If you had to choose between a down payment on a house or a dog, what would you do?

It’s time to take Maddie for surgery… again. It’s going to cost about $1,000 to remove that lump on her leg. In six months it’ll grow back and we’ll pay to have it removed all over again.

Maddie is a Baltimore Brown mutt who looks like a cross between an Irish Wolfhound and Falkor the Luck Dragon from “The NeverEnding Story.” With her wild hair and scruffy face, “Pumpkin Butt” will never nab Best in Show, and has been mistaken for a wolf, a raccoon and?—?on three separate occasions?—?a wild boar. But we’re enchanted by her, so we spend more on her health than many spend on people.

Since we’re DINKs (double-income, no kids), we don’t think twice about it. But a lot of people don’t have that luxury. If you’re one of them, you need to think seriously about how much that dog or cat you want is going to cost you over its lifetime.

A whopping 98% of pet owners drastically underestimate the cost of owning a cat or dog, according to a new UK survey. Most owners thought the lifetime cost would be less than $6,445. That’s way off.

The poll by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals found that a dog will cost you between $27,000 and $42,500 through its lifetime. Larger dogs cost more. So do purebreds, since their limited gene pools cause them more health problems.

The spending starts when you buy the dog. You’ll pay up to $1,000 to a licensed breeder (which you should patronize, because pet stores and backyard breeders may be sourcing less-healthy animals from “puppy mills”). Animal shelters may charge you around $250.

After that, there’s the cost of spaying or neutering. Then there’s collars, leashes, shampoo, chew toys, bathroom mats, and of course, food, which should be high quality.

You’ll also pay for regular vet visits, and you should count on at least one surprise emergency surgery (costing between $2,000–5,000) during your dog’s life, and probably more if it’s purebred. You can buy insurance, but the premiums can cost as much as the surgery. And if you’re in a big city, everything costs more. If you’re a New Yorker and hire a dog walker, the total lifetime cost of dog ownership could hit $82,000.

Think a cat is cheaper? It is, but people in the PDSA study were still shocked to hear that it costs $22,000 – $31,000. What about a rabbit, ferret, snake or bird? You can find the costs for those here. (Macaws can live for 50 years, and set you back $149,000!)

There are tools online to help you estimate the cost, including this calculator.

A face ANYONE could love! | Joshua O’Connor

When money is tight, expenses like high-quality pet food are often the first things cut. This isn’t good, because feeding your pet the cheapest food will mean more medical bills later on. If you need a cheaper alternative, author and pet expert Harrison Forbes tells US News & World Report that Pedigree, Purina One and Iams are more affordable choices that are still nutritionally solid.

There’s also outside help. If you’re thinking of taking your pet to a shelter because you can’t afford food or medical costs, your local animal shelter or animal control can help you find cheaper or free alternatives, Robin Ganzert, president of the American Humane Association tells US News.

More and more companies are starting to offer employees a new perk?—?pet insurance. Yeah, you read that right. About 5,000 US companies offer it to attract new employees (and keep existing ones).

That may be because studies show pet owners are healthier. They make fewer visits to the doctor, and those who walk their dogs five times a week have lower obesity rates, according to the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation (HABRI), which funds research into how animals affect our lives. In fact, the HABRI report says pet ownership saves the US $11.7 billion in healthcare costs every year.

HABRI says other studies show pet ownership reduces cardiovascular disease, allergies, cholesterol-related ailments and psychological issues.

You don’t have to tell that to pet owners. In the PDSA study, 93% said their pets make them happier. I know we couldn’t imagine life without Pumpkin Butt.