How that cute puppy came to cost you R 150 000

We are approaching that time of year when people are considering what to gift people for Christmas and as is often the case, a cute puppy or kitten comes to mind. Many people do the noble thing of going to a shelter or a welfare organisation to adopt a puppy or kitten for a mere R 650. What they fail to realise is that that cute puppy or kitten is not just a R 650 worth purchase but more likely a R 65 000.00 one, or in some cases up to a R 150 000. How is that possible or what do you mean, you might ask?

Primary healthcare

For starters, that cute puppy or kitten will need at least three- to four initial vaccinations to protect them from some fatal diseases. To that, you can add a required dose of monthly deworming, to ensure that the lifecycle of the worms is properly broken. The cost of this exercise could easily set you back anything from R 2000 to R 3000.

Depending on the season of the year you acquire your puppy or kitten, they are going to need regular (at least monthly) tick and flea treatments for at least three to six months, in succession. Depending on the products you use; and the size of your dog or cat, this exercise will likely cost you anywhere between R 500 and R 1200.

Pet Accessories

Recommended accessories when adopting a new puppy or kitten include a bed or basket, a sandbox for kitties, a collar and lead for your dogs, brushes, bowls, and toys. There goes another R 2000 to R 10 000. Indoor cats will need cat litter for the rest of their lives. The cost over your cat’s lifespan (20 years) will likely be in the order of R 18 000.00. Puppies that are kept indoors will need training pads for the first three to six months; these can cost you about R 1300.

Puppy training is a crucial part of socialising and integrating your dog into your family and society in general. The cost of a training program, including travel to and from classes once a week, will most likely set you back between R 5000 and R 8000.


When your pup or kitten is six months old, they need to be spayed or neutered. In female animals, this is a full ovariohysterectomy and this procedure is heavily subsidised by most vets, assisting the public in preventing unwanted pregnancies. The true cost of this operation, which is a full-blown surgical procedure done under general anaesthesia and inside a sterile operating theatre, is in the order of R 4000 to R 4500. Most vets, however, charge somewhere between R 1200 to R 2500 for this procedure.


By far the most expensive items for your puppy or kitten throughout their lives will be their food. Here, there is a range of prices depending on the quality of food you feed. The general principle here is that the more expensive the food is, the better the quality and usually the better condition your pet will be in and the longer they will live. Size really matters and the cost of a super premium diet for a small breed dog weighing 5 kg or less, will be in the order of R 80 000 over its lifetime (15 years) whereas the cost per day for a large breed dog 30 kg will be R 190 000 over its lifetime (12 years). The cost of feeding a premium diet to a small breed dog weighing 5 kg or less, will be in the order of R 53 000 over its lifetime (15 years) whereas the cost per day, for a large breed dog weighing 30 kg, will be R 180 000. Feeding a poor quality pet food is going to cost less, but your animal may, as a result, not be in optimal health condition and can be prone to diseases.

Annual Wellness exams

Dogs and cats age on average the equivalent of seven human years for every calendar year. When your puppy or kitten grows into a mature dog or cat, they will need to see the vet for an annual health and wellness exam and vaccination if required. This visit is the equivalent of seeing your doctor every seven years. Most people, especially ageing people, need to see their doctor more frequently. The same principle of frequent doctor’s visits applies to your pets too and these annual visits to the vet will set you back roughly R 15 000 over the lifetime of a pet with a 15-year lifespan.

Veterinary care

Veterinary expenses remain a significant contributor to the total expenditure on a pet. You may be lucky and have an extremely healthy pet that may only need to see the vet once a year for their annual wellness exam.

If however, you are unlucky and have a pet that sustains a severe injury that needs intensive veterinary intervention and care, like bite wounds, being hit by a car or tearing a knee ligament, the cost of treatment may easily set you back anywhere between R 10 000 and R 30 000.

If your pet develops a condition that either needs ongoing treatment or a therapeutic diet, the cost may be anywhere between R 5000 and R 50 000. Veterinary care, like human medical care, is not cheap. Vets study for six years and veterinary medicine happens to be one of the most expensive veterinary courses available.

Most veterinary hospitals or clinics have to have the same equipment you will find in most human hospitals like X-ray machines, fully equipped operating theatres, laboratories, dentistry suites and special care equipment and facilities. The cost of setting up and equipping a veterinary hospital can easily be between R 1 mil to R 2 mil, excluding the cost of the physical property.

Compared to what humans pay in private medical hospitals, the cost of having a pet admitted to a private veterinary hospital is minuscule. However, most people still don’t have medical aid for their pets like they do for themselves, which means that should disaster strike and intensive veterinary care is needed, all of those costs need to be paid from discretionary, “leftover” income, something which is indeed almost non-existent for most people.

Dental care

The recommended norm for humans to see a dentist is every six months. An annual wellness exam for your dog or cat will be the equivalent of a seven-year gap to see the doctor or dentist, in the case of humans.

As animals get older, most of them develop plaque that calcifies, forming calculi on the teeth. The only way to treat this effectively, other than preventing it by brushing your pet’s teeth daily, is to have it removed by ultrasonic dental descaling under a full general anaesthetic. The cost of this procedure is in the order of R 3000 to R 4000. Many vets also subsidise this procedure to make it more affordable for pet owners to have their pets’ teeth cleaned.


For the sake of this article, we have worked on an annual inflation rate of 5%. As rates fluctuate, so do prices, and it may either cost you significantly more to own a pet in times of high inflation or less in times of lower inflation. Either way, it should be clear to anyone wanting to adopt a pet to remember that it is not a R 650 transaction but more likely a R 150 000 transaction.

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