Revealed: How much does your dog cost you every year?
With over 13,000 dogs abandoned or left stray every year, Sinead Ryan reveals there's much more to caring for an animal than just giving cuddles
They say a dog's not just for Christmas, and unfortunately it can be springtime when families realise that having a four-legged friend join them wasn't as easy or as cheap as they thought.
It costs around €2,500 a year to home a dog and you'll most likely have them with you for over a decade. Cats cost less, but even so, you'll be shelling out for hefty vet bills, food, grooming and essentials like kennelling and bedding - that's around the same price as your annual family holiday, so unless you have the means, it's unfair to bring an animal into your home, despite how much the kids beg you.
Around 13,000 dogs are abandoned or left stray every year and 1,800 of them end up being put down according to the Department of the Environment. A surprising number are voluntarily surrendered by their owners due to unexpected costs and care needs. This is very sad for both children and dogs.
TV3's resident vet Pete Wedderburn says people often buy a cute puppy without looking into it properly.
"If you are intent on getting a pet, choose a rescue dog," he says.
"Rescue centre staff have loads of experience. Places like Dogs Trust will find out all about you, and be able to match a dog to your needs. There's a myth that rescue dogs are somehow 'defective', and that this is why they need to be rescued.
"The truth is that while a minority of rescue dogs do have specific needs, most are just typical pet dogs that have fallen on bad times. All they need is the right home, and they'll have the potential to be perfect pets.
"By choosing a rescue pet, it will most likely already be chipped, vaccinated and spay/neutered, so it saves money compared to getting a pedigree pup."
A vet will look after the five essentials: vaccinations, parasite control, advice on nutrition, pet insurance and behaviour and training.
Microchips used to be on that list, but now it is illegal for a dog to change hands without being micro-chipped first.
An astonishing number of owners go to the trouble of chipping their dogs, but not entering their details on the data base (fido.ie) which means they can't be traced.
A dog licence is also a legal requirement, and can be purchased from the Post Office, costing €20 a year or €140 for life.
Insurance is around €150 per annum but often only until the dog is eight. You will have additional medical costs as it ages, so bear this in mind.
See the table for additional costs which must be factored in before you become a pet owner. While you don't need fancy bedding or toys, proper food is essential for health; scraps are not good enough. If you are going away, kennels charge around €20 per day for pooch sitting and will insist all vaccinations are up to date.
If you're out all day, really consider whether it's fair to have a dog at home or think about who will care for them. Dogs are very social animals and need company.
Naomi O'Shea runs Release The Hounds dog walking service, based in Dunboyne and Clonee, Co Meath.
"I go to the pet owner's house, collect their dog(s), bring them out for an hour and then drop them back home," she says.
"If a few dogs are sociable and enjoy other dogs' company, then I bring two or three out together at the one time - there are so many benefits in dogs having play dates.
"Usually the people who use it are those who work long hours during the day and want their dogs out of the house for a run - keeping them exercised, preventing boredom and, of course, going to the toilet!
"Other people who use the service are those who may be ill/injured and can't make it out with their dog for a few days. The cost varies - its €12 a day with discounts for regular bookings."
Release The Hounds can be contacted on 0831657558. Pete Wedderburn's latest book, Pet Subjects, is out now (Aurum Press, €14.99).