How much do you love your dog? $25,000 worth?
KYLIE* loved her dog Gavin but wished she'd never bought him.
The single mum had thought a new puppy would be the perfect addition to the family home, which she shared with her teenage daughter. They stumbled across a casual breeder selling a litter of squishy-faced pugs at a generous discount and, on impulse, decided to snap one up. After picking out Gavin from the litter, they excitedly took him home to get settled.
Within two weeks, Gavin started to cough. After a trip to the vet Kylie still loved their new family member, but didn't love the $600 price tag for his treatment.
She soon found out that in addition to his basic upkeep, which was already becoming costly, Gavin would likely need surgery down the track that would cost thousands of dollars. In the end, Kylie's love for Gavin simply didn't outweigh how much of a financial burden he'd become.
This is just one of hundreds of stories Joanna Herceg has heard after over 10 years running Pug Rescue Victoria.
"In the majority of cases, pugs come to us in horrible conditions," Herceg said. "People crying and saying they love their dog but they [can't look after it]. The dog they're surrendering can't breathe, has a mouth full of rotting teeth, is blind."
"What is baffling is that people are happy to pay breeders, puppy farmers or pet shops anywhere up to $2500 to buy their pug as a puppy," Herceg said. "But then don't want to or don't have the money to ensure their pug is healthy and happy for the rest of its life."
Herceg agreed that people don't like admitting they can't handle the cost of their pet's care. This was something I experienced first-hand, speaking to many dog owners about their expenses.
The common thread for those that had spent thousands, was that while they resented the financial element, they didn't want to go on record admitting they hated the cost of their pet.
If you're wondering how much the average dog will cost you over its lifetime, research in Australia has indicated it's in the vicinity of $25,000 - around $2500 a year over ten years. More than half of this is spent on food, with the remaining going to basic veterinary care, grooming and training. Should additional health problems occur, sit back and watch that figure soar.
What you might not realise is that certain breeds can have expensive needs.
Every third pug that comes into Herceg's care requires $3000-plus in vet and specialist treatment, which is paid for out of her own pocket. Typical procedures include airway surgery, eye surgery and luxating patella surgeries, starting at about $1500 each.
Sometimes multiple surgeries are required, as was the case for another surrendered pug, Frankie. A family with two young children gave up Frankie at six months old, when they couldn't afford the cost of his care. In the last year, he's had $7000 worth of lifesaving treatment.
These instances are common across many luxury dog varieties, which happen to be some of Australia's favourites.
Charities like Pug Rescue have been popping up across the board for every breed from French bulldogs to rottweilers. While people love these dogs, many are jumping in with no idea about what the long-term commitment will really mean.
Dr Russell Harrison is head of Veterinary Services at Lort Smith Animal Hospital in North Melbourne. Having met countless dogs and their owners over the years, Dr Harrison is well versed on the various ailments of particular breeds.
"Pugs, bulldogs and similar breeds with characteristically short muzzles often have breathing difficulties. Some larger breeds, such as boxers, rottweilers, dobermans and great danes can be predisposed toward heart disorders such as heart valve defects."
These health conditions, as Dr Harrison is quick to point out, don't come cheap.
"It varies from breed to breed, as well as dog to dog, but typically you would expect pure breed dogs to be more likely to develop health conditions which could be expensive to treat and manage."
One option to consider according to Dr Harrison is to adopt a dog that already has a medical history, so you'll know what you're in for.
"If people choose to adopt an older dog … rather than a purebred puppy, they may have more certainty as to the animal's likely future medical needs."
"The decision to adopt a pet is very important, and people should think carefully about their lifestyle, family, house and yard size, budget, and how much time they have in their busy schedules when making the decision about getting a new dog."
*Name has been changed