When it comes to starting or expanding a family, many couples are stumped by the question: what do the costs add up to in the puppy vs baby comparison? And which should come first anyway? Should you experience puppy parenthood first as a practice run for your first human child? Should you begin with the baby and dive gut-first into that dad bod life? Or are you one of those overachieving power couples who would dare attempt both at once?
Whichever way you’re leaning, it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows (though there will be a lot of those). Puppy pals and babies both require constant attention, keep you up all night, and probably use your favorite throw pillow as a bathroom if you’re not careful. It will also be expensive.
With adoption fees, surgeries, vet care, and more, adopting a four-legged friend is a hefty investment. On the other hand, when the stork drops off the cutest little package, he also leaves an astronomical bill for medical care, childcare, and baby gear, to name a few major costs.
Whether a puppy or a baby is right for you will ultimately be a highly personal decision that we could never hope to answer for you, but the cost can’t be ignored, and those costs fluctuate wildly by state.
That got us thinking, is the puppy vs baby financial quandary easier for some Americans to solve than others? How do the costs of a fur baby stack up against the costs of an infant where you live?
To answer that question and more, we mapped out the cost of adopting a puppy and having a baby in every U.S. state. Read on to see how your state stacks up!
Methodology for Adopting a Puppy
To determine the most and least expensive states to adopt a dog, we determined the cost of caring for the puppy during its first year, including costs associated with adoption, startup supplies, food, and more in every state.
Specifically, we looked at the following factors to determine the overall cost of getting a puppy:
1. Average adoption fee
2. Average annual vet bill
3. Average spay or neuter fee
4. Average licensing costs
5. Average annual food costs
6. Average annual cost of startup supplies
Source: American Kennel Club
7. Average annual cost of waste bags
8. Average annual cost of toys and treats
9. Average annual dog insurance premiums
Source: 365 Pet Insurance
10. Average annual cost of a dog walker
11. Average cost of a pet fee, deposit, and annual rent
12. Average heartworm medication costs
13. Average microchip cost
The Cost of a Puppy Per State
The top three most expensive states to adopt a fur baby are Connecticut, California, and New York. While the majority of the most expensive states are coastal, farther down the list are two landlocked states: Colorado in eighth place and Minnesota in tenth place.
Minnesota may strike readers as an odd duck in the list of the top 10 most expensive states for adopting a dog. The cost of living in the land of 10,000 lakes is relatively low compared to coastal hubs like California, Washington, or New York, so how did Minnesota get stuck with such a big bill?
Minnesotans pay just shy of $600 annually for pet insurance, which is the second-highest rate countrywide. The state is also burdened with a higher than average adoption fee and cost to spay or neuter a pooch. Luckily, this cost can be rolled into the adoption fee depending on the shelters where prospective adopters find their new best friend!
Kentucky, on the other hand, is the cheapest state to adopt a puppy with residents paying just $6,733 on average for the first year. Minnesota’s neighbors, North Dakota and South Dakota, also fit in the top ten least expensive states to adopt a puppy, coming in at $6,997 and $7,143 for the first year, respectively.
One cost that varies widely across the country was the adoption fee itself. For example, prospective owners pay an average of $443 to adopt a puppy in Minnesota, while North Dakotans pay only $131 on average. While this is a one-time fee that won’t make a tremendous difference across the life of your fur baby, it is a notable fee upfront.
To see every individual cost factor and how they add up for your state, check out the interactive table here.
When you add it all up, Americans pay an average cost of $7,702 for the first year of doggy bliss. So, it’s clear that puppy parenthood is worth a pretty penny, but how does it compare to the cost of having a baby?
Methodology for Having a Baby
We analyzed the cost of having a baby via vaginal birth and supporting the first year of life in every state using a list of the most important cost factors to consider. To do so, we looked at the following cost factors for a comprehensive picture of the financial responsibility that comes with your little angel.
1. Cost of Vaginal Birth (with insurance)
Source: Business Insider
Source: Baby Center
5. Baby Gear
Source: Wealthkeel LLC & Alina Health
Source: Economic Policy Institute
The Cost of a Baby Per State
When it comes to babies, we saw that Massachusetts was the most expensive state to have a baby, with a whopping $33,500 on average for the cost of vaginal birth and the first year of care. Other states with high costs for having a baby were California, the District of Columbia, and New York.
Despite having no published data on the cost of the birthing operation itself, the District of Columbia cracked the top three most expensive states to have a baby. This is primarily owed to its unthinkable average annual childcare cost of $24,243. That’s more than the total cost of a baby’s first year in 33 other states!
But does it always have to be this way? Apparently not, as it “only” costs around $16,000 in the least expensive state, Alabama. In fact, all of the top 10 least expensive states to have a baby came in at under a cool $20,000.
Check out our full dataset in the interactive table here to find out how your state ranks among the rest. Scroll right to see all of the individual cost factors in your home state!
Based on our calculations, rearing a child for the first year in Alabama (the least expensive state) is still nearly twice as expensive as adopting a year of pooch parenthood in Connecticut (the most expensive state). Reeling from that fact, we compared the percent change of the costs of a puppy and a baby in each state to find out where the cost gaps are the largest and smallest.
So, where is adopting a puppy the most and least expensive compared to having a baby? Keep reading to find out.
Comparing the Cost of a Puppy vs Baby
Interestingly, some of the states that had high individual costs for both adopting a puppy and having a baby also had a large difference between the two figures. Massachusetts took the top spot, where having a baby is nearly 300% more expensive than adopting a puppy.
Likewise, Alabama is in the ten least expensive states for both puppies and babies, and now it also tops the list for the smallest difference between the two costs. Having a baby in the Yellowhammer State is just 129% more expensive than adopting a puppy.
Deciding to have either a puppy or a baby, let alone choosing between them, is a highly personal decision that depends on myriad factors beyond simply financial cost. While we had fun comparing the two in a financial light, no one should base their decision on a sole article like this one.
That said, if you are ready to bring home a Fido of your very own, be sure to check out Honest Paws to find the best canine wellness products to keep your new best friend happy and healthy!