What I Learned from Adopting a Dog from the Pet Shelter

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Exploring Pet-Friendly Flagler Beach. #LoveRadcliff

Exploring Pet-Friendly Flagler Beach. #LoveRadcliff

If you are considering making a commitment to welcoming a canine into your home, I’d like to share what I learned from adopting a dog from the pet shelter because I was under the impression adopting a dog from a pet shelter was less expensive than getting one from a dog breeder.

Is a Dog from a Pet Shelter Healthier than a Dog from a Breeder?
My 2016 was full of adventures but the one I didn’t expect was that of rescuing a dog from a pet shelter and welcoming him into my two-cat family. Within days of adopting Radcliff in August, he became the love of my life and I had big dreams of us tripping around the country on various adventures, but a day after returning from our first overnight trip together, things kinda went awry.

An Autoimmune Disorder
As I’ve blogged before, six weeks after adopting him, my sweet rescue dog could not walk and turns out, he has a rare autoimmune disorder called Myasthenia gravis. Because of this, he needs to take medicine every 12 hours.

Heartworm Positive
He is also heartworm positive, which the rescue organization told me he had “light heartworm” and my vet verified this. He’s on monthly heartworm prevention medication to prevent more heartworms and after about two years, the lifespan of a heartworm, he should be negative. (Sidebar: My vet determined he probably has one or two worms based on the three in-office tests she ran which came up negative but when the test was sent to a lab, it came up positive. The test sent to the lab determines the presence of heartworm while the others determine intensity/concentration.)

Itchy Skin
When I picked up Radcliff from the pet shelter’s veterinary office his skin was bright pink and had dry patches on the interior of his ears and elbows. Turns out, he has a skin condition and without further testing, I do not know if it’s seasonal allergies, food or something else. I’ve been using traditional and homeopathic treatments including essential oils such as frankincense and lavender.

And oh yeah, worms. Part of being a pet-parent is checking the stool of your fur-child and I noticed a gross looking worm in Radcliff’s poop one day. It was flat and had a triangular head. I took it to the vet’s office and results were negative. Hmm, maybe I saw something. Couple of days later, there was another one and took it to the vet again where he tested positive. Apparently, worms are common and easily treated.

This guy quickly won my heart. #rescuedogsrock #loveradcliff #loveradcliffdog

A photo posted by Jennifer Huber (@jenniferhuber) on

Is Medical Care for a Dog from a Pet Shelter Less Expensive than a Dog from a Breeder?
I’ve been adding up what I’ve spent on him and honestly, my stomach turns thinking about it. According to the AKC website, the average annual cost of raising a medium sized dog is just under $3,000. Well, as of this writing, I’m five months into loving my little butterball and I’m probably close to $3,000 in medical expenses alone. This does not include other expenses in caring for a canine, such as food, grooming and accessories (leash, collar, toys, cute Christmas elf hat). This is why you see ads on this blog. Here’s an estimated breakdown:

  • Initial veterinary visit, heartworm testing and wellness package – oh, I stopped adding it up once it reached $1,000.
  • Worm testing and medicine – $100-ish
  • Testing and x-rays when he couldn’t walk – $750-ish
  • Animal neurologist testing and blood work for diagnosis – $450-ish
  • Daily medicines – about $30 a month (thank you CVS for finding me a prescription discount card)
  • Daily tablet for skin – $2 per pill (thankfully, he’s taking half a one)
  • Weekly essential oil treatment – five-pack for $30-ish

Because I travel and can’t always take him with me, I need to either board him or find a sitter, which I was prepared for, however, because he takes daily medicine, some kennels charge a small fee for administrating medicine. Sometimes it’s based on per dosage while others it’s based on how many times a day.

What I Learned from Adopting a Dog from the Pet Shelter
I’ve heard arguments for adopting a dog from a pet shelter over acquiring one from a dog breeder or pet shop. Shelters are home to wonderful abandoned, stray and surrendered pets that once belonged to pet-parents who forgot a pet is for life. Sadly, many of these beautiful creatures are euthanized because they have not been adopted and shelters are making room for other pets.

However, when acquiring a dog from a breeder, you kind of know what you are getting because you know its history; when it was born, who the dog’s parents are, how it was raised. Sure, I saved on the adoption costs, less than $200 for adoption fees, neutering, immunizations, heartworm testing, microchipping and licensing. But, in less than five months, I have shelled out a whole boatload of money I did not anticipate.

Beautiful day for a walk through the wilds of #Florida with Radcliff. #rescuedogsrock

A photo posted by Jennifer Huber (@jenniferhuber) on

To answer my initial question, is adopting a dog from a pet shelter less expensive than acquiring one from a breeder? Ask me today, and my answer is no. Do I have regrets? No. Radcliff was meant to be in my universe because he’s improving my quality of life.

  • As a single person, I have a reason to go home rather than work late(r).
  • We go out for at least three walks a day.
  • I’m meeting and interacting with different people, people not associated with work.
  • I have a travel buddy for those spontaneous, and not-so-spontaneous trips to explore.
  • I have a great security system!

Has this experience all been worth it? Absolutely. I’ve figured out his purpose and I’m doing my best to give him the best life I possibly can.

Radcliff has a Facebook page if you’re interested in connecting with him. Facebook.com/loveradcliff

Have you adopted a dog from a pet shelter and did things go the way you thought?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support this blog, my traveling habit and Radcliff’s medical bills.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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1 Comment

  1. Adopting is so much better. The dogs need a good home. And Radcliff is adorable. One other option you didn’t try was fostering the dog first–when I fostered a dog (who got adopted rather quickly), the shelter would cover approved vet visits or anything that it could take care of through its in-house clinic as long as I was fostering the dog. If I had adopted him after that, I would then pay for vet care from that point. So, in some cases, it might be beneficial to foster a dog before adopting (it also gives you a chance to get to know the dog).


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