Getting a dog is exciting but there are lots of things to think about and it’s a big commitment to take on. Dogs need a loving home, plenty of exercise, a healthy diet, a comfy bed, toys to keep them occupied… the list goes on!
When you get a dog, you’re legally required to meet their 5 Welfare Needs, keeping them happy and healthy throughout their life. The cost of taking care of a dog can soon add up, even without any unexpected vet bills. It can be easy to overlook this in all the excitement of getting a new canine companion, but it’s important to understand just how much you’ll end up paying for them over their lifetime.
We’ve given estimated minimum lifetime costs on this page as a starting point but, if you are seriously thinking of getting a dog, it’s important to sit down and work out a budget. You should consider your lifestyle and all the things your new dog may need.
How much does a dog cost over their lifetime?
Dogs can be surprisingly expensive and there may be some costs that you haven’t thought of.
You should expect a dog to cost you at least £5,200 but, depending on the breed of the dog, their cost could be a minimum of £15,700 over their whole lifetime:
- Small dog breeds: At least £5,200 - £10,000
- Medium dog breeds: At least £7,500 - £11,800
- Large dog breeds: At least £6,900 - £15,700
This estimated lifetime cost is the minimum needed to care for a dog. It will vary according to their size, breed, and how long they live. If you want or need to spend more on their ongoing care, your dog could cost you much more over their lifetime.
This estimated cost doesn’t include the cost of any vet fees if your dog becomes ill, although we have included the cost of pet insurance. If your dog has an accident or develops a health problem, the cost of caring for them could increase dramatically. It’s important to be prepared for this, which is why we recommend taking out pet insurance.
Sadly, purebred dogs can be at higher risk of certain health problems, which could add to your costs.
Getting started: the initial cost of getting a dog
When you first get a dog, you’ll also need to get everything they need to be happy and healthy. As a minimum, this includes:
- Lead, collar and tag (remember that this is a legal requirement in the UK)
- Food and water bowls
- Doggy toothbrush and toothpaste
- Brush for grooming
- Car restraint
- Initial course of vaccinations
- Monthly wormers (until your dog is six months old)
The estimated costs for these are:
- Small dog breeds: £404
- Medium dog breeds: £484
- Large dog breeds: £511
However, this does not include the cost of buying your dog. We recommend getting a dog from a reputable rehoming centre - you can read more advice on our ‘Getting a dog’ page.
It also doesn’t include the cost of microchipping. By law, this should be done with the breeder by 8 weeks of age. If your dog hasn’t been microchipped before leaving the breeder for some reason (for example, a very small toy breed puppy might have been given a vet exemption until they are older and big enough to be chipped) then you’ll need to factor in this cost.
Ongoing care: how much a dog costs per month
Each month, you need to budget for lots of things that your dog will need, such as:
- Yearly health checks and booster vaccinations
- Regular flea and worm treatments
- Poo bags
The estimated minimum monthly costs for the above items are:
- Small dog: £57
- Medium dog: £70
- Large dog: £97
However, if your dog (or you!) has expensive tastes or ends up with other ongoing care costs such as a prescription diet, you are likely to need to pay more.
Remember, the things bought when you first get your dog may also need to be replaced over their lifetime as they wear out, which will increase these costs.
How we worked out the costs
The costs above are the basic minimum costs to meet a dog’s 5 Welfare Needs - you could spend much more over the course of a dog’s lifetime, especially if they have expensive tastes or need ongoing vet care for an illness or accident.
Here’s how we worked out the estimated minimum lifetime cost of owning a dog:
- First, we looked up prices for the items listed in the bullet points under the getting started section above to work out the estimated set up costs of a small, medium or large breed of dog.
- For ongoing costs, we worked out the monthly ongoing cost of caring for a small, medium or large breed dog based on regularly buying the items listed above under monthly care.
- We multiplied the monthly cost by 12 to get an annual cost.
- We multiplied the annual cost by the average life expectancy for small, medium and large dog breeds*.
- We added this number to the estimated cost of getting started with a dog to find the minimum cost of caring for a dog over their lives.
Costs were last calculated in 2023 using the current prices of products available online.
You can use these figures, together with your own research and our dog breed information to work out how much you could spend on your dog through their lifetime.
What’s not included
These numbers are all estimates and don’t include the cost of purchasing a dog, any vet fees (should they become ill or injured), or costs for a special diet (e.g. in case of a medical condition such as allergies).
It also doesn’t include other services for your dog that might be required depending on your lifestyle and their breed, such as the cost of day care and boarding kennels, grooming costs or training classes. If you think you’ll need these, remember to budget for them as well.
* Small Dog: 7.1-14.2 years, Medium Dog: 8.4-13.5 years, Large Dog 5.5-13.1 years (from O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal. 198 (2013) 638–643)
If you're thinking of getting a new puppy, we've put together a list of everything you'll need to think about before they come home.
5 Welfare needs
Do you know about your dog's 5 welfare needs and your legal responsibility for their care?