MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- You'll find a dog in nearly one out of every three Minnesota homes. Their wagging tails can warm a person's heart, but the costs of being a dog owner can also do a number on their bank account.
On average, dog owners spend between $700 to $3,000 a year, counting routine things like food, toys, boarding and veterinary visits.
Some owners might be tempted to cut costs by avoiding the vet, but experts agree that at least a once-a-year visit is important because ailments become much more expensive to treat the longer they're neglected.
Dr. David Lee is the director of the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center.
"The fact is, a pet can go from being a young animal to middle age to a senior in three or four years," Lee said, "and certainly the kinds of problems they'll have as a senior, you want to catch those early."
Sometimes owners do spend more than they need to, though, by panicking when their dog seems a little off. Lynn Silvis is a veterinary technician who worked in a clinic for 10 years and saw many new pet owners rushing in with relatively minor issues.
"We don't need to run to the vet every single time," she said. "Sometimes something as simple as sniffles or a little soft stool can be dealt with at home."
Silvis now works as a trainer for Canine Coach and teaches a seminar on what constitutes an emergency -- and what doesn't.
"Vet care is really important," Silvis said, "and sometimes the best thing to do is call your vet and ask. A lot of vets are happy to answer questions on the phone and let you know whether or not you should come in."
You can actually save money before you even bring a dog home, because the breed of dog you choose can be a factor in how often you end up at the vet.
In general, smaller dogs are less expensive to care for, and mixed breeds average fewer health problems than purebreds.
Pugs, for example, are known to develop issues with their skin and their eyes. Golden retrievers have a high rate of cancer and hip problems.
The common breeds with the highest medical expenses, according to pet health insurer Trupanion, are:
Experts say dog owners need to budget for major expenses, either through insurance payments or a savings account. That way, their dog's health crisis doesn't also create a financial crisis.
"It's very difficult to make those decisions when you're in the emotion of the moment and it's hard for all of us," Lee said.
One other money-saving tip: try shopping around for pet medications. It may be convenient to buy from the veterinarian, but you can often find better deals online.
for more features.