So how much does a German Shepherd Dog (GSD, Alsatian) cost every month, on average?
Let's start with food cost today, because my time is limited.
You can find many dog cost tables online, and just by looking at them I realized how wrong the figures are. Seemingly most of them are copies of one and the same outdated or estimated data source?
I wanted to know how much it really costs to own and care for a German Shepherd Dog - and such information would also help our interest group here: GSD owners, and those who consider getting a GSD. Thus I embarked on the "adventure" to calculate the costs myself, so that people can find correct figures for once.
Dog food cost - allegedly
Let's take as a good representative example of wrong figures the ASPCA pet care cost table. There the ASPCA write that the annual cost of dog food for a large dog that gets "premium brand dry kibble" is: $235.
You read that right, they say that if you feed your GSD "Premium brand dry kibble" for an entire year, you'll spend only $235. That's a mere 64 cent/day! Wow, I thought, where did they get their figures from?
They don't say, but I do:
- I went to amazon.com, where dog food is cheapest because competition is fiercest, and I typed in that very term that the ASPCA based their data on: "premium brand dry kibble"
- Then I calculated the average dog food cost of all the products on the first search result page on amazon.com
- Note that at the time you might look at those search results, the products and thus the average dog food cost will obviously be a bit different
- When I looked, 12 dog food products came up, weighing a total 136.3 pounds, and costing a total $549.25
Result: "premium brand dry kibble" dog food, at presumably the overall cheapest source, costs an average $4.03 per pound in Feb 2015. That's $8.88 per kilo. And, for our interested international audience: at the 7 Feb 2015 exchange rate of 0.88379, that's equivalent to €7.85 per kilo of "premium brand dry kibble".
Not exactly a steal, compared to what human food costs, hm? No, in fact I go food shopping twice a week, and thus I know in detail that almost all human food I buy costs far less than $8.88 per kilo or €7.85 per kilo! But let's leave that aside for the moment. The next step is:
How much dry kibble should a GSD eat?
Well, I am not a dry kibble expert but I have a single bag of Ziwi Peak Lamb at home, so I looked on the back of the bag (not the bag of the back) for their suggestion, and I found it under "Feeding instructions":
- Ziwi Peak write there: "88lb dog: 316 g / 11.1 oz" daily of their food
- Coincidentally, the upper end of the male GSD breed standard weight is 88.2 lb, so that brilliantly matches the dog weight figure on the bag's label
- Though, note that even this upper end of 88.2 lb is a modest weight when we look at the North American GSDs in our subscriber database: Almost one in every two GSDs is heavier
- Now, although Ziwi Peak apparently is very rich in nutrients, keeping a reasonably active 88 pound German Shepherd on only 316 g / 11.1 oz of that kibble per day would make the dog very slim in my opinion
- In fact, according to Ziwi Peak's own "Feeding instructions" on the bag, this is the same amount of food that they recommend for a 35 lb puppy ("puppies feed approx. double the amount indicated")
- My new puppy currently weighs only 26 lb and he already gets two to three times that amount of food!
- He would eat even more: during his rapid-growth phase obviously he's hungry all the time - and yet you can't say he is fat in any way, rather slim (see photo)
- But never mind, we'll go with Ziwi Peak's suggestion here, just to keep the price of feeding as low as possible
Result: food required per year = 115.34 kg / 254.28 lb (316 g * 365 days)
Actual dog food cost
The result of all the above is: "premium brand dry kibble" dog food price per year = $1024.22 ($8.88/kg * 115.34 kg). Or $85.35 a month, $2.85 a day.* Water is free, let's say.
* Note that if you actually chose to feed only that Ziwi Peak Lamb, you'd spend $3,394.16 for 116 bags of 2.2 lb (and you could only save 10% if you choose the largest bag). That's $282.85 a month, $9.30 a day! This is more than three times as much as "premium brand dry kibble" costs because Ziwi Peak apparently is of premium-premium quality.
Anyway, my live data analysis shows that the ASPCA - and all the sites that copied them or where the ASPCA copied from - are way off: Feeding a large dog (88 lb) "premium brand dry kibble" throughout the year costs $1024.22, not $235.
That's over four times as much as what the figures on the ASPCA and many other sites are saying.
High price of dog food
You saw above that "premium brand dry kibble" costs an average $4.03 per pound / $8.88 per kilo / €7.85 per kilo in Feb 2015. And commercial dog food of a higher quality (eg Ziwi Peak Lamb) costs $13.30 per pound / $29.32 per kilo / €25.91 per kilo!
It is now that you should really be wondering: Why is commercial dog food so darn expensive??
Why does even dog food of only medium quality ("premium brand dry kibble") at the cheapest source cost way more than almost all human food, namely more than meat, more than veg, and more than fruit?!
Gosh, when I realized this through the above analysis I was gobsmacked (shocked, yes). With common sense, it is inconceivable why dog food has to cost so much more than human quality food! It clearly shouldn't, because our modern domesticated dogs developed as scavengers of human food leftovers. Thus if anything, dog food should cost no more than human food.
The cost of commercial dog food is ridiculous. It can only be explained with the silent, slow, steady price increases that the dog food industry have realized over the past decades. Year after year after year. While their eye-pleasing advertizing lulled pampered pet owners.
The fact that it is indeed cheaper to feed our dogs natural homemade foods (pretty much what we eat ourselves - as it has been for thousands of years for domesticated dogs!) is reason number two why I would strongly recommend that you stop that foolishness of buying commercial dog food. Reason number one has always been dog health, see next.
Actual dog feeding cost
However, even all the above is not the whole story: There is a BIG difference between dog food cost and dog feeding cost.
Yes. Put simply: If you feed "premium brand dry kibble", and only that, you will almost certainly have to spend at least the same amount again on extra vet visits, medicaments, and dog health treatments.
Our massive subscriber database and the free GSD online health assessment speak volumes. Though we don't poll "yearly health care costs" (simply because our "post office" Mailchimp don't allow more than 30 data fields, which we've all used up), you can combine two simple facts:
- Currently, 81% of our subscribers feed commercial dog food (mostly that means kibble, we do have it more detailed though)
- And countless subscribers ask questions how to help their sick dog
In almost every case I would love to simply say to them: "Stop feeding kibble, start feeding fresh homemade, and within a couple of months your dog's health will crow!" - Because it would.
Oh, and he also said this:
The above perfectly leads over to the next cost type:
Recurring medical cost
The ASPCA pet care cost table lists as basic recurring medical cost for a large dog: $260. Basic, because this excludes any medicament and treatment cost in case your dog is sick. But this is when dog owners have to bear most medical cost!
We'll continue with actual recurring medical cost when I have more time for this.