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The most (and least) expensive cities to have a dog

While you can't put a price on companionship, it's important to know how much it will cost to properly care for your best friend.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Just because you rent, doesn’t mean you can’t have a dog – but you might have to pay a bit more to find the right pet-friendly apartment. Add in healthcare and other pet-related expenses, and the cost of having that furry family member can be a significant drain on your budget.

While you can’t put a price on companionship, it’s important to know how much it will cost to properly care for your best friend. And as a new study shows, it can vary greatly from place to place.

Here are the top five most expensive and least expensive cities for apartment renters to have a dog, according to an analysis of the data by Trupanion (a pet insurance company), Redfin (the online real estate firm) and (a website to locate dog sitters). They looked at three factors for 116 major American cities: the cost of housing, healthcare and pet care.

The most expensive cities for renters to have a dog are:

  1. San Francisco, California
  2. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  3. Aurora, Colorado
  4. Portland, Oregon
  5. Chula Vista, California

The least expensive cities for renters to have a dog are:

  1. Phoenix, Arizona
  2. The Woodlands, Texas
  3. Nashville, Tennessee
  4. Detroit, Michigan
  5. Fayetteville, North Carolina

The survey found that dog-friendly rentals cost about six percent more than the average cost of all rentals, but it’s significantly higher in some places. For instance, people who rent in Aurora, Colorado can expect to pay 20 percent more to have a pooch: $1,638 vs. $1,363 (the average for all rentals there).

Charging a premium

Landlords are often able to charge a premium because most rentals don’t allow pets. On average, only 16.5 percent of the rentals in the 116 cities surveyed allow dogs.

“Hundreds of thousands of people relinquish their pets to animal shelters every year simply because they cannot easily find pet-friendly housing,” according to the American Humane Society.

Dog sitting and daycare services vary greatly from place to place. The average daily cost of doggy daycare is $29.70 in San Francisco and $17.50 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Veterinary bills across the country have gone up dramatically in the last five years. This is reflected in the cost of pet insurance. Trupanion’s average monthly charge for a mixed breed male puppy (with a $250 deductible) is $69.59 in Fort Lauderdale, $50.72 in Chula Vista and $46.74 in San Francisco.

While the cost of living in a particular city was cited as major contributing factor, the report says the availability of specialty veterinary care in that area is what tends to drive up the cost.

“A dog that just eats something stupid can easily require a surgery that costs $1,500 to $2,500,”noted T.J. Houk, Trupanion’s vice president of analytics. “A lot of people just don’t realize how high those vet bills can get, so when people are thinking of getting a dog, they need to seriously consider what those cost might be in the future.”

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.