Having a pet can be expensive. From routine check-ups to ensuring they’re getting the proper nutrition, the costs can add up. When it comes to your emotional support animal, the way you budget may be even more important. After all, they’re going to be there for you when you need them most, and you’ll want to take care of their health as much as yours.
There are other costs associated with emotional support animals that may not come with having a regular pet. Those costs could include obtaining an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional; training; and other hidden fees you may not even know about. The best way to ensure that both you and your ESA are properly taken care of is to iron out a budget and stick to it.
Let’s take a look at the finances involved in having an emotional support animal, and some tips on how to budget for your ESA.
How much money is an emotional support dog?
Depending on the type of dog you want to act as your emotional support animal, costs may vary. Different breeds range in price and can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Choosing the right breed for you will help you determine how much the initial cost of welcoming a support dog into your life will be.
No two dogs are alike, and more expensive breeds (such as the Tibetan Mastiff, Chow Chow, or Samoyed) may run you close to five figures. Breeds that tend to be on the lower end of the cost scale include Beagles, Chihuahuas and Labrador Retrievers. It is up to you which dog you would like to call your new best friend, but knowing the initial cost will help keep your budget in check.
Emotional support animal maintenance costs
Just like any other animal or pet, there are typical costs associated with owning an animal. There is no one-size-fits-all cost chart, because the costs associated with dogs differ from breed to breed. The initial cost will be the biggest in the first year, with following costs tending to lower as your dog ages.
Then there’s the case of emotional support dog certification. The only way to have your dog certified as an emotional support animal is by getting an ESA letter from your health provider. This would most likely be a therapist due to the prevalence of ESAs being used to help manage mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
(Note: there are many fraudulent websites and companies out there that claim they can get you an ESA letter, but they are not to be trusted unless they connect you with a mental health professional and go through the right avenues.)
Getting the best food possible for your emotional support animal is the best route to take to ensure their health, and thus, yours as well. The average cost to feed a dog per year varies widely because the different quality and cost of food, as well as the types. It also depends on the size of your dog; obviously, a smaller dog will need less food, while larger ones need to eat more. Also, puppies generally eat more than adult-sized dogs, so this will need to be taken into account after the initial adoption of your new ESA.
According to reports, the cost of food can range anywhere from $250 to $750 per dog, per year. Broken down into monthly costs and averaged between those two numbers, the cost to feed your ESA will be around $42 per month.
During the first year or two, your ESA will need to visit the vet more often. They will need to get vaccines and regular examinations to ensure that they’re healthy and growing properly. The average cost for dog vaccinations for the first year is $500. This cost will vary significantly, though, as some vaccines are not required by law and thus you can opt out of them, ultimately saving yourself money.
It will also depend on whether or not your ESA is receiving a vet exam at the same time as their shots. This will up the price, but that number will depend on the location of the veterinarian clinic. Clinics in suburban areas often charge less than those in the city.
Other vet costs for your ESA can be unplanned, such as accidents or injuries that you weren’t expecting. Many of those will be covered with pet insurance, though.
Another cost that will depend on the type of animal, the age, and any previous health conditions will be pet insurance. Insurance for your pet is always a great idea because unexpected health costs can soar into the thousands, which could cause a huge strain on many people’s finances.
Pet insurance rates vary by company and by coverage, but the average cost of dog insurance is roughly $900 per year for the first year. Of course, pet insurance isn’t required by law, so this cost might not be included in your monthly budget if you choose not to opt into it.
Other costs that are associated with the care of your ESA include extras such as toys, treats, training, grooming, or any other type of cost not associated with the base health and initial purchase of your animal. These costs are hard to deduce because they will differ from person to person as well as breed to breed.
In the case of grooming, your dog might not need it as often if it’s a short-haired breed such as a Boxer or Weimaraner. For more furry friends such as a Siberian Husky or Poodle, grooming can be a huge added expense.
The typical costs for incidentals can run as high as $1000–3000 per year.
How to budget for an emotional support animal
Knowing a rough cost associated with having an emotional support animal is the best first step to ensure that you can afford it. After all, if having an ESA causes financial stress, it may be doing more harm than good.
Choosing the right breed for your budget, knowing what food you’ll feed your ESA, and planning for the unexpected are all good jumping off points when budgeting for your ESA. Having an ESA may put a dent in the wallet, but the good that they could do for you if you suffer from a mental health condition is priceless.