Given that economies are in freefall and Christmas is shaping up to be little more than an exercise in fearful frugality, the answer to that question might well be: "Too darn much, but hey, what's the mark-down on the one-eyed gerbil?"
At the moment, it would seem, you can't give dogs away. But this hasn't stopped some unscrupulous — or just plain broke — owners from quietly removing the furry family members from the household.
A major animal charity announced this week that its London-based center was "at bursting point" due to an unprecedented increase in strays — up more than 1,000 compared to this time last year.
To make matters worse, says Dogs Trust, has compiled a list of the more ludicrous ones. They include: "My dog doesn't match the sofa," "The dog opened all the presents on Christmas Eve," and "My current dog is too old, can we swap for a puppy or younger model?"
The weirdest reason for summary abandonment, however, goes to the culturally aware, if clearly touched, owner who branded their dog "evil" on account of it having "eyes like David Bowie."
All this is missing a greater symbolism. For as we stumble into the financial wasteland of 2009, lost as we are in a rolling fog of vaporized "certainties," our treatment of man's best friend can be seen as a mirror of how we're treating ourselves.
It may be dog-eat-dog in the money-pits of Wall Street and the London Stock Exchange, but in some British homes, it's clearly become man-eat-dog (figuratively, we hope).
In an era of cuts, this is a cut too far. After all, sub-prime catastrophes and collateralized debt obligation have little to do with Spot, Fido or Rex. All he wants is some love and the odd Milk-Bone.
Day-to-day canine-costs don't have to be as high as they were in economically kinder times, either.
The Dogs Trust offers a few money-saving tips for the financially fraught dog owner. You can save pennies by buying dry food instead of tinned, and by buying it in bulk. You can save by shopping around for a cheaper vet. You can save by taking out pet health insurance.
You could resist the impulse to mutt-ssorize (curious times call for curious verbs). That sparkly collar or diamante bone may look tempting, but as far as your bank account is concerned, it's bling too far.
All of this is, of course, exactly the kind of advice any sane, non-dog-owning person would take on board if they found themselves in the midst of an economic meltdown. And if it's good enough for humans, it's good enough for dogs.
Patch is not an asset that depreciates in line with your property portfolio. For thousands of years, as man progressed from nomadic wanderer to civilized technocrat, the humble dog has had our back as unquestioning protector and companion. Such loyalty is one of the few things that won't crash like the next multi-billion-dollar hedge fund.
So treat the old wet-nosed fella with respect - he'll still want to fetch sticks and warm your feet long after the market's bottomed out.