Will a new Labrador put me in the poorhouse? This silent fear haunts many of us – whether you are considering making a Labrador part of your home, or are questioning the expense of a pet who’s already part of your family.
How much do Labradors cost? The short answer is, barring any serious sickness or accident, the per-year average cost to own a typical Labrador is around $2,268. The calculated average lifetime cost for a typical Labrador is about $23,410.
This, however, may not give you the whole picture. While some additional expenses are to be expected with a new dog, Labradors can be entirely affordable pets for most anyone’s budget. What follows is an overview of the care and cost realities that come with a Labrador, and how to care for your pet more affordably and responsibly.
In this article we’ll cover:
- Expected Food and Care Expenses
- 9 Tips for Raising a Labrador on a Budget
The Cost of Caring for a Labrador
Unfortunately, our cherished pets can’t survive on our love alone.
A Labrador’s size brings with it specific dietary and health needs. You must consider the respective medical costs of things like vaccinations, checkups, and heartworm prevention. You will be buying pet supplies like food and water bowls, leashes, harnesses, crates, bedding, and toys.
You must also consider expenses from things outside your daily routine, like traveling or daycare. You should also be financially prepared for an occasional emergency or accident.
Here is an overview of expected food and care costs for your Labrador – both in the first year of your puppy’s life and in the years to follow.
Expected Medical Care Expenses
So, here are the numbers!
In 2016, students at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine produced a detailed report on average annual pet expenses. Costs were calculated for small- to giant-sized dogs with a lifespan between 9.6 and 13.6 years. The stats also included one serious illness.
For the First Year
The average veterinarian bills for the first year of a puppy’s life came to between $1,339 and $1,541. The report’s’ data included exam visits, vaccines, deworming, fecal exams, spaying/neutering, blood work, first-year checkup, heartworm testing, and flea/tick/heartworm prevention.
During the Adult Years
Total vet bills for the remaining years an adult dog’s life averaged between $9,638 and $11,981. This includes annual wellness exams and vaccinations, fecal/heartworm testing, prophylactic dental exams and cleaning, blood work, x-rays (dental and full-body), and flea/tick/heartworm prevention.
Average Vet Costs for One Year
The PennVet students’ findings also calculated the average per-year medical costs for one dog.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Wellness Exams: $43
- Vaccines: $83
- Fecal/blood testings: $324
- Dental/x-rays/procedures: $562
- Preventative medications: $389
Average Cost Breakdown for One Serious Sickness or Accident
If your Labrador ends up at the vet’s due to a serious accident or illness, here’s what you can expect to pay on average.
- Surgery: $829
- Antibiotics: $96
- Lab Work: $299
- Exam fee: $55
- Imaging: $219
- Microbiology exams: $55
- Hospitalization: $194
- Pain medications: $23
Expected Food & Supply Expenses
Here’s what you can expect to pay per year for the following items:
- Food per year: $435
- Supplies per year: $432
Grand Total: After all food, supplies, and medical expenses have been tallied, the average lifetime cost for a dog of any size is $23,410.
How to Raise a Lab on a Budget
Don’t let the figures listed above startle you. And be careful not to take them out of context. Many of these expenses are up-front costs spent within the first year.
If you spread out your expenses over an average month, and if you take steps to prevent any serious illness or accidents, the cost of a Labrador is entirely manageable.
Our family spends about $125 a month on our Black Lab, Trooper, all things considered. And we don’t skimp on any necessary food or medical care.
And if you’re looking to raise your Lab on an even tighter budget,
here are 9 frugal ways to feed and care for your furry best friend without breaking the bank.
1. Good Food, Not Expensive Food
Just because you’re trying to stick to a budget doesn’t mean you have to relegate your dog to an inferior or unhealthy diet. In fact, the better and more nutritionally you feed your Lab, the better his health will be in the long run. This will spare you unnecessary and expensive trips to your veterinarian.
Here are some tips on keeping your Lab’s belly full, while keeping your wallet from becoming empty.
- Pet store discounts: Pet stores sometimes have high-end pet food brands they are discontinuing. Bags of quality dog food will sometimes be marked down to sell quickly in favor of the newer brand.
- Food banks: Sometimes your local food bank will also carry food for pets.
- Local shelter: Shelters and non-profit organizations receive donations often. It’s quite likely you’ll be able to pick up some of their surplus of pet food.
- Make your own: This can save you a lot of money if you’re currently buying some of the more expensive pet food brands. Making your dog’s food yourself means that you are supervising exactly what your Lab is eating, without worrying about any “mystery” ingredients. There is no shortage of “DIY dog food” recipes available on the internet. Be brave one evening and try your hand at whipping up your own “canine cuisine.”
- Check with your butcher: Your local meat department or neighborhood butcher sometimes disposes of certain animal parts rather than selling them. Bones, necks, tails, feet, etc. are often simply thrown away. Ask them if they would be willing to sell you these parts at a significant discount, or even give them to you for free.
2. Keep Him Sheltered and Supervised
Emergency vet bills are some of the largest pet expenses Lab owners will ever face.
Letting your dog roam outside alone puts him at significant risk of physical harm. Keeping your Lab inside, except when out on a leash during supervised walks or runs, will ensure your dog’s safety and will help to prevent expensive and life-threatening accidents.
3. Take on Some of the Pet Care Yourself
Taking your dog to the groomers has become common practice for pet owners these days. It’s also startling how quickly those grooming bills add up. Learning to manage some basic pet care skills yourself will help reduce costs and will give you some quality bonding time with your Lab you didn’t have before. Ask your local veterinarian or pet store to show you how to do the following pet care techniques safely:
- Trim your dog’s nails
- Brush his fur and teeth
- Check and clean his ears regularly
4. Regular Play Time
This is a perfect, no-cost way to keep your pet active, exercised, and healthy. Playing with your Lab every day will also keep his heart and muscles strong, his mind well stimulated, and his weight under control.
5. Enough with the Toys!
Chew toys are another area where dog owners tend to spend too much. I promise you, your Lab is not the least bit impressed with that expensive toy you bought him at the local pet superstore. He would just as soon chase a stick or a tennis ball. Keep your Labrador’s toys cheap, simple, and few.
6. The Barter System
Having a support system of friends and family when it comes to caring for your Lab is priceless.
Instead of paying a professional to take care of your pet, why not ask a friend or family member if they would be willing to feed and walk your Lab while you’re away from home. You might be able to trade with them for things like cleaning their house, cooking some meals, or watching their kids.
7. Price-Compare Your Pet Medications
Make sure you compare your vet’s prices for medications with those of your local pharmacy. Pharmacy pricing can sometimes be considerably cheaper. Pharmacies also sometimes give special discounts for things like AAA membership, so be sure to ask.
On a related note, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns people to be cautious about buying pet medicine online. Many unapproved pet medications and products are sold on websites that will dispense prescription meds without a proper prescription, or who will make false claims about their product.
8. Vaccinate Your Lab (At the Very Least)
Annual pet exams are critical to the prolonged health of your dog. Doing your best to get your Lab in for his annual checkup will help to prevent a small medical issue from becoming a big and expensive one.
However, if the annual check-up is not currently in your budget, don’t skimp on taking the next-best step. Make sure to get your Lab vaccinated. Your local pet superstore, shelter, or even your city may offer low-cost vaccinations for your pet.
9. Reduced-Cost Vet Services
You may be eligible for vet care at your local free clinic if your annual income is below the Federal Poverty Line. You can find out more information about this by contacting your local shelter, your city’s animal control center, or search online.
The Verdict: They’re Totally Worth It
When it comes to affording your Lab, it’s a cliche, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
There are low-cost solutions and support programs available to anyone who’s willing to do the research, planning, and leg-work.
Even though our beloved Labs come with some extra expenses, just imagine the alternative to having a well-loved, well-fed, happy, healthy friend as a beloved part of your family, and who makes your home an amazing place to be.