Pet Peeves Part 1: Couture Critters Are Expensive!


All totaled, my dogs cost me $600 every month last year.

Between vet visits, allergy meds, their special diet, grooming, the dog walker, new bedding, a bark collar, and having to replace my entire first floor carpet because of one doggie's explosive bowels, I spent more on my dogs each month than I did on my own health and beauty needs.

Doggie Vogue

Just so you don't think that I'm one of those curmudgeons who refuses to dress her dog up for Halloween, I would just like you to remember this: I contemplated paying over $1,000 to give my dog a facelift. And for the record, it's not that unusual.

My current home, Seattle, has more dogs per household than children. I don't think that this is a bad thing — we're just a dog-lovin' town. Although most Seattle dog owners are probably the fleece-wearing, kayak-owning, large-dog caregiving types, we are no stranger to the coddled cutesy canine. We're home to several excellent boutiques, some of which sell outrageously-priced but fantastic doggie paraphernalia.

There are also no shortage of online shops in which you can blow tons of money on unnecessary bling for your little things (for the record, my shih tzu is named Little Thing, as in "You're such a cute little thing!"). Even Target carries a frighteningly adorable array of fashion for Fido.

Pets get everything these days. Pet therapists will tell you what weighs on your critter's mind. Dogs get massages.

I don't get massages myself, but if I heard that I needed one for my dog, I would consider it.

Resistance Is Not Futile

But we must resist! Or if not resist, then definitely evaluate. Childless dog owners like me often have a misplaced parental necessity to dress up and coo over our little precious puppies, but to what end?

Some dogs love to dress up (my sister's dog, a Lab-Sharpei-Chow mix pictured here with my sis), likes to strut around in my brother-in-law's t-shirts. You've never seen a dog with prouder body language than Zero once you put a t-shirt over his giant head. But of my own dogs, only one tolerates his rain slicker; the other throws himself bodily against any available surface in an attempt to remove any stitch of clothing on his long, fat little body.

Neither of them particularly likes being dressed up as a pumpkin, as much as I want to subject them to it. Believe me, I love the idea of getting them dolled up and photographed.

But I also think it's important to figure out what is best for your pet. Take the rain coat example — I finally determined that it simply wasn't going to work with one of the dogs. He doesn't mind getting rained on, and it only takes me a minute to towel him off, so now I know not to waste my money on buying clothes for him.

A local Seattle blogger named Ben Huh (whose family moniker has officially eclipsed Momofuku as Best Last Name Ever) runs a cutey-petooty site called Itchmo that tracks Seattle pet happenings, and he posted a helpful article about saving money on pet food that I found useful. It was because of Ben's site that I decided to start a five-part series of posts on the cost of pet ownership, and include some tips on how to reduce those costs. Well, that, and finding out what our Sarah spends on her turtle every month.

I've gone from spending hundreds on my dogs every month to spending maybe $100 a month, including vet care. I've learned a thing or two about caring for the fussiest creatures, and I'll be sharing that with Wise Bread readers.

So, starting next week, I'll offer some how-to's on saving money while still providing the best care for your pets. Food, grooming, vet bills and insurance, and boarding will all be covered over the course of next week. I've interviewed friends, family, and vets on the best ways to trim your pet spending without depriving your cat of her condo or your Chihuahua of her leopard-print cape. After all, your pet's happiness matters, and if Lola can't be without her rhinestone-studded collar, then we have to find a way to keep her in it.

Next up: Saving money on pet food.

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Sarah Winfrey's picture

I had a friend who named his dog Peeve...and proceeded to introduce him as "My pet, Peeve."

Andrea Karim's picture

Wish I had thought of that. I originally named him Pepi, as in Pepi Le Pew, but we were in China, and everyone called him Pei Pei. So I quit using that, and never came up with a good name. My mother calls him Little One because she feels that "Little Thing" sounds like a commentary on his personal parts. I just call him "Thing". And I get mad at my parents for naming me Andrea Ann. The hypocrisy!

Guest's picture

What happened between when I was a kid (yikes - a good 25 years ago) and now?

My dogs: walk elegantly with me into high-end designer-doggie Haus'es where I peruse gorgeous T-shirts, collars and jackets. I hand over my wallet contents for raw food that costs more than my own groceries. I get all excited over treats packaged beautifully. And toys!

I'm sure my memory serves me correctly - my childhood family daschund seemed entirely content with Dr. Ballards and table scraps night after night. Treats were bits of balogna or pepperoni. She didn't once, not ever, get dressed to go out, Which Is Something Since We Lived in Yellowknife! (far, far northern Canada. Minus 40, a lot of the time). No bed for her - just an old blanket in a closet. She lived to be 18 and unless I was naive, enjoyed a very happy doggy life.
So why am I spending more on my dogs than on my own haircuts and clothing each month?!? (AND I'm a money coach who should know better?!)
Someone save me from myself... (but let me keep the dogs!)

Guest's picture

I so wanted to say nah-ah, not me! But, well, the boys did get their Science Diet every day last month, but I didn't get my haircut, lol!

First time visitor from the Family of Life Carnival, looking forward to more of the series!

Guest's picture

I don't spend my well earned money on dogs (I don't have any) but I sure do spend it on my cats. It is amazing how much I drop each month for them, but they are worth every penny.

Here via the carnival of family life.

Andrea Karim's picture

I'm sure I'd find a way to spend my hundreds on it.

Guest's picture

I didn't realize how expensive dogs can be. My cats are lucky if they get a new flea collar every 6 months! LOL!

Here from the Carnival of Family Life

Guest's picture
Lea Go


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Lea Go