How much are we talking?

The annual average cost of caring for a puppy is around $4,600, decreasing to around $3,700 for a dog, according to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA). Care for a kitten is around $3,100, and about $2,500 for a cat. Those costs are more than just pet food and toys, says Kathy Duncan, director of national programs for Humane Canada.

"In the first year of ownership costs are usually higher because there are typically higher veterinary costs and startup vaccination series," Duncan says.

More from

In 2020 alone, Canadians spent over $5.7 billion on their pets, according to the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. That was an increase from $5.4 billion the year before, and it's only climbing. And that's not just from inflation.

"There is a continent-wide vet shortage," Duncan says. "...and as a result prices have gone up for vet care."

Grow Your Savings Effortlessly with Moka

Automate your savings with every purchase and watch your money multiply. Moka rounds up your transactions and invests the spare change. Start building wealth effortlessly today. Join thousands of Canadians embracing financial freedom with Moka

Sign up now

Do your research

Both Duncan and Brown-Bury say the best way to prepare for the coming costs is to do your research well before adoption. Costs can vary widely, so it's important to take everything into consideration before bringing a pet home.

"You need to make sure you're ready for an unexpected expense, at minimum that's an emergency visit," Brown-Bury says. "People are spending, like, $3,000 on a pure-bred puppy and that's it, they're out of funds."

An emergency visit alone can range from between $250 and $400, Brown-Bury says. Duncan has heard of young dogs needing abdominal surgery after eating a toy off the floor, and owners paying thousands of dollars as a one-time expense. That's why pet owners may want to consider pet insurance, which Duncan and Brown-Bury both have for their pets.

"Now my dog is diabetic for the rest of her life ... that money is covered 90% every time I refill her prescription," Brown-Bury says. "For me it's totally worth it."

Research of course also means looking at the breeds themselves. Does one dog live longer than others? Are they known for certain health problems? It's important to figure out how much risk you can take on before bringing a pet home.

Prevent future costs

While there aren't any hacks to bringing down costs, there are ways to prevent major expenses. This starts with annual examinations that can identify problems before they become serious, and expensive.

"Some people don't go to the vet until they're sick," Brown-Bury says. "That is going to cost you more money in the long run. If you're going to annual exams, you're going to catch things sooner."

Another way to prevent those emergency costs is by preparing for your pet before they come home. This means dog or cat-proofing your home, signing them up for training classes, and having an emergency fund. An emergency fund is crucial, particularly if you’re not buying pet insurance.

The fund can also be used to pay for the other unexpected costs of having a pet. Some of the costs many owners may not consider are licensing, grooming, and local vaccines needed in your area, such as rabies.

Unexpected vet bills don’t have to break the bank

Life with pets is unpredictable, but there are ways to prepare for the unexpected.

Fetch Insurance offers coverage for treatment of accidents, illnesses, prescriptions drugs, emergency care and more.

Plus, their optional wellness plan covers things like routine vet trips, grooming and training costs, if you want to give your pet the all-star treatment while you protect your bank account.

Get A Quote

Know where to get help

Brown-Bury and Duncan don't think potential pet owners should be put off by the costs of pet ownership. In fact, there are programs available in some areas of Canada for low-income families that need pet support. Groups like the Farley Foundation help low-income Ontario pet owners subsidize non-elective surgery. There are also mobile spay-and-neuter clinics dedicated to helping low-income families.

Developing a good relationship with your vet can also lead to potential savings. Showing up regularly for events such as vaccines and checkups allows you to deveop a better relationship with your vet, who may be more inclined to help you out financially.

"Your vet may also have options available to you because they know you," Brown-Bury says. "They might be willing to work with you and figure something out."

So why get a pet at all?

For some, the mental benefits of having a pet can make up for the financial cost. One study found that merely watching a dog can reduce stress. Meanwhile, a decade-long study showed that having a cat can reduce the risk of heart attacks. Cat or dog, their presence can reduce stress by increasing levels of oxytocin.

And while an emergency fund is good to have, Brown-Bury says the potential for an emergency shouldn't deter you from adopting a pet at all. The important part is that future pet owners are simply prepared, and not just taking a pet home without thinking it through.

"The biggest thing that I find as a vet that people aren't prepared for is the emergency cost, but also just the realization of the long-term cost," Brown-Bury says. "And that's what you really have to be prepared for if you're looking to be a pet owner on a budget."


Trade Smarter, Today

With CIBC Investor's Edge, kick-start your portfolio with 100 free trades and up to $4,500 cash back.

Amy Legate-Wolfe Freelance Contributor

Amy Legate-Wolfe is an investment junkie, who aims to help others get hooked by providing well-researched advice. After receiving a masters in journalism from Western University, Amy worked for Huff Post and, while freelancing for organizations such as the CBC, Motley Fool Canada and Financial Post. Amy Legate-Wolfe is an experienced personal finance writer and freelance contributor working with

Explore the latest articles

Can you pay the CRA with a credit card?

Can you pay your taxes using a credit card? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you should. Here’s what to consider before swiping for the taxman

Leanne Armstrong Contributor


The content provided on is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.