Perhaps it’s a reflection of a more solitary life. But whatever the reason, Australia is the world’s biggest market for pets.

We have more than 24 million cats dogs and other furry or four legged friends. Over 60 per cent or five million families have a pet – one of the world’s highest numbers.

Many families refer to their pets as part of the family – with some admitting they considered them “fur babies”. The term is even in the Macquarie Dictionary.

But such relationships don’t come cheap.

So before you rush off and to get yourself a four legged friend, perhaps you should consider the price of a cute companion.

The Australian Veterinary Association estimates that pet owners will spend more than $25,000 over the average lifespan of a dog – about 15 years.

Dog costs

Buying your dog from a shelter will be cheaper and ensures that your dog comes de-sexed, de-wormed and vaccinated

The bulk of spending will be on the dog’s food. Expect to spend at least $800 to $1000 a year for premium dog food and about $450 on visits to the vet a year.

Then there’s the regular worm and flea treatment which will cost between $300 and $450 a year, accessories like collars, harness, kennels, toilet mats, scratching posts will cost $500 to set up and about $100 a year, according to ASIC’s Money Smart website.

Sending the dog to an obedience training school can cost up to $200 a session. If you want to have your dog regularly groomed, it will cost up to $90 each time.

And if you take out a comprehensive pet insurance policy, it will set you back easily by between $60 to $80 a month.

This is on top of what you will have to pay when you first buy the dog, which could set you back by up to $3000 depending on the breed.

There are some breeds which are more expensive to upkeep including an English bulldog, a King Charles spaniel, a Pekingese and the popular pug-eyed, squishy-faced French bulldog. They are often plagued with health problems which may result in expensive vet bills.

While the cost of owning a pet can really add up, here are some tips on how to reduce your pet’s bills.

  • Buy a dog from a shelter like the RSPCA. Not only are they cheaper, they will be de-sexed, de-wormed and vaccinated which will save you money.
  • Keep your pet’s health in check. Make sure the dog is regularly exercised and has a good diet and dental care. Shop around rather than spend on gourmet pet food. Getting dog bones from the butcher is much cheaper than from a pet shop.
  • Don’t go overboard on accessories. While it is tempting to give your dog a bit of bling, it is an unnecessary cost. Instead look for good quality products which will stand the test of time.
  • Make use of friends. Rather than send your pet to a kennel while you are away on holiday, ask an animal-loving friend to pet-sit your dog in your home.
  • Pamper your pet yourself. Save money by trimming your pet’s nails and giving them a bath yourself. If your dog needs a haircut, invest in a pair of clippers and do it yourself. There are many videos online which will teach you how to trim your dog’s coat.
  • Invest time to train your dog. Rather than paying for a professional, train your dog yourself. There are plenty of online videos and resources which will teach you how to do it.