may not be monthly. Once you have a list of those expenses, you can create a budget to ensure you can afford all the necessities, save for irregular expenses and make allowances for extras if possible.

Depending on your dog’s needs, that may mean cutting back on other areas of your personal budget to ensure they have the necessary care. You may also have to prioritize certain costs over others (for example, that heavy-duty leash will probably be a better investment for your 80-pound pup than, say, a stuffed toy). Another option is getting a pet credit card to help you track those expenses, receive rewards and maintain access to credit when needed.

No. 3: Shop around to save

“As with any big expense, shopping around for products and services can save you big time,” Schulz says. “Of course, more goes into picking a vet or a boarding facility than just the cost, so you shouldn’t automatically default to the lowest price on everything.”

One area where this can be especially helpful is for spay and neuter costs. These can vary based on factors like your dog’s weight, the clinic or vet’s office you choose and the sex of your pet. State voucher programs for low-income individuals may be available, as well as other low-cost options that may not be on your radar.

With spaying or neutering, it’s important to ask about what’s included in the price. For example, some clinics may include certain vaccinations and microchipping in the cost, while there may be extra charges for operating on a dog in heat.

No. 4: Factor in potential emergencies

Planning is all well and good, but sometimes things happen that we don’t expect. When it comes to pets, those can come with a hefty fee. Having a plan for those occurrences is always a good idea for a dog owner.

This may come in the form of pet insurance, which can reimburse you for certain medical expenses. Another option is to create a pet emergency fund — that way, you can have cash ready to go, rather than taking out a loan.

That said, if you need to finance an emergency pet expense, you do have options. For example, you may look into putting it on a credit card (if you can pay it off before you’re charged interest), or you might go through a pet financing company offering products with a 0% introductory APR.

“Dogs are wonderful and can have an enormously positive impact on people’s lives, but having one is not cheap,” Schulz says. “The more you can plan for those expenses, the better off you’ll be.”

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