A picture of a gray french bulldog sitting on an exam table in a veterinarian's office. He is wearing a blue and gray bandana around his neck. The text to the left of the dog says 'costly companions'.

By Bridget Barth

It is not uncommon to walk around a college town and pass by several people walking their dogs, or to pass by a window with a cat sitting on the windowsill. As I am walking, I typically wonder how so many people in school have the time and money to take care of another living creature, let alone themselves. So, I decided to research the expenses of various pets, in particular veterinary expenses.

According to the 2017-2018 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), over 80 million households in the United States own a dog, cat, bird, horse, or even a combination of the four.

The donut chart to the right compares the ratios of the different animals owned per household.


No matter which you own, visits to the vet are inevitable. The AVMA estimates that the average amount spent per household per year on visits to the vet is $410 for dogs. For most Americans, that can add up quickly. The bar chart below compares the annual medical expenses across the four animals.

Long-term costs

Not only can the vet bills add up quickly, but pet owners may start to see an increase in individual bills themselves. When comparing the 2017-2018 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook to the Market research statistics -- U.S. Pet Ownership 2012 (AVMA), the veterinary expenditure per pet for certain species has not just increased, but nearly doubled.

From 2012 to 2017, the cost per animal to visit the vet increased by 11.4% for dogs, and horses increased by a whopping 118.8%. Young people interested in caring for a pet need to take into serious account the financial requirements that are included with the care of an animal, especially in our current economic environment where inflation is skyrocketing.

But I still want one...

If you are still wanting a pet even after seeing how it will affect you financially, there might be a way to help you save some money while raising your pet. According to data from PawlicyAdvisor, pet insurance costs can vary quite a bit based on where you live. If you’re wanting to live in New York, you will take a much bigger financial hit than you would if you lived in North Carolina or even Wyoming. So, if you’re job hunting maybe consider working in less popular places to help you save some money.

Check out which states have the lowest dog insurance costs below:

Average Dog Insurance Costs by State and Age

StateCost at Six MonthsCost at 18 MonthsCosts at 5.5 Years