Consider the costs before buying or adopting a pet

Real cost can add up to R12,000 in the first year

Three months into the lockdown, you may be one of thousands of animal lovers that is thinking about adopting or buying a pet. Here's a cost breakdown to help you decide.

Consider the real cost of owning a pet before taking the big step. Picture: 123RF/ROMAN SAMBORSKYI
Consider the real cost of owning a pet before taking the big step. Picture: 123RF/ROMAN SAMBORSKYI

Three months into the national lockdown, you may be one of thousands of animal lovers around the country that is thinking about fostering, adopting or buying a pet. Before you make a commitment, we found out more about the associated costs of having a pet. 

Unless you have access to the likes of the SPCA, the averages from three veterinarians show that aside from the adoption or purchase costs of your new pet, if it is a puppy or kitten, you can expect to pay the following in the first year: 

  • Initial vaccinations: You will need about three vaccinations plus a rabies shot. The vaccinations will cost an average of R470 each = R1,410. 
  • Deworming: Your puppy should be dewormed every three months and the average cost will be R24 = R96. 
  • Neutering: At six months, it is recommended that you castrate or spay your puppy = R1,700. 
  • Tick and flea treatment: R126 a month = R1,512. 
  • Microchipping your pet: Lost dogs are often handed in at vets or dog shelters and then scanned for a microchip with the owner’s details. This means your pet can be returned to you. It is a once-off cost of about R400. 
  • Vet consultations: If you consult the vet outside of the above visits, for example, if your dog is not eating properly, has been knocked by a car or hurt itself, you can expect to pay around R600 for the vet consultation fee. This excludes any additional costs for treatment and/or medication. We factored in two vet consultations = R1,200. 
  • Dog food: This will differ according to brand. We used an example of Pedigree dry puppy food at R250 a month and wet puppy pouches at R120 a month = R4,440. 
  • Dog bed or kennel: Prices range from R400 for a medium dog bed to around R2,000 for a large kennel. Average cost = R1,200. 

Taking all the above costs into account, the cost of your puppy in the first year works out to about R12,000. 

Don’t forget the pet insurance

Veterinarian Dr Michael Rissik of Ou Kaapse Vet, strongly recommends that you investigate pet medical insurance options. Depending on the product and level of cover you buy, you may be covered for routine vet visits as well as cover for operations or treatment for conditions such as cancer. Remember to check that the policy is underwritten by a reputable insurer. For example, the two most popular pet insurance companies, MediPet and Petsure, are underwritten by Renasa and Hollard respectively. 

Julie Tobiansky, a trainer at the Cape Province Dog Club, says she was relieved that she had taken out pet insurance cover when her German Shepherd puppy, Goji was diagnosed with bad elbows and hips. “I had a claim of more than R50,000 that ran from one year into the next and MediPet paid out the whole claim, barring my 15% excess fee. My personal experience has been really good and my feedback from club members is that MediPet seems to offer the most comprehensive cover,” she says. 

Tobiansky points out that pet insurance often has a one month waiting period and she advises that you take out your pet insurance policy when the puppy is around six weeks old – even if you have not received the puppy at your home yet. “Things often go wrong and health issues arise when puppies are still young. If you insure when the puppy is six weeks old, it will have full cover by the time it is 10 weeks old,” she says. 

Angela Rackstraw owns two dogs with health conditions – a 16-year-old bearded collie named Willow and a nine-year-old poodle named Pip. “Willow had to have a brain tumour removed when she was 4.5 years old and then had her spleen removed at 14. Pip had a rectal tumour removed about three years ago and then had chemotherapy treatment for six months. He also has asthma and his monthly medication costs about R2,000. I would never have been able to afford any of the healthcare expenses if I didn’t have pet insurance. Willow’s health costs alone would have amounted to more than R100,000,” she says. 


What to ask when buying pet insurance

These are some of the questions you should ask when you buy pet insurance: 

  • Is one of the conditions that my pet must have a microchip?
  • Are there any age exclusions? 
  • What is the waiting period on the policy?
  • Am I restricted to using a particular vet or can I use any vet of my choice?
  • What is the excess payable when I make a claim?
  • Do you cover common breed conditions?
  • Do you apply sub-limits within your annual maximum cover? Sub-limits could be applied to things such as consultation fees, hospitalisation, procedures (X-rays, surgery), and blood tests.
  • Do you have a maximum limit per claim?
  • Do you offer chronic support care for ongoing conditions?
  • Must dental care claims come off your routine care benefit?

What you can expect to pay in premiums

As with any insurance cover, read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure you know what is excluded and what is covered when you select your level of cover. You can expect to pay: 

  • MediPet  - from R195 to R448 a month. 
  • Paws 24 – from R37 to R169 a month. 
  • Hollard (PetSure) – from R70 to R332 a month.
  • Dotsure – from R73 to R650 a month. 
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