There may be hidden costs on every dollar you spend. The Real Cost, a SingSaver Series, uncovers all the unexpected expenses you’re incurring.
So, you’ve decided to get a fur baby. Congrats! The truth about having a pupper is that it’s not just an emotional moment that demands a major commitment of your time, but also a financial one.
With work-from-home becoming the new normal, it seems like everyone is getting a dog or pet of some sort these days for company — just look at the sheer amount of adorable pet Instagram accounts. You may have considered dog ownership for a long time and think that you’re able to manage the responsibilities needed, but before you give in to their sad puppy eyes and bring one home, you may also want to consider the financial aspect of owning a dog.
From one-off expenses to food and basic medical expenses, we break down the real cost of owning and upkeeping a furry ball of cuteness in Singapore.
Before we begin, for the purpose of the calculations involved, we’ll base it on Pebbles, a sterilised female toy poodle. She is turning three soon, has no pre-existing medical issues but is a slightly picky eater. Let’s look at the costs involved.
Initial one-off expenses
Starting from the very top, there are some initial one-off expenses that you will incur the moment you decide to bring a dog home.
|Initial one-off expenses||Price||Cost for Pebbles|
|Cost to adopt a dog||Under $350||-|
|Cost to purchase a dog||From $1,000||$3,000|
|Vaccination (once a month till they turn 3 months old)||From $38 per vaccination excluding consultation fees||Included in the purchase cost|
|Microchipping||From $50||Included in the purchase cost|
|Bowls, leash, bed, cage and other accessories||From $100||$200|
Cost to adopt or purchase a dog
There are many dogs up for adoption in Singapore, and no, it is not just limited to Singapore specials but pedigree and toy breeds as well. The cost of dog adoption in Singapore ranges from $70 to $350, depending on breed, age and how long they have been living in the shelter. Some shelters include the price of vaccinations, sterilisation, microchipping, de-worming and health check-ups in their adoption fees.
Adoption should always be your first choice, but if you’re unable to, there’s the option to purchase one. Just make sure that you patronise a reputable pet shop or breeder, and don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding its parents. Usually, the smaller the dog the more affordable they are, but this also depends on their breed and pedigree lineage.
For the context of this article, Pebbles received her three vaccination shots and was microchipped before she was purchased from a pet shop for $3,000.
Just like human babies, puppies need vaccinations too! The most common one protects them against distemper, parvovirus and canine infectious hepatitis. Puppies should ideally be vaccinated once a month until they reach 3 months old, after which its frequency drops to once a year.
Similar to how identification cards work, microchipping ensures that your dog is identifiable if it gets lost. Every microchip is tagged with a specific number, which is needed when you’re registering or renewing your dog’s license.
Are you planning to breed your dog? If not, sterilisation is a good option as it helps extend the life of your dog (lesser medical issues).
Sterilisation costs a little more for female dogs as more time is needed to perform the surgery. Assuming that Pebbles doesn’t meet with any complications during surgery or need additional consultations and tests, her sterilisation will cost $300.
Bowls, leash, bed and other accessories
There are some basic accessories that every dog needs — they include a water bowl, food bowl, leash, collar, ID tag, bed with blanket (debatable), cage, towels, toys, and the list goes on. For this, you can find really affordable ones on Shopee, TaoBao and Qoo10 that cost just a couple of dollars each. But, if you want your dog to lead the lush life just like Paris Hilton’s dogs, then the budget for this can easily go up to $1,000 or more.
Splurging a little on basic accessories for Pebbles (because she deserves a proper bed with all the frills) will cost around $300.
This brings the total for Pebbles’ initial one-off expenses to $3,600.
Food and treats
The smaller the dog, the more affordable its daily expenses will be, and this is most prominent when it comes to food and treats. No longer limited to just dried kibble and canned wet food from brands like Pedigree or Science Diet, there are now many options that include freeze-dried and frozen raw food or dry kibble that are by-product free and grain free. Of course, better food quality also means higher costs.
Our calculations below are based on the average price of items from 3 online pet shops and portions are based on the corresponding product’s recommended feeding instructions.
|Type of food and treats||Price (approximately)||Cost per day for Pebbles|
|Dry kibble||From $25 per 2.25kg bag||$1.09 (100g)|
|Wet||From $1.50 per 100g box||$4.50 (3 trays)|
|Freeze-dried||From $58 per 500g bag||$7.25 (60g)|
|Frozen raw||From $38 for 7 packets||$2.7 (½ packet)|
|Home-cooked (minced chicken, pork or beef with fresh vegetables)||From $10 per week||$1.43|
|Treats||From $10 per packet||$0.67 (2 packets every month)|
Do note that monthly food and treats expenditure also depends on your dog’s health, sensitivities and level of pickiness (believe it or not, not all dogs love to eat).
Assuming that Pebbles is a slightly picky eater and takes a mix of dry kibble and home-cooked food for meals, and consumes a minimal amount of treats, her food and treats will cost approximately $1.93 per day and $705 a year.
In general, dogs are quite resilient and not as fragile as we think they are, but they do require some help along the way. This includes their annual vaccination (booster shots), monthly heartworm, flea and parasite prevention treatments and bi-annual deworming.
|Medical expenses||Price (approximately)||Cost per year for Pebbles|
|Annual vaccination||From $38, excluding consultation||$48, including consultation|
|Heartworm, flea and parasite prevention treatments||From $10 per month||$120|
|Deworming pills||From $5, once every 6 months||$10|
Basic medical expenses should cost around $178 a year for Pebbles as she is a young dog with no pre-existing medical issues.
The frequency of grooming depends on your pet’s fur, the thicker or longer their fur is, the more frequently they need to be sent for grooming. On average, once every 2-3 months.
For dogs, there are usually 2 types of grooming options available — basic or full. Basic grooming entails nail clipping and filing, cleaning ears and eyes, shower, shaving of belly, underpaw and sanitary areas. Full grooming includes everything listed above for basic grooming with the addition of trimming and cutting.
Here’s the average cost of a basic and full grooming session.
|Type of grooming service||Price per grooming session (approximate)|
|Basic grooming||From $30 for small breeds|
|Full grooming||From $50 for small breeds|
|Pet transport (to and fro)||From $20|
*Prices listed above do not include additional charges for demat, deflea or detick.
Dog grooming is expensive, but just take a look at the amount of work that goes into it. Not to mention, depending on how cooperative your dog is with the groomer, each session takes at least 2 hours to complete. Unless you’ve got all the tools, skills and patience to groom your own dog yourself, you need to factor in grooming costs.
Since Pebbles is a toy poodle, she requires grooming once every 2 months and classifies as a small breed at most groomers. Including transport, a full grooming session will cost approximately $70 and that adds up to $420 a year.
Apart from the above expenses, there are a few miscellaneous recurring expenses involved and they include annual dog license, toys, training classes, pet insurance and general cleaning supplies.
|Miscellaneous expenses||Price (approximate)||Cost per year for Pebbles|
|Dog license||$35 for 3 years (sterilised)
$230 for 3 years (non-sterilised)
Get a 10% rebate when you make payment via GIRO, online or through AXS.
|$31.50 for 3 years
$10.50 per year
|Toys||From $10 per toy||$120 (1 new toy a month)|
|Training school||From $580 for 8 lessons ($72.50 per class)||She’s a good dog who needs no classes.|
|Pet insurance||From $74.90 per year||$74.90|
|Hygiene products||From $20 a month||$240|
Annual dog license
According to law, all dogs must be registered with the Animal & Veterinary Service for traceability in the event of any disease outbreak. Prices vary depending on the duration of license, dog’s age, number of dogs owned and if you’re sterilised.
Since Pebbles is sterilised, her 3-year dog license will cost $31.50 (after 10% discount) and $10.50 a year.
Lest we forget about factoring in the cost of toys, 1 or 2 every month or so (depending on how much you want to spoil the little one and how fast they destroy them). Squeaky, bouncy and even interactive ones, they are important in your dog’s mental development and provide entertainment so that your shoes, furniture and soft toys remain intact.
Being a small dog, Pebbles doesn’t go through toys so quickly and only needs one new toy a month. Suppose that it costs $10 a toy, this works out to $120 a year just for toys.
Not mandatory, but attending training school is a good option if you’re a first-time dog owner. These lessons will teach your dog basic commands, social interaction, potty training, address behavioural problems (separation anxiety, excessive chewing, etc.) and, in the process, build a stronger bond. That said, be prepared to pay a pretty penny as prices start from $580 for 8 hour-long classes.
Still relatively new, pet insurance works similar to personal accident insurance for humans, which is to say that it is a term insurance without any cash or surrender value. Depending on the insurance provider and policy, it provides coverage for accidents, third-party liability, loss of dog due to theft, death, chemotherapy, and more. Basic pet insurance prices start from $74.90, with more comprehensive plans charging up to $750 a year.
To safeguard Pebbles from misadventures and missteps, she will be insured with a basic pet insurance plan that charges an annual premium of $74.90.
This refers to hygiene products like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant (yes, some dogs have body odour too), toothpaste, ear cleaning solutions, wet wipes, etc. Their costs differ depending on brand, size of packaging and frequency of use.
Since Pebbles is a small dog, she doesn’t really go through cleaning supplies that quickly. Based on the average prices of the above-mentioned hygiene products found on online pet shops, it will cost $20 a month and $240 a year.
Owning a dog isn't cheap in Singapore, even if your intention is to get a small dog. Based on our conservative calculations, owning a small dog like Pebbles will easily set you back by $1,748.40 a year. This amount does not even include initial one-off expenses of $3,600 or medical emergency costs (should there be one).
|Expenses||Approximate cost for Pebbles a year|
|Food and treats||$705|
|Total cost of owning a dog for a year||$1,748.40|
|Total cost of owning a dog for 10 years||$17,484|
Aside from money, bringing a furry friend home also requires time (a lot of it), attention, care, patience and a firm hand to teach basic discipline and commands. If you find yourself shaking your head and unable to fulfil at least 4 of the 5 attributes, or don’t have someone in the household who you can rely on, you should definitely reconsider the idea of owning a dog.
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