Things to think about before buying a pet this Christmas


The lifetime cost of owning a dog can be up to £31,000

Britons thinking about buying an animal as a Christmas present should be thinking about the lifetime costs and long term needs, rather than the short term novelty, according to MedicAnimal, the UK’s leading online pet healthcare retailer.

Owning a dog or cat over its lifetime (including initial purchase cost boarding fees, vet visits, insurance, food and preventative healthcare) can be up to £31,000 and £17,000 respectively for dogs and cats.

Many dutiful owners are prepared for the costs and workload involved, however many are not aware of the day-to-day expense of looking after a pet. In 2014 alone, the RSPCA rescued and collected almost 130,000 animals.

Andrew Bucher, co-founder and Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal says:

“Having a pet is one of life’s most rewarding experiences but we should not begin this journey at Christmas. Pets need time to settle into a new environment and Christmas is simply not the right time for it. It is just far too hectic, noisy and confusing for a new addition to the family. Much better to introduce a new pet outside the Christmas festive season when the proper time, patience and love can be given to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. Being a pet owner is a 10-15 year commitment and should not be taken lightly, especially when taking into account the total cost over the pet’s lifetime.”

Ahead of Christmas, MedicAnimal, have put together a useful list of things to take into consideration before buying a four-legged friend.

1. Lifetime costs 

When one is thinking about owning a pet, cost is not normally the first thing that comes to mind…but it should. Owning a dog or cat over its lifetime (including initial purchase cost boarding fees, vet visits, insurance, food and preventative healthcare) can be up to £31,000 and £17,000 respectively for dogs and cats. One-third of this cost goes to feeding your pet with another third being veterinary fees. This is why you should always consider pet insurance.

2. Insurance

Taking pets to the vet for check-ups or surgery can be an expensive business, yet only 15 per cent of UK owners have insurance cover for their pets. Comparison sites are a great way of looking across the market for pet insurance, but remember cover will vary according to the age, breed, sex and the medical history of your pet. Recent research conducted by market research company Key Note said the average annual premium for insuring your pet is currently around £325. Take this into consideration and remember that insurance is far cheaper to have in the event of an illness or accident.

3. Vaccinations

Vaccinations are key to ensure your pet is protected against the most common transmittable diseases, many of them being lethal. However, the biggest reason to vaccinate is to make sure your pet has a full physical exam on an annual basis (this is part of the vaccination cost). As it is plainly obvious, our pets cannot talk and they need us as owners to be observant both visually (walking, eating and drinking habits) and physically (coat, skin, lumps and bumps). On average, vaccines can cost around £60 for the initial course (two vaccines normally given 4 weeks apart) and £40 for the annual booster.

4. Parasites

Parasites can be extremely detrimental to your pet’s wellbeing but are easy to prevent. There are many products on the market that can be either given by tablet or pipette (on the skin at the back of the neck) that will prevent your pet being infested with fleas/ticks or infected with worms. Products that treat both fleas and worms together tend to require a prescription from your vet but many individual treatments can be purchased online providing you supply some important pet details such as its breed, age, weight and whether your pet is pregnant. This would typically cost around £5-£10 per month with flea treatment carried out monthly and worming every three months.

5. Food 

Whilst each pet has different nutritional needs, depending on their age, size and lifestyle, feeding them the right food is immensely important for their health and wellbeing. This is specifically important as they grown from one life-stage to another, puppy to junior, junior to adult and adult to senior. Each stage requires different levels of minerals, vitamins, protein, fat and carbohydrates to suit the breed and age of your pet. There are many premium food brands that provide exactly this as well as veterinary diets that can be given for the management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, allergies, joint and kidney disease to name but a few. The owner of an average 10kg dog can expect to pay approximately £150 per year for a dry premium diet and double this if you include wet /tinned food.

6. Weight 

It is not only humans who need to fight the battle of the bulge, animals also need to watch what they eat. Plump pets are at a risk of a whole host of illnesses including diabetes and heart problems, just like us. Make sure you know your pet’s optimum weight and invest in a pair of scales. The best way to weigh your pet (if small enough to hold) is to weigh yourself first on normal scales, then to repeat it whilst holding your pet. The difference will be your pet’s weight. For larger pets, you can invest in pet scales (£100-£300) or alternatively many vets are happy for you to come in on a regular basis to weigh your pet within the clinic itself.

7. Breeding 

Whilst watching videos of cute kittens and loveable puppies is the perfect way to procrastinate from basically any chore, having new-borns could be rather more challenging. Ensure you speak to your vet early on about your neutering. Neutering males will reduce roaming and prostate problems whilst neutering females (especially if done before their first season) drastically reduces the incidence of breast tumours. Neutering costs are typically £55 for male cats, £75 for female cats whilst male dogs can vary from £120-£240 and female dogs from £160-£320 depending on the size and breed.

8. Microchip

The microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is easily implanted under the skin at the back of your pet’s neck and can be done either by your veterinarian or sometimes your local charity. This handy device means that if your pet goes missing, they have a unique code traceable back to you. It is also a means to prove ownership in case your pet is stolen. Do not forget that microchipping your dog will become compulsory in England from the 6th April, 2016. A fine of £500 will be payable if not paid within 21 days of being served a notice. You have been warned, please do it, it is quick and painless (for both you and your dog!). Getting this done by a vet would typically cost around £15-£20 and many charities will also have ‘Free Microchipping’ days throughout the year.

9. Teeth

Without opposable thumbs your pet cannot really brush his teeth first thing in the morning or last thing at night. However, dental hygiene is still important and it is important you brush their teeth (finger brushes and pet toothpaste is available) and/or provide them with treats and toys designed to remove plaque and calculus. Bad teeth not only smell bad but can easily lead to heart valve issues if left untreated. Treats that look after your dog or cat are relatively inexpensive, however a trip to the dentist would cost typically a minimum of £150-£200 as a full general anaesthetic is needed and should also include IV fluids and a pre-anaesthetic blood test if your dog is elderly (normally the case in chronic dental conditions).

10. Love

Well this is the whole point of having a pet and will return your love a million fold if you do carry out the nine points above! Shower your pet with love and they will provide your home with that unconditional love that only a pet can provide. Also do not forget that stroking your pet has been scientifically proven to reduce your blood pressure. Now, it does not get better than that!