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Pets require “commitment, time and money”

Owning a pet can get expensive, and unless you set out a monthly and annual budget, it’s hard to pinpoint how much a new pet will cost you. Time and commitment are also a must when you are thinking about getting a pet. But owners agree: the price is worth it!

One 2018 report by RateSupermarket.ca found that the average cost of a puppy in the first year was about $2,600. But this all depends on the dog — the age, the breed, the size — as well as the habits of the owner.

The budget has to include food; vaccines; medical bills; insurance; accessories like boots, hats and coats and, of course, unexpected costs.

Alyssa Lima became a veterinary in 2014 and now she works on Beattie Animal Hospital. Alyssa grew  with animals on her family’s farm and now she can’t image her life without her dogs.

Milénio Stadium: How much does it cost to own a pet here?

Dr. Alyssa Lima: Pet ownership does require some financial commitment. There are many different costs that can arise when owning a pet, some are unexpected such as emergencies and medical conditions, and others are basic like vaccines and food.  It is important to always save a money for those unexpected situations and also do regular veterinary visits in order to maintain good animal health. 

MS: What are the basic responsibilities of pet ownership?

AL: Most family pets require basic yearly examinations with a veterinarian to make sure the pet is healthy and to update vaccines. Dogs and cats have core vaccinations that are very important for their health such as the rabies vaccine. It is also important for owners of puppies and kittens to get their animals spayed or neutered, in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies, behavior issues and certain health conditions which can be linked to animals not being spayed/ neutered.

MS: Do Canadians treat well their pets, or some owners are negligent?

AL: More and more Canadian families think of their pet as part of the family, so most people treat them very well!  Canadians overall want to keep their pets happy and healthy, but unfortunately there are some who are not financially capable to keep up with some of the needs of these pets. Some people have too many animals at once, making it difficult to provide care for all of them, and in some cases of neglect it is because the costs of these animals’ medical conditions are too expensive to afford. I like to think that anyone who owns an animal owns it because they love them and want to treat them well, but the reality is that there are some unfortunate case that can develop into neglect.

MS: Pets may prevent allergies in kids?

AL: Allergies are related to a person’s immune system – the stronger the immune system and the more exposed it is, typically the stronger and more resistant that person is to illness or allergies.   Allergies are not necessarily a sign of a weak immune system, but rather an immune system that is more sensitive to certain triggers. Exposure to animals make help to create a stronger immune system for children, however, there are some children who have allergies right from birth. There are certain breeds however that trigger less  allergies in children, and these breeds are typically preferred for families who have strong dog or cat allergies.

MS: Extreme cold or heat can kill pets?

AL: Absolutely! Just like people, these extreme temperatures can kill animals. When it gets too hot outside, people can dress in shorts or t-shirt to help cool down. Animals however are always wearing their fur coat and cannot take it off, so overheating becomes a very big problem. During hot summers it is important to make sure pets have access to cool water, shade and protection from the sun. Do not walk them on hot pavements or during the hottest times of the day. Animals should NEVER be left in a hot car for any period of time as this can be deadly for them.  During the winter, very cold temperatures can cause frost bite and freezing if an animal has no access to shelter or heat, especially for animals that do not have thick fur. If the temperature is too hot or too cold for a person, then it is usually or too cold for a pet.

MS: I read that you love Australian Shepherds. Do you have any pet by chance?

AL: I LOVE Australian Shepherds! They are a very smart and loving breed! I have a 2-year-old Australian Shepherd named Merlot and an 8-year-old Wheaten Terrier named Mojo. They bring so much happiness to my life and are a source of unconditional love.  They have silly personalities and we love to go for hikes and play with the ball at the park.

MS: You grew in a farm and you have experience working with cows, horses, birds, cats and dogs. What type of skills did you developed at this time?

AL: I was lucky as a young girl to grow up on a family farm and around a variety of different animals. This taught me respect for all types of animals and to learn their behaviors. I learned how to care for each animal and learned how to take care of each of their unique needs. I was able to learn what was different and what was similar between the different species. For example, although horses and dogs are very different from each other, they both love to work hard for their owners and they both love to be spoiled with treats!

MS: Do you have any advice for someone that is considering to get a pet.?

AL: Introducing a pet into your family can be very rewarding as they are constant companions that provide love and happiness and teach children how to grow up and learn to respect and love animals. They are a wonderful friend and companion for elderly people who live alone and need some company. They are however a responsibility that requires commitment, time and money.  Think of the cost of owning a pet very similar to owning a car. A car needs money for gas and for oil changes or else the car will shut down or not run properly.  An animal is the same thing – they need vaccines to keep them healthy and a proper diet to keep them active and strong. When something happens to your cars engine or it starts making weird sounds, you take it to the mechanic to fix. There is always a price associated with fixing the car. The same thing is true for your pet. When your pet is sick, a responsible owner needs to save money to bring their pet to a veterinarian to have it tested and treated. 

What’s more important about animals is that they cannot tell us what they need or how they feel, so as owners we need to make sure we are aware of their needs and when something is wrong.  Speaking to your veterinarian may help in creating a financial plan that will ensure you know exactly what types of cost are associated with owning a pet and veterinarians are always more than happy to be there for you and your pet. 

I strongly believe that animals enrich our life and offer us so much love and happiness. They bring joy into our lives and fill our days with laughs and kisses.  I couldn’t image my life without my dogs and as a veterinarian, I am always so happy to see families and their beloved pets leave my clinic with smiles and wagging tails!

Joana Leal/MS

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