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Breaking Down the Cost of a Service Dog

Breaking Down the Cost of a Service Dog
Lauren Ward
Lauren WardUpdated December 19, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
A service dog can be helpful for many people with disabilities. Because of the extensive amount of training they require, however, service dogs can be expensive. A fully-trained service dog costs $15,000 to $30,000 or even more.Here’s what you need to know about getting and owning a service dog, as well as ways to help cover the service dog cost.   

What Are Service Dogs?

Service dogs are trained to help people with physical, psychiatric, or sensory disabilities perform tasks, and to be as safe and as independent as possible. For instance, guide dogs can help blind and visually-impaired individuals, hearing dogs can assist people who are deaf or have trouble hearing, mobility dogs help those in wheelchairs or who have trouble walking, and medical alert dogs signal their owners to the onset of a medical problem, like a seizure. There are also psychiatric service dogs who assist people who have disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A service dog can do such things as:
  • Guide and help its owner navigate through an environment
  • Alert its owner to any alarms like a fire alarm, or other noteworthy noises
  • Retrieve important items
  • Assist with balance
  • Turn on lights
  • Remind an owner to take their medicine
  • Calm a person with PTSD

Differences Between an Emotional Support Dog and a Service Dog  

Service dogs are specifically trained to do tasks their owners can’t do. These dogs are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means they can go anywhere their owner does, including restaurants and stores. Emotional support dogs provide comfort and therapeutic benefits to their owners, but are not protected by the ADA, and do not have unlimited access to public spaces. They are not trained to do specific tasks.
What They DoEmotional Support AnimalService Animal
Trained to do specific tasks to help ownerX
Allowed in public spacesX
Only intended to provide emotional supportX

Cost of Fully Trained Service Dog 

So how much does it cost to get a service dog? The service dog cost is around $25,000, but can range from $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the owner’s needs. There are also the yearly costs of caring for a service dog, which include:  

Vet Expenses 

Vet visits typically cost between $100 to $320 each, and you should take your dog at least once a year for an annual wellness exam. In addition, you’ll need flea and tick medicine, heartworm pills, grooming, vaccinations, and dental cleaning. It’s possible you could spend between $1,000 to $2,000 a year for your dog’s medical visits. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to pay for a vet bill.

Food 

A large dog will require approximately $350 in food each year. If you choose a premium dog food, the cost could be higher. 

Shelter 

If you ever need to put your dog in a kennel, you can expect to pay anywhere between $30 to $70 a night.  

Toys 

Depending on how much their service dog enjoys playing with toyst, pet owners may spend around $70 on toys and treats a year.

Insurance 

There isn’t a special type of insurance for service dogs; however, there are a variety of pet insurance plans for owners to choose from. For comprehensive coverage, plans range from $25 to $75 a month for large breed dogs, meaning you might spend between $300 to $900 a year for your service dog’s insurance. Signing up while your dog is young may keep your monthly bill down. 
Initial cost of service dog: $25,000 (approximately)
Vet Expenses: $1,000-$2,000 a year
Food: $350 or more a year
Shelter: $30-$70 a night for boarding
Toys: $70 a year
Insurance: $300-$900 a year

Cost of Service Dog That Requires Training 

How much does it cost to get a service dog that needs to be trained? While there are ways to help cover the cost of a pet, a service dog that needs training may end up costing more than a fully-trained service dog. Here’s why.

Test 

Not all dogs are suited to become a service dog. To determine if a dog would be a good candidate, a character test needs to be done. These tests generally cost between $300 to $400.  

Fees 

How much does it cost to get a dog certified as a service dog? To get a dog officially registered can cost between $100 to $200 depending on your state and location.

Professional Training  

Professional training for a service dog can cost $150 to $250 an hour. Typically, 120 hours of training is needed, which puts the final price tag between $18,000 and $30,000. 

Vet Expenses  

Expect to pay between $1,000 to $2,000 a year for vet expenses

Food

You’ll likely spend at least $350 a year on dog food. 

Insurance

Pet insurance for your dog will generally cost between $300 and $900 a year. 

Shelter  

The cost of a kennel varies depending on your location and the types of additional services you want your dog to have. You might spend $30 to $70 a night for boarding your dog.

Toys 

The cost of toys and treats will be the same as they would be for a trained service dog, which is about $70 a year. 
Training: $150-$250 an hour; $18,000-$30,000 in total
Character test: $300-$400
Fees: $100-$200 to register the dog as a service dog
Vet Expenses: $1,000-$2,000 a year
Food: $350 or more a year
Shelter: $30-$70 a night for boarding
Toys: $70 a year
Insurance: $300-$900 a year

Ways to Cover the Cost of a Service Dog

A service dog is helpful for many people, but getting one can be expensive. Here are some ways to help cover the cost.

Health Insurance 

Health insurance doesn’t cover the price of getting a service dog, but you may be able to use an HSA (health savings account) or FSA (flexible spending account) to help pay for some of it. With each of these plans, you can set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for certain medical expenses. Your service dog must be required for medical care in order for you to be reimbursed.The annual amount you can deposit in an FSA is $2,850 in 2022. For an HSA, you can deposit up to $3,650 for one person and $7,300 for a family for 2022.

Government and Private Grants  

There are some grants available to help with the costs of getting a service dog. Each one requires a separate application and has different eligibility requirements. Grants you may want to consider include:

Personal Loan  

You can use a personal loan to get a service dog. Personal loans are flexible and can be used for many different purposes. Some popular reasons for applying for personal loans are:
  • Debt consolidation
  • Home repair/ renovation
  • Medical costs
As you can see there are many popular ways to use a personal loan. The way personal loans work is that a bank, online lender, or credit union lends you a lump sum that you repay with interest in installments over time. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you may get. The interest rates for personal loans tend to be lower than they are for other loan products, including credit cards. Some tips for getting personal loans to cover the cost of a service dog include:
  • Check your credit report for any errors.
  • Read lender eligibility requirements before you apply.
  • Know the origination fee and any other fees for any loan you apply for. 
  • Gather any supporting documents you might need, such as proof of income.

Credit Card 

You could put the cost of a service dog on a credit card. You’ll need to have a credit card with a high enough credit limit to cover the cost of the dog. You might want to look for a card with a 0% introductory APR (annual percentage rate). You won’t owe any interest during the introductory period. However, if you can’t pay the balance before the introductory period ends, you will be charged interest. And most credit cards have higher interest rates than personal loans.  

The Takeaway

A well-trained service dog can help individuals with disabilities, but these dogs are expensive. Service dogs can cost as much as $30,000 upfront, and then there are the ongoing expenses for their care. Fortunately, there are ways to help cover the costs of a service dog. Grants are available that you can apply for. You might also be able to get reimbursed for some of the expense of a service dog through an HSA or FSA. A personal loan could be another option to consider to help pay for getting a service dog. Personal loans can be used for almost any purpose, and they tend to have lower interest rates than other loan products. 

3 Personal Loan Tips

  1. Shopping around helps ensure that you’re getting the best deal you can. Lantern by SoFi makes this easy. With one online application, you can find and compare personal loan offers from multiple lenders.
  2. Read lender reviews before taking out a personal loan. You’ll get a sense of how long it can take to receive the funds and how good the customer service is.
  3. Don’t assume that if you have bad credit, you can’t get a personal loan. There are lenders who specialize in bad credit loans.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you afford a service dog?
Can you use a personal loan to cover the cost of a service dog?
What is the cost of a service dog?
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About the Author

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward is a personal finance expert with nearly a decade of experience writing online content. Her work has appeared on websites such as MSN, Time, and Bankrate. Lauren writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SoFi, including credit and banking.
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