Pets Helped People Cope During Pandemic
UAE: Own a pet or planning on getting one? Here’s how much it costs and how to plan your finances. (Image for illustrative purposes). Image Credit: Stock image

Dubai: Pets make great companions, bringing us immeasurable joy. Many a times our furry friends even ease our anxious minds. If pets are a source of happiness and positivity for us, we too have certain responsibilities towards them. Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment, one that also involves careful financial planning.

Technically, financial planning starts even before the pet comes home. The adoption fee for a dog is roughly Dh1,500, which includes the first round of vaccination and microchip. But that’s only the beginning. Add some basic items like food, bowls, bed, leash, collar, toys and we are looking at an expense of Dh2,000 on the very first day.

That’s how much Grazia Morelli, a UAE resident and co-founder of an events company, spent when she adopted her dog Kiko last year. “Over time, we have realised that certain expenses are non-negotiable such as food, supplements, grooming and a few days at the day care, totalling around Dh2,000 per month.”

Dh 2000

Initial monthly costs for adopting a dog

A good starting point is to calculate expenses related to food, grooming, socialisation, occasional toys and treats and vet visits. While ad hoc expenses include accessories, boarding and medical emergencies and the monthly expenditure may vary based on size, breed and health conditions of the pet, you can optimise spends via good planning.

UAE resident Grazia Morelli spent about Dh2,000 in the first month of adopting her dog Kiko

Let’s start with food

Have you ever felt spoilt for choice due to the sheer options available in pet food and struggled to select the right food type and brand?

A good start to select the right good variant is by reading the ingredients list to ensure that the food is nutritious, and it fits your budget.

Dubai resident Ayesha Azeem, owner of two cats – Bill (14 years) and Loki (1.5 years) – spends Dh300 each per month for their food. “Having an adult and a young cat, I have to ensure that the food is nutritious and meets their different requirements.”

Loki and Bill
Dubai resident Ayesha Azeem, owner of two cats – Bill (14 years) and Loki (1.5 years) – spends Dh300 each per month for their food.

While the monthly food expense for a small dog eating mostly canned food could start at Dh150. Adding some treats and occasional kibble might take the total cost up to Dh250. That said, the choice of brand and food type will invariably alter the cost (refer to the table below).

Pet monthly
Image Credit: Rupkatha Bhowmick

Despite the plethora of commercial food options, some pet owners opt for home-cooked meals. It is more time-consuming, but you are in control of each ingredient that goes into the food and, if carefully planned, might even save a few dirhams.

Soon after adopting her German Shepherd dog Darko, UAE resident Candice Braganza shifted him from kibble to home-cooked food. “Weighing 30 kgs, Darko’s meals include a mix of animal and plant proteins. Until last year, I used to spend Dh2,500 per month on Darko’s food. But pandemic-related challenges pushed me to re-look at our household expenses, including pet care.

“Since then I’ve been buying the ingredients from wholesale markets, as opposed to regular supermarkets reducing Darko’s food expenses to Dh1,200 per month without compromising on the quality. I also look out for deals online to buy superfoods and supplements for him.”

UAE resident Candice Braganza's German Shepherd dog Darko: "Until last year, I used to spend Dh2,500 per month on Darko’s food. But pandemic-related challenges pushed me to re-look at our household expenses, including pet care."


More heads to consider

Ever stood in a pet shop wanting to buy all the treats and toys for your pets? This too is a real struggle for pet owners, but we have to be prudent. After all, there is only a certain number of treats that our pets can have daily. They also tend to have only a couple of favourite toys.

“Kiko loves to play with tennis balls, so I buy a set of 10 for him every month that costs around Dh50,” Morelli shared.

On the other hand, Braganza buys a new toy for Darko every month for roughly Dh75. “Earlier, I used to buy toys worth Dh300-400 per month,” she added.

Not only toys, Braganza has also economised on Darko’s grooming by doing it at home, thereby saving almost Dh700 per month. While our pets do not require professional grooming every time, they can be given a salon experience once a month that typically costs anywhere between Dh100 and Dh180.

Quite like humans, pets – dogs particularly – also need a certain amount of exercise for their stimulation and wellbeing. Regular walks and play sessions at designated dog parks will do the trick at no cost. But this might become difficult during the summer months, which is when safe, clean and temperature-controlled day cares are a great option, with hourly charges starting at Dh10. Most of these day cares also offer boarding facilities – starting at Dh60 – so your pets can be in a safe place while you are travelling (refer to the table below).

Pet Boarding
Image Credit: Rupkatha Bhowmick

Medical expenses tend to be high

As pet owners, we always want our pets to be happy and healthy. Although not a monthly expense, along with food, hygiene and socialisation, another vital requirement is your pet’s up-to-date annual vaccination record. While charges tend to vary, Dubai Municipality offers the most cost-effective option (refer to the table below).

Vaccination pet
Image Credit: Rupkatha Bhowmick

But any pet parent who has faced an emergency or a recurring health issue will agree that vet bills can easily spiral and pinch the pocket, especially due to the lack of proper pet insurance policies.

“The cost of pet healthcare can be quite high. Last year, when I got my cat’s blood work and dental cleaning done, it cost me around Dh3,000,” Azeem shared.

Morelli, who has to take Kiko to the vet frequently due to a recurring stomach issue, added, “Every time Kiko has a bout, we end up spending a minimum Dh700, per visit.”

One-time procedures like neutering also tend to be expensive, ranging between Dh800 and Dh2,000. Specialised surgeries could be even more expensive. Hence, building a healthcare fund for pets is recommended to safeguard against sudden spikes.

Dh 2000

How much one-time procedures like neutering can maximum cost

“The healthcare fund does not have to be thousands of dirhams, but a small start is highly recommended. And while creating the healthcare fund, weigh in factors such as size, breed and age in case of dogs and common health concerns in cats,” advised Dr. Sam Westhead, veterinary surgeon at Dubai-based Amity Veterinary Clinic.

You could start by saving approximately Dh30 per month towards the pet’s annual vaccination, adding another Dh250 for any recurring medical conditions.

Bear in mind relocation

As an expatriate pet owner, have you ever wondered ‘how will I take my pet along when I move out of the UAE’? Being a pet owner myself, I try to stay updated on the latest pet relocation guidelines.

Based on estimates shared by Alison Rigley from The Petshop Relocations, a Dubai-based relocation specialist, relocating a dog to the UK (Manchester) can approximately cost between Dh6,600 and Dh13,600 based on the size. For cats, it is approximately Dh6,300.

In the case of Australia, relocation requirements are far more complex, and costs are higher, again based on the size of the dog – ranging between Dh19,200 and Dh31,750. While pet relocation to countries like the US and India generally happens as extra baggage, costs depend on the crate size and airlines. In the UAE, the cost ranges from Dh1,850 to Dh3,000, in addition to handling charges of approximately Dh1,900.

“These rates are indicative as relocation is based on several variables like airline policy, travel crate sizes and the breed,” Rigley explained.

Overall, pet relocation tends to be expensive and hence, must be well-planned. Take the example of Braganza who had consciously saved money for years before adopting Darko in 2018. “A pet is part of the family and must not be left behind at the time of relocation, should the situation arise. I had saved Dh15,000 for relocation even before adopting Darko, which is part of my pet care fund 'kitty'.”

Some tips

Having covered all the essential pet care expenses, here are some tips to manage your monthly budget efficiently.

Food: Think about a pet’s food as an investment that will save on potential vet bills later. So, select the food type and brand carefully. Look out for promotions/discounts on bulk buying to save cost. If speaking from experience with my pet, I personally save a minimum of Dh150 by buying in bulk.

Occasional purchases: While spending on items like bed and leash, opt for a larger size and better quality since these are designed to last for a long time. A decent quality dog bed starts at approximately Dh100, while sturdy and long-lasting collar, leash and harness start at Dh30, Dh40 and Dh50, respectively. For cats, a litter box and scratch pole would cost Dh75 approximately.

Grooming: Prepare a kit with skin-friendly shampoo (starts at Dh55), toothbrush set (starts at Dh20), nail clipper (starts at Dh30) a de-shedding brush (starts at Dh30) to groom your pets at home. Every time you do this, you will be saving a minimum of Dh100.

Socialisation and boarding: There are free-to-enter designated spots in the UAE where your pooches can have a great time. Coupled with at-home play dates, you will save a minimum of Dh25 on socialisation especially during winter when the weather outside is cooler. Put this money aside for day care during the summer months. For boarding, try to select a safe, clean and cost-effective option. But an even better option is to ask a close friend or family to look after your pet.

Healthcare and relocation: A good start would be to put aside an Dh20 from weekly expenses towards creating a kitty. If you make a windfall, put a bigger portion aside to increase that kitty. Overall, even if you could save Dh100 a month towards this, over time it will increase. Also, if you plan well, you can do the paperwork for relocation, thereby saving the agency fee.