3 Ways Your Dog Is Ruining Your Credit Score

By Dan Rafter on 12 August 2015 0 comments

That puppy looks so cute. But be careful: Pets are also a big financial responsibility that can take a bite out of your credit score. According to data from the ASPCA, you can expect to pay $580 every year to own a small dog, $695 annually for a medium dog, and $875 each year for a large dog. And the first year of owning a pet comes with additional costs.

"It sounds harsh, but if you can't afford to support yourself you have no business getting a pet," says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "If you don't have room in your budget for caring for a pet, you are not just hurting yourself, you are hurting that pet. If you can't afford medical treatment or to properly care for and feed that pet, getting a pet is not the best decision to make."

Here are three ways your new dog could send your credit score plummeting.

Big Medical Bills

Bringing your dog to the vet is a necessity. But it's not cheap. PetCareRx says that a basic office visit can cost $45 to $55, while other basic services such as booster shots (an average of $18 to $25) and heartworm tests ($45 to $50) can add up.

But it's the rarer type of medical treatments that are truly costly. PetCareRx says that it can cost up to $110 for the geriatric screenings that older dogs — typically seven years and up — require, while dental cleaning can run up to $400 for dogs.

It's when it comes to more complicated procedures such as surgeries or cancer treatments that your dog's medical bills can soar. PetCareRx estimates that it can cost up to $10,000 to treat your dog's cancer through chemotherapy and the ASPCA estimates that it can cost up to $15,000 to give your dog a kidney transplant.

You can usually work out payment plans for these costs. Missing these payments won't show up on your credit report… initially. But if your vet sends a collection agency after you, that will be reported. McClary says that a negative judgment on your credit report — such as a bill being sent to collections — could cause your credit score to instantly drop by 150 points or more.

Pet Insurance

Because there are more treatment options available for dogs today, many pet owners are opting to purchase pet insurance to help cover the costs of cancer treatments and surgeries. These policies aren't free, with the ASPCA estimating that a typical pet insurance policy costs from $300 to $400 a year.

If you fall behind on these payments, your credit score won't initially take a hit. But if you fall behind enough, the provider of your insurance policy will send your account to a collection agency. Once that negative judgment is listed on your credit report, expect your three-digit credit score to tumble by 150 points or more.

"You'd be surprised at how quickly medical and insurance providers are sending accounts to collection today," McClary said. "If you miss two payments, you might find yourself dealing with a third-party collection agency. And that will show up on your credit report."

Ouch! Dog Bites

Your beloved poodle doesn't like the mailman, and shows his displeasure by taking a chunk out of his leg. This simple bite can cost you a lot of money.

The Insurance Information Institute found that while the number of dog bite claims across the United States fell 4.7% in 2014, the average cost of these claims jumped 15%. The institute found that the average cost dog owners paid out for dog bite claims stood at $32,072 last year, up from $27,862 in 2013.

A dog bite can easily take a big chunk out of your household budget. If your finances are already tight, the added burden of paying out — or defending — a dog bite claim could cause you to fall behind on other monthly bills such as mortgage payments or credit cards. These late or missed payments will cause your credit score to fall.

A pet can be a wonderful addition to your family — but it can also be a costly one. Make sure your finances are healthy enough to withstand the extra expenses.

What unexpected costs has your pooch racked up?

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