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Canine costs in Evanston: How expensive is it to own a dog?

Credit: Graphic by Jasper Davidoff / Evanston RoundTable

What is a dog’s life like in Evanston? 

And what does it take financially to own a dog in Evanston? How much is it likely to set you back financially? In these inflationary times, the RoundTable thought it was a good time to examine the situation. 

This is neither a scientific study nor a replication of anyone else’s study. 

The price of each category is influenced by specific factors individually or in combination, such as the age, breed, size and congenital conditions of the dog. As with any product or service not monopolized by a single provider, price is affected by the quality of the ingredients as well as more elusive factors such as packaging and corporate advertising. 

According to information provided by the City of Evanston, licensed pet ownership has decreased by 45% between 2018 and this year. In 2018, there were 2,629 licensed dogs and cats in Evanston. Thus far in 2022, 1,810 pets have been licensed. This decrease also translates into a similar drop in fee revenue: $31,945 in 2018 compared to $19,285 in 2022.

In short, there are many options, enough to satisfy every budget. The idea here was to identify in chronological order the general costs associated with an Evanston’s dog’s life and point out some local stores and people that can satisfy those needs, both of the dog and the dog’s humans. It is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Special conditions like being a puppy, pregnant, nursing, extremely sick or being a senior dog are not addressed specifically, although the resources cited can usually provide whatever is needed. 

Obtaining a shelter dog

Price ranges from $250-$350 per dog.

Evanston Animal Shelter has dogs available for immediate adoption. Fees to cover their costs, mainly to cover veterinary care and food, range from $250-$350 per dog. 

(As an aside, the EAS also can assist pet owners struggling to care for their dogs due to the owner’s short-term health care issues or their own financial difficulties.) 

City license fees

Price is $10-15 per dog plus proof of rabies vaccination. 

Law-abiding Evanston residents who own a dog or cat aged four months or older are required to obtain a license for their pet and renew their animal’s annual rabies vaccination.  Indoor pets are also required to have licenses. Licenses require a certificate with proof of the pet’s current rabies tag number and the vaccination’s date of expiration. Per the city’s website, “The annual cost is $10 if the pet is neutered or spayed and $15 if not altered.”  

This year, dogs represent 80% of the licenses issued. Neutered dogs outnumber ‘unaltered’ dogs by nearly 6 to 1. The number of unaltered dogs and cats have dropped since 2018 when they represented 45% of licensed pets. This year they represent 13% of the total. 

Pet insurance

Price varies based on age, breed, sex and congenital conditions.

Pet insurance can offer significant savings if your dog needs expensive veterinary care due to illness or an accident. Some even cover routine dental care. Costs vary by breed, age of the dog, pre-existing conditions and the amount of the deductible. Forbes Advisor evaluated and compared 13 brands of pet insurance. 

There are two Evanston ordinances dog owners must follow: leashing and proper waste disposal.

Ordinance 9-4-7 requires owners to leash their dog when out in public and to keep the dog out of public beaches and school playgrounds. A regular-sized collar and 5’ leash can be purchased for less than $20 in stores. Prices for leashes increase depending on their length, material, degree of personalization and more.

Ordinance 9-4-12 mandates that owners pick up their dog’s waste and dispose of dog feces properly. A year’s supply of bags for disposing of dog waste costs approximately $20 to $60.
Citations issued and fines assessed for those caught not following either ordinance vary from $20 to $125. Since 2018, there have been 131 citations issued for unleashed dogs and one for improper waste disposal. Per the city, “All ordinance citations must be signed by a complainant, with the officer/animal warden who personally witnesses or a complaining witness who personally witnessed offense.” 

Veterinary care

Cost varies, but approximately $397 annually.

Evanston is home to six veterinary hospitals capable of performing surgery. 

Veterinary care is essential to maintaining the health of your pet. Minimal expenses to expect include: 

  • a wellness exam ($62-$90) once or twice a year; 
  • lab costs to analyze a fecal sample ($39-$50) and routine blood work ($90-$250, varies based on the panel), which requires a blood draw;
  • a monthly pill to prevent heartworm, ticks, and hookworm ($292-$342, depending on the size of the dog); and 
  • preventative vaccines to protect against bordetella ($30-$42), rabies ($44-$69 every three years, which includes the medallion) and DHLPP ($28-$60), an acronym representing five different diseases (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus). 

A three-year rabies vaccine will reward the owner and dog with a collar tag from Cook County proving the dog’s coverage; the fee is collected by the veterinarian administering the vaccine.

Veterinary dental care

Price varies based on size and degree of disease. 

Even diligent pet owners who brush their dog’s teeth regularly may find the need to seek veterinary dental care to combat periodontal disease and gingivitis. Dental care is more costly than a regular exam because the dog must be anesthetized. Routine blood work is typically required the week before, which is another expense. 

A dental veterinary exam will typically include radiographs (x-rays), cleaning and scaling of teeth, an exam by the doctor and possibly extractions or preventive treatments. 

Costs vary by the size of the dog, extent of any dental disease, and the number of extractions, if needed. Some practices prefer to complete work over multiple visits. Some veterinarians offer discounts during February, National Pet Dental Health month.

Dog food, treats and dental bones

Assume $700 per year, give or take.

Vicky Pasenko, director of the Evanston Animal Shelter, said, “Our main dog food brand is Diamond Natural … we order it in bulk from a distributor. We decided on it years ago because it is moderately priced dog food that gets decent reviews. Since we have been using it, I don’t believe there have been any recalls.” 

Two stores focus on natural pet foods: both Pet People by Hollywood Feed (2672 Green Bay Road) and Bentley’s Pet Stuff (743 Chicago Ave.) offer a wide array of natural food and dog-related products. 

Trader Joe’s has its own array of pet treats including cookies shaped as dog bones that are grain-free and made with peanut butter and banana.

A conversation with Todd and Tamara Tabal, owners of Pet Supplies Plus at 1916 Dempster St., shed some insights into the purchasing patterns of pet owners they’ve observed in the six years they’ve been in town.

To estimate annual feeding costs for a 30-pound dog of average weight, health and middle age (not a puppy and not a senior), the RoundTable assumed daily consumption of two cups of kibble (Diamond Natural, chicken and rice), a couple of treats (Trader Joe’s) and one dental bone (Greenie’s). Assume retail purchases at local stores without taking advantage of sales or promotions.

One cup of kibble weighs 100 grams, per the manufacturer’s website. A 40-lb bag of kibble weighs 18,144 grams, or 181 servings, or enough food for 90 days.

The popularity of a particular product is not dictated by the size of the dog or its breed. In Todd Tabal’s experience, “People buy the best product they can afford.” Pet food made with food humans could eat is common. Tabal jokes, “Some of these dogs eat better than my wife and I do.” Reading the labels of ingredients one can find bison, lamb, quail eggs, wild boar, venison, beef hearts and more.

Owners may purchase food that is kosher, vegetarian, grain-free, high protein, made with exotic meats, based on kibble size, based on the dog’s age or the dog’s size. Given the constant influx of new products presented in the pet food marketplace, it’s likely Tabal can find a product that will fit an owner’s specifications or satisfy a picky eater.. 

Perhaps the biggest change both the Tabals have observed is how the behavior of pet owners today differs compared to pet owners they remember as children: the humanization of animals. Today’s pets are treated as members of the family if not de facto children.  

Incidental expenses

Prices vary.

The cost for dog crates and crate pads, purchased separately but priced here as a unit, start at approximately $70 for small dogs and increase proportionally to about $200 for extra-large crates and crate pads. Dog beds start at $25 at Target. 

Do you own a boat and like to bring your dog onboard? Consider a dog life jacket. Are you devoted to a team or school? Chances are your dog can wear your obsession. 

If you are motivated to capture your dog’s likeness with a professional photography session, Evanston is home to David Sutton Studios. Sutton has spent his career focusing on photographing animals with their humans. 

The list is endless for items, services and experiences one can purchase for a beloved dog. 


Prices range from $12 to $100. 

If you prefer to outsource your dog’s grooming, there are many options from which to choose ranging from straightforward nail trims to specialty rinses, hot oil treatments and massage. 

Dogtopia (900 Clark St.) offers an extensive spa services menu; costs for haircuts and bathing vary depending on the size of the dog. Haircuts include a wash, blow dry, facial (Yes, really. A blueberry facial, no less.), nail trim (or grind) and ear cleaning. Prices range from $70-100; without the haircut, the bath package costs range from $50-65.

If you like to wash your own dog but don’t want to bother with the clean up at home, Spotless Dog Wash at 1121 Emerson St. offers an option for self-washing ($20 per dog). Spotless Dog Wash provides non-slip mats, “salt-free, PH balanced dog shampoo,” blow dryers, microfiber towels and aprons for whomever is washing the dog.

Bentley’s Pet Stuff, Pet Supplies Plus and Pet People by Hollywood Feed also offer a full set up for owners to wash their dogs ranging from $14-$20. 

Follow Your Nose (917 Chicago Ave.) offers “compassionate grooming,” which owner Ramie Gulyas describes as “a fear free salon. It’s all about making sure your dog is comfortable with the process so they have a good experience.” Baths only start at $45 and haircuts start at $55. In an email, Gulyas added, “we are bonded, insured, and trained in pet first aid, CPR, and have over 30 years of experience.”

Á la carte services for nail clipping or grinding, ear cleaning or teeth cleaning range from $12 to $19 based on an online review of websites of Dogtopia, Rex’s Place (2120 Ashland Ave.) and PetSmart (2122 Oakton Ave.).

Day care and boarding

Prices start at $40 per day and $75 per night.

Tamara Tabal mentions a few products that are all the rage with customers: 

The first is two containers packed with 3-foot-long “joysticks” made of either chicken or beef. They are $3 each. 

Tablets made with CBD oil, which are intended to help calm an anxious animal, also are very popular. CBD, or, cannabidiol, is an extract of the marijuana plant and some believe it has anti-anxiety properties, though those effects have yet to be proven. Tabal said that the products give pet owners a way to treat animals who get stressed, particularly during travel.

“People plan their vacations and holidays and special events with their pets in mind. Owners want to know, ‘How can we involve the dog or cat while still keeping them happy?’ They rely on some of the calming products to do that,” Tabal said.

If you prefer a group setting for your dog, doggie daycare might be a good fit. Each provider requires proof of immunizations and a trial visit to see if your dog has the right temperament to be in a group setting and can get along with other dogs. 

These resources also offer overnight boarding. Prices vary depending on the level of privacy you choose for your pet. Discounts are available with packages for multiple visits. Each provider requires each dog to be up to date with vaccinations and the owner to bring the dog’s food pre-portioned by meal for each day of the dog’s stay. They charge additional fees for early pickup, late pickup and boarding during specific peak periods and holidays.

  • Dogtopia offers day care starting at $40 per day and boarding at $65 per night. 
  • PetSmart offers day care starting at $24 per day and boarding for $56 per night.
  • Rex’s Place offers daycare starting at $40 per day and boarding for $55 per night.
  • Unleashed in Evanston (1908 Greenwood St.) offers daycare starting at $40 and boarding starting at $75 per night. 

In-home services

Prices start at $19 .

Embark Animal Club Pet Care will stay overnight at your home with your dog for $85. They offer dog walking services starting at $19 per 30-minute walk and $34 for a 50-minute walk. Follow Your Nose offers housesitting starting at $105 for a 24-hour period and dog walks starting at $20-$25 based on frequency. The majority of Evanston-based dog walkers available on Rover.com charge $20 per walk.

End-of-life care

Costs range from $120 to $425 or more.

Veterinary hospitals offer euthanasia starting at $120. Lap of Love is a network of veterinarians offering home-based hospice and euthanasia services. The price for euthanasia starts at $425. In both scenarios, hospital and at home, there are additional costs for cremation influenced by weight of the dog and if the cremation is private or part of a group.

Adding it all up

The bareboned costs of owning a dog in Evanston – basic veterinary care and food – is approximately $1,464. This does not include pet insurance premiums, dental care, grooming, or paying others to walk, play with or take care of your dog during the day or overnight. Most dog owners are likely to spend more.

If you choose to indulge your dog, you are not alone. 

A Forbes Advisor survey released in August 2022 ranks Illinois tenth in the nation for states with spoiled dogs with a score of 35.65. New York is first with a score of 44.95 and South Dakota is last with a score of 24.75. The survey measures things like how much money owners spend on dog outfits, birthday parties, homemade food, specialty food at restaurants, healthcare and grooming. Some dog owners admit to spending more on their dog than their significant other. 

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