What Type of Dog (or Cat) is Cheapest to Own?

By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com

Although many people treat their pets as members of the family, most don't expect to spend on their furry friends the $250,000 that it takes to raise a child. That's why doing a little research to find the cheapest dog breeds to own is a good idea. This is not a selfish act. The decision to bring home a "cheap" dog (or cat) is good for the checkbook, no doubt, but a pet will have a much happier life if its masters have sufficient resources to provide proper food, shelter, and care over the long term.

Related: 6 cheap pets to keep you company

Visits to the vet can cost thousands of dollars, so we began our search for the cheapest dogs to own by reaching out to a pet insurance company. According to Laura Bennett, CEO and co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance, the least expensive dogs (and cats) are female mixed breeds that have been spayed. Still, we found that some specialty mixes, often with funny names like Golden Doodle or Puggle, command a premium price up front and higher insurance costs, as well. As Bennett notes, "the hybrids are slightly more expensive than true Heinz 57 mixes." Understanding the cost of pet insurance is important even if you don't plan to buy any, she continues, because the price of a policy generally correlates with likely veterinary costs.

Related: Inexpensive cat food buying guide

Next, we looked into grooming fees. A certified groomer and operations manager at a pet salon says that smaller dogs are cheaper to groom than larger dogs; ditto for short-haired dogs that shed compared with those with human-like hair, such as Maltese Poodles or Schnauzers, that don't. To keep a lid on grooming costs, the cheapest dogs to own are small mixed-breeds, like Beagle mixes, or Bulldogs that have been bred to prevent respiratory problems.

Boarding and training costs are also factors to consider. The owner of a doggy daycare says boarding costs often vary depending on the size of the dog. One advantage to owning a small dog, he explains, is that friends and family may be more willing to doggy-sit (ergo, no boarding costs). Smaller dogs are also more welcome in apartments, giving their owners more options when it's time to move. On the other hand, smaller dogs are harder to train and have smaller bladders, which could raise the ante on cleaning bills. For a cheap dog to own, this source recommends the mid-sized Australian Shepherd, which is smart enough not to have accidents; friendly, which can mean lower insurance costs (aggressive dogs may incur higher premiums on home/renter insurance); and easy to clean with a good bath in the backyard, which cuts down on grooming costs.

Of course, size also affects the outlay on food. Here again, small means cheap. Food is one of the most expensive components of raising a dog, but it's important not to skimp. Spending a little more on food now will pay off later with a happier and healthier pet.

Bottom line: Small, mixed breeds are the cheapest dogs to own. From insurance costs (homeowner and pet) to grooming, boarding, and food, small dogs are easier to handle and less expensive to raise.

Related: How to save money at the vet

What About Cats? Purebred cats are less frequently sought out than purebred dogs, but breeds such as Sphynx, Himalayan, Siamese, and Ragdoll are pricey to own. As with dogs, some purebred cats are more likely to develop illnesses. Himalayan cats, for example, have a flat pug nose that often causes breathing problems; the breed is also susceptible to joint problems and watery eyes. Siamese cats can develop respiratory infections when younger, and when stressed they may develop feline obsessive compulsive disorder, causing them to groom so extensively that they lose their hair.

Again, mixed-breed cats are less costly to insure and veterinary costs are often lower. Unlike dogs though, most cats are similar in size and weight and, breed issues aside, the cost of raising and/or boarding a cat doesn't vary too much.

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