Baby or Puppy? Both Are Relatively Cheap in Alabama

Baby or puppy?

Some people answer the question of whether to have a baby or do a practice run with a puppy by going with what’s in their hearts.

Another consideration, as heartless as it sounds, is cost. Potential grandparent wishes aside, a recent study delineates the costs of having a baby or puppy for the first year of both their little lives.

“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 cannot be ignored and those costs fluctuate wildly by state,” according to a study done by, an online retail outlet offering pet medical information.

Alabama leads the nation as the cheapest state to have a baby and care for it during the first year. It’s also a pretty cheap state to get and care for a puppy that first year.

It costs about $16,000 to have a baby by vaginal birth and support it until its first birthday, which makes Alabama the least-expensive state in the nation, according to the study. Alabama is followed by Mississippi at $16,822; Kentucky at $17,363, and Arkansas at $17,455.

The most expensive designation goes to Massachusetts at $33,495; followed by California at $29,541 and the District of Columbia at $29,084. The District cracked the top three expensive places because of its “unthinkable” average annual childcare cost at $24,243, per the study.

Other factors besides the cost of birth that the researchers used include average costs for diapers, food, clothing, baby gear, healthcare and childcare.

“Based on our calculations, rearing a child for the first year in Alabama is still nearly twice as expensive as pooch parenthood in Connecticut,” the most expensive state to raise a dog, according to the study.

In the fur baby column, the first-year costs are based on adoption fees; average vet bills; spay or neuter fees; licensing costs; startup supplies, according to the American Kennel Club; toys and treats; insurance; dog walker costs; medications, pet fees and deposits in annual rents, and microchipping.

Puppy Costs Low on the List in Alabama

Alabama came in fourth from the bottom among the least-expensive states for owning a dog that first year.

That includes adoption, $143; vet costs, $212; spay/neuter, $361; licenses, $10; annual food costs, $228; supplies such as bowls, crates, leashes, $350; poop bags, $150; toys, $35; and pet insurance, $362.

A hunk of that cost depends on where you live.

Dr. Jamie Freyer, DVM, at, said she thinks the prices paid to own a dog for the first year depend on cost-of-living differences.

“Vets charge what is appropriate for the area in which they practice. We looked at the largest ZIP code for each state. In this case, that was 35242 for Alabama, which covers Birmingham, Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Pelham, and more,” she said.

The largest household income bracket in this ZIP code is $60,000 to $99,000.

“So cost of living definitely plays a factor. We saw that in other ZIP codes, such as 35476 (Northport and parts of Tuscaloosa), certain costs for a puppy were much lower,” she added.

The average household income in that ZIP code is $54,354.

Nationally, the cheapest place to get and keep a puppy for the first year is Kentucky at $6,698; followed by Idaho at $6,891, and North Dakota at $6,970.

On the flip side of pet ownership, Connecticut led the way at $8,854 to get and provide for a pup that first year, followed by California at $8,845; and New York at $8,572.

Americans pay an average of $7,702 for a puppy and its first-year costs. That doesn’t include any necessary new slippers or carpets.

Freyer said some veterinarians offer prepaid packages of services, which can be especially helpful for a puppy’s first year, when it needs multiple sets of vaccines.

“These plans, while not the same as insurance, do allow the owner to break up the medical costs (like the spay/neuter, which is generally one of the larger costs) into affordable payments, and often come with significant discounts on products and services,” she said.

Dog’s Breed Can Affect Costs

Freyer warned that that some dogs also are more genetically predisposed to certain ailments than others.

“For this reason, it is important to research your chosen breed. A simple online search on the breed should provide a wealth of information on any breed’s main health concerns. Most breeds have breed clubs that can act as great resources for insight into what to expect from a particular breed.

“Once you have chosen the breed you want, it is also important to research the breeder. Ethical breeders do health testing on the parents prior to breeding, so they can avoid mating combinations in which the offspring will be affected with known genetic diseases. These breeders can also be a lifelong source of help and support for you as you raise your new pet,” Freyer said.

Other dogs are more prone to illness by the way they are put together, she said.

Dogs with big heads, big eyes and shortened muzzles, such as the bulldog, French bulldog and Boston terrier, can have problems breathing, which results in a predilection toward overheating and an inability to swim. Over time, that can lead to heart problems.

Dogs with short legs such as Dachshunds are often predisposed to disc injuries and spinal problems, as well as arthritis.

Essentially, she said, dogs with extreme features may be more likely to have their health affected by their conformation — the way they are put together.