How much is that dog in the window?

How much is that dog in the window?

In 2016 we spent $7,516 in Caesar’s first full year at home.

The first month home

The first month home

$1,352 on all food items, including treats.

Throughout the first year we progressively bought premium commercial dog food. When it comes to pet food, Caesar is actually a very picky eater and a grazer so there was constant trial and error. For treats we frequented all options: online, big box and our local pet boutiques for variety. I also learned to avoid bully sticks the hard, very stinky, very middle-of-the-night, explosive, way.

$1,546 on vet bills, including preventative medication for flea, tick and heart worm, but not including pet health insurance and reimbursements.

There are the basic recurring expected costs: vaccinations, annual wellness checks and regular preventative medication; then there are the unexpected costs. Upon getting Caesar I took advantage of my employer’s discount for pet health insurance (which was a separate $24.33/month) and boy, did that come in handy. In Caesar’s first year at home we went through tape worms (absolutely disgusting), an ear infection, and a ruptured anal gland (crazy expensive). Keep in mind, unexpected events mean emergency visits which means more money just to walk in the door.

For most of my vet expenses I actually got reimbursed anywhere from 10% - 60%, but for the purposes of showing immediate out of pocket costs, I didn’t factor any reimbursements in the vet bills.

$3,730 for day care and boarding.

I walked a lot that first year.

The first month and a half we walked Caesar four times a day just to make sure there were no accidents at home and to keep him calm and happy. Jimmy did the morning walk while I walked him during lunch (I would go home during lunch), then to the dog park after work and then one more walk before bedtime. That quickly became unsustainable so then we started looking for day care services that also provided boarding.

Interviewing doggy day care services felt like a full-time job. Some places were at capacity, some places felt like “safety” considerations so I put in an application anyway, some places took so much effort just to schedule a consult - it was all very overwhelming and exhausting.

We finally landed on two that we liked, in different locations (depending on our schedules) and started off with daycare once to two times a week, and sporadically when we knew there were would be long days at work. For boarding, we paid $100 per night.

Remainder spent on pet insurance (includes any reimbursements), toys, accessories and grooming.

The first year was mostly about gear since you start developing preferences for certain things, so I bought a few different kinds of leashes, all of which I still use today, a raincoat, a light up collar for night, and a backpack. We also bought a handful of different kinds of toys but then quickly realized Caesar’s not really into chew toys, which kind of makes things easier. We had one soft chew toy we bought as his first toy (on sale for $10), and it took on the role similar to that of a child’s safety blanket (we did buy a back-up in preparation for the day when Chewy will be beyond repair) but he never took a liking to the other ones we bought so we either donated or gave them away.

Chewy and his backup

Chewy and his backup

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We also bought a couple tug toys since he does like to play tug-of-war, and one chuck-it with a ball, since Jimmy is still hoping one day Caesar will love to play fetch. We also bought a blanket/bed. Something that could easily fold/roll for when we travel with him. During the holidays I couldn’t resist buying him a holiday sweater when I found one that fit.

Grooming cost $100 (including gratuity) for a mobile groomer who parked in front of our building.

In 2017 we spent $10,503 in Caesar’s second full year at home.

What?

Yup - Our expenses only seemed to increase.

$2,104 on all food items, including treats.

We spent 56% more, and this was deliberately. The biggest investment I started to make was in Caesar’s diet. It started in the summer when I met other husky owners who fed their dogs raw diets and their dogs looked and felt amazing. Caesar’s poop was also a little out of control, and much like with ourselves, when we don’t feel good the first thing to change is typically diet (and exercise, but Caesar got plenty). The transition then kicked into full gear towards the end of the year when Caesar had a ruptured anal gland…again. His first incident was in December 2016 and I thought it was a one time incident. His second incident was in October 2017.

Once I went down this route I started to experiment a lot with food. It wasn’t economically sustainable or to my liking to feed him a pure raw diet so I started buying meat in bulk at Costco to cook to supplement the raw ingredients. This is also when I discovered some really good treats at Costco, which I continue to buy.

What’s not factored in here is when I buy my own groceries that actually can also be used for Caesar, things like yogurt and certain vegetables and fruit. Yogurt ended up being great because it actually helped combat normal yeast buildup in Caesar’s ear (he’s prone to it), so to this day I continue to feed him a spoonful daily.

For those who are wondering about raw/home cooked diets effectiveness, I will say Caesar’s poop changed drastically in amount and texture (for the better). His energy level also significantly increased. That was actually the one factor that got Jimmy finally on board (other than not having to do the prep and cooking). His proper weight is maintained, his fur is very soft, almost puppy-like, and something I noticed almost immediately was how long and thick his eyelashes got!

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$1,311 on vet bills, including preventative medication for flea, tick and heart worm, but not including pet health insurance and reimbursements.

The whole point of taking Caesar off commercial dog food was to lower unexpected vet costs, which it did, about 15% but I wanted to see a more significant decrease to justify increasing food expenses, so I continued for another year to see if I could completely avoid another ruptured anal gland.

$6,347 for day care and boarding.

Because both day care vendors we used were primarily indoor spaces, in January 2017 we finally decided to start interviewing outdoor doggy day care companies for off leash outings (along with pick up and drop off service). By this time we had done enough hikes with Caesar to realize he was much better off leash and burned the most amount of energy with that level of freedom.

Once we found a company we liked Caesar’s schedule ramped up to three to four times per week while we continued to use the same boarding services for when we traveled. Still paying $100/night.

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Remainder spent on pet insurance (includes any reimbursements), toys, accessories and grooming.

It’s hard not to spoil your pet…really hard. We ended up replacing the first bed with one that has bolsters and also nicely matched our decor. We still have it today.

And also big enough for me…

And also big enough for me…

We also decided to invest in a better car seat cover, which we also still use on a very frequent basis, and as we started hiking more I got some more backpacks and harnesses for Caesar. In 2017 I also started to build emergency packs for all of us, which meant getting cheaper extra items for Caesar’s pack (I used the first backpack I bought), like an additional collar and leash. The one thing I continued to never pay for since day one was poop bags, since we always got some for free, either from goody bags/freebies or just walking around the neighborhood. I also bought a couple elizabethan collars, one of which has come in very handy and spared my legs many bruises.

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In 2018 we spent $10,124 in Caesar’s third full year at home.

$3,121 on all food items, including treats.

This was the first official full year off commercial dog food. I buy ground beef (about $21 - $24 for ~ 6lbs) and/or ground turkey about every 2 weeks at Costco, along with the same Half Moon Chicken Jerky treats and generic greenies, various types of raw grind at SFRaw, and cans of Pumpkin puree occasionally at any supermarket. Every now and then I still buy treats at various pet stores but fully transitioning was still almost 48% more spent than in the previous year (and a whopping 131% more than in 2016).

Avoiding pet food also makes things interesting at meal times. Because I tend to cook pretty simple dinners, usually just roasting vegetables, most of the time I could eliminate our waste by adding some variety to Caesar’s dinner.

I was crossing my fingers to no more tushy problems.

$1,351 on vet bills, including preventative medication for flea, tick and heart worm, but not including pet health insurance and reimbursements.

While still slightly higher than 2017, almost 2%, this is about 13% less than 2016. About a month ago, I thought Caesar’s new diet regimen was totally working, right until two nights ago when Caesar’s anal gland ruptured for a third time in a row. Right when I let my guard down. Soooo close…

In 2018 I also switched to a different pet insurance provider. Despite the discount I got from work I figured with Caesar getting older it might be better to have a plan that covered more medical emergencies so I switched to Healthy Paws, which has a higher monthly premium ($45.52/month) since it doesn’t cover wellness exams. The particular plan I have has a $250 deductible and covers 80%. To give you an example: Caesar’s rupture required me to go to VCA for an emergency visit at 9pm on a weeknight. Caesar doesn’t do well with strangers handling him so he has to be sedated, which means another itemized item on the bill. At about 2:30 am I get the call that he’s ready to be picked up. At about 3 am I arrive home with a loopy and scared Caesar and some medication. The total bill came out to $781. I submitted a claim through the app which was processed in 24 hours. Total covered was $661 (since they don’t cover the veterinary exam, which at SF VCA is $120), then 80% of that is $528, then my $250 deductible is applied, leaving me with a $278 reimbursement. Much like human health insurance, since I’ve already met my deductible, the 80% coverage would help out a lot if Caesar has any other issues before the end of the year.

$5,010 for day care and boarding.

In 2018 we completely switched to PrimePaw so even though Caesar goes out three to four times a week our boarding expenses lowered considerably since they board dogs either in your home or theirs, which is 25% less per night than previously. While this can vary each year with our travel/work schedule, generally we always take at least a one to two weeks trip without Caesar.

Remainder spent on pet insurance (includes any reimbursements), toys, accessories and grooming.

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Another change I made this year was is bathing Caesar myself. Since he behaves much better with me, plus, this just becomes another bonding experience for us, so instead of paying $100 per bath I only have to pay $10 to $12 using self-service bathing stations at Petco or Pawtrero. I do use my own shampoo sometimes, depending on the season and specific needs, but 1 bottle lasts more than a year.

Generally, as Caesar gets older there’s less stuff to buy but I every now and then there is something I can’t resists like booties, a bike attachment…or another Christmas sweater. We also incurred some additional expenses in this category because we needed a second set of bowls and bed for our vacation home and we decided to try new things/styles. Caesar generally likes sleeping on hard surfaces since he needs to stay cool, but as he’s getting older we decided to buy a (much) higher end air foam memory mattress bed to see if he has a preference for a particular type of padding.

So what’s new for 2019?

Since the raw diet didn’t prevent Caesar’s most troublesome health issue I am going to continue experimenting through 2019, mainly through diet, again, but also wellness exams/vet check ups. Until then…

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

👣 The fur-mom

The sweet smell of salt ponds

The sweet smell of salt ponds