You’ll drop a lot of dough on a designer or purebred dog from a pet store, but the money hemorrhage won’t stop there. “I have new patients who paid $3,000 to $5,000 for a purebred puppy who are in shock when they discover they’ll need to spend far more to cover the multiple medical costs throughout the dog’s life,” said Dr. E’Lise Christensen, a veterinary behaviorist in New York City.
Decades of inbreeding has led to numerous genetic problems in purebred dogs—from dislocated hips in German Shepards to severe breathing issues in bulldogs—which equate to years of ongoing veterinary expenses. Get a designer dog that mixes two such breeds, and the problems multiply.
For a more affordable and humane option, consider adopting from a shelter or rescue. “When you adopt a pet from a shelter, you are saving a life,” Amy Nichols, a spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States, said. Plus you won’t pay nearly the same amount as you would at a pet store or breeder, even if you select a designer breed. A labradoodle pup from a breeder could cost about $3,000 versus $100 to $750 from a rescue, for example.
Here are three reasons why it’s smarter—and kinder—to get a dog from a rescue or shelter instead of dropping thousands of dollars on a purebred or designer dog:
You can adopt a shelter dog for $100 or less
Expect to pay from $1,000 to more than $3,000 for the average pet store puppy. “A beagle puppy might only cost about $600,” Nichols said, “but an English bulldog is often over $3,000.” Spaying or neutering costs another $200.
The adoption fee for a shelter dog, on the other hand, can be as little as $100. If you have your heart set on a purebred, you can still save by checking with your local rescue, where a beagle pup can cost $375 and an English bulldog around $450. You can sometimes find designer dogs there too.
Pet store dogs are bred in inhumane conditions
Many dogs sold in pet stores are bred in puppy mills. “They’re bred for profit and kept in tiny, filthy cages. These dogs don’t receive any affection, exercise or proper veterinary care,” according to the ASPCA website.
If you decide to buy from a breeder, be sure to choose one who cares for dogs. “Finding a good breeder takes time and effort, but it’s worth it to ensure you aren’t cruel breeding practices," said Jennie Lintz, director of the ASPCA’s Puppy Mills Campaign. Visit the breeder’s place of business so you can actually see how pups are born and raised. Ask questions about how the animals have been socialized and how often the mother breeds. Also ask to see all vaccination and medical records.
Health problems really add up—financially
Designer dogs can be even more fragile than purebreds as breeders mate purebreds to create a new “design,” each bringing its own genetic problem into the new breed. Often the mixes are a genetic mismatch. If you combine a dog prone to ear infections, like a poodle, labrador retriever or cocker spaniel, with one prone to skin conditions like a bulldog or a doberman you could end up shelling out thousands to address the combination of problems.
“Health problems in one dog may be small, but you create multiple problems when you inbreed with other purebred dogs to get a certain look or behaviors,” Christensen said.
To find out how much it costs to care for a dog after adoption, here's a guide from the ASPCA.
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