15 of the Most Expensive Pets to Own

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SMALL ANIMALS, BIG COSTS

February is Responsible Pet Owner's Month, and one of the most responsible things a prospective pet owner can do is prepare for the upfront and ongoing costs of having a faithful friend. Of course, there's the cost of purchasing and feeding the pet, but sometimes other expenses aren't so obvious. Some animals are prone to costly health issues, while others have special grooming requirements, require pricey habitats, or boost home insurance premiums. These 15 common pets -- dogs, cats, and a few exotic choices -- might ultimately cost a tad more than expected.

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GERMAN SHEPHERDS

Despite their popularity as a family pet, German shepherds are a big investment. A well-bred pup runs close to $2,000, according to WalletHub, although buyers less concerned with bloodlines can find one for several hundred dollars or less at a rescue or shelter. German shepherds also are susceptible to health issues including allergies, cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy (a spinal cord disease). The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates a total yearly cost of more than $1,500 to maintain this breed, including food and veterinary care. German shepherds also can boost home insurance premiums, as some insurers deem them a risk for biting, according to InsuranceQuotes.

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PERSIAN CATS

In general, cats are less expensive to buy and maintain than dogs. But a Persian can set owners back a pretty penny. Expect to pay at least $800 at a reputable breeder, says PetHelpful. The pet site also cautions that the cats' long hair probably requires at least a couple of pricey grooming visits each year at about $70 a pop. Persians boast an adorably squished face that contributes to a distinct look but also puts them at greater risk for health problems -- and the costly vet bills to match. According to CatTime, which covers all things feline, particular risks for Persians include breathing and dental issues, eye conditions including excessive tearing, heat sensitivity, kidney disease, and ringworm. This makes them 25 percent more expensive to insure than other cats, reports the personal finance site ValuePenguin.

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ROTTWEILERS

WalletHub reports that pure-bred Rottweiler puppies average a cool $2,824 to acquire. This powerful and popular dog costs far less at shelters and rescues, however, if pedigree isn't a priority. Long-term expenses can be high as well. Average yearly medical insurance claims top $567, according to DogTime (CatTime's canine counterpart). Common health problems include allergies, hypothyroidism, elbow dysplasia, and gastric torsion. Rottweiler expert Susan Koranki warns that these dogs can chow through an enormous amount of food; she estimates about $150 monthly to keep an adult happily fed. This is another risky breed for insurers, according to InsuranceQuotes.

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COCKATOOS

There are a variety of cockatoos, but regardless which catches your fancy, these big, vocal birds are expensive. According to Linda van Zomeren, who runs the blog Cockatoo-info.com, larger birds like umbrella and Molucann cockatoos range from $1,000 to more than $3,500 while smaller cockatoos fetch up to $2,000. Cockatoos also need a large, high-quality cage that costs up to $1,000, according to the pet information site PetYak, and about $60 a month in toys to stave off behavioral or health problems that can stem from boredom. Cockatoos require fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to pellets and seeds, which can push the monthly food up to $100. Even if these costs seem manageable, remember that owning a cockatoo is a long-term commitment: They live 40 to 60 years.

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ENGLISH BULLDOGS

English bulldogs' flat, wrinkly faces are always showstoppers, but they also can lead to pricey veterinary bills. Health risks for bulldogs include breathing problems, eye conditions, hip dysplasia, and dislocated kneecaps. According to DogTime, owners should expect average yearly medical insurance claims to top $370. Those health issues also mean pet insurance is quite expensive; expect to spend 60 percent more for a bulldog than for most other dogs, according to ValuePenguin. Bulldogs are expensive on the front end, too. A purebred English bulldog puppy runs $1,000 to $1,500, notes the review site Your Purebred Puppy.

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ABYSSINIAN CATS

Buying a distinctive, athletic Abyssinian kitten can cost an average $500 to $700, according to CatBreedsList.com. But take note of potential health issues with this breed. The pet health information site Vetstreet warns of a high prevalence of pyruvate kinase deficiency, a hereditary condition that can cause anemia, fatigue, and other troublesome issues. On average, treating this condition can cost more than $1,400, according to Vetary, an online pet-care marketplace. Not surprisingly, pet insurance on Abyssinians is also expensive. Premiums are about 30 percent higher than for other cats, reports ValuePenguin.

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GREAT DANES

These gentle giants of the dog world generally come with a giant price tag. A Great Dane puppy runs at least $600 and up to $3,000 for show-dog quality, according to Virginia's Great Dane Rescue of the Commonwealth. Owners also should gird for potential health issues, such as heart problems, hip and elbow dysplasia, and gastric torsion, according to DogTime. The pet portal and insurance provider PetPremium reports that average yearly medical claims total $385. Pet insurance premiums cost, on average, a whopping 63 percent more than for other dogs, according to ValuePenguin. Moreover, InsuranceQuotes cautions that Great Danes' size can push home insurance bills higher.

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SALTWATER FISH

The fish themselves aren't that expensive, although freshwater fish certainly are cheaper. About 10 well-known tropical fish, including clownfish and yellow tang, usually cost less than $150 each, according to Mad Hatter's Reef, a site run by saltwater-fish hobbyist Jeff Hesketh. However, getting those fish set up in a proper aquarium is costly. Hesketh estimates he spent about $1,500 to purchase a used 90-gallon aquarium, rock, sand, lighting, and equipment for aquarium upkeep. And don't forget the ongoing costs. Hesketh estimates about $50 a month for a smaller aquarium, factoring in expenses such as fish food and power and water bills.
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BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOGS

Their fluffy, soft fur and friendly dispositions contribute to Bernese mountain dogs' popularity, but keeping this large dog as a pet will certainly set back its master. Puppies range between $750 and $1,500, according to the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Southeastern Wisconsin. The breed's long hair means grooming is an ongoing financial drain; just one session runs up to $90, according to CostHelper. This dog is prone to health issues, including cataracts, mast cell tumors, elbow dysplasia, and gastric torsion. Average medical insurance claims exceed $400 a year, reports DogTime. The charge for mast cell tumor removal can hit $1,000, and radiation can cost many times that, warns Florida veterinarian Patty Khuly.

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BENGAL CATS

The intelligent, distinctly patterned Bengal cat is among the pricier felines -- expect to pay up to $1,000 for a pure-bred kitten or even more for show-quality cats, according to the breeder Prince Royal Bengals. Bengals are also at higher risk than other cats for digestive issues, feline leukemia, and inflamed bowels; average medical insurance claims run roughly $365 a year, according to DogTime. Treating feline leukemia alone can cost more than $1,400 on average, Vetary reports.

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GOLDEN RETRIEVERS

The cost of buying this quintessential family dog varies widely. Shelters or rescues may offer them for a couple hundred dollars, but well-bred pups can fetch sums in the thousands. The bigger concern here, though, is health. Golden retrievers are particularly prone to several types of cancer, including bone cancer, lymphosarcoma, and mast cell tumors, warns Vetstreet. In fact, Purdue University's National Breed Health Survey found that 61 percent of goldens die of cancer. Unfortunately, there's no cheap or simple fix. Treatment for canine cancer can cost thousands of dollars; treating bone cancer, for instance, averages $6,000, according to Vetary.

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IGUANAS

An iguana may be as cheap as $20 at a local shelter or pet store, but that's where the "cheap" part ends. Keeping an iguana properly caged, fed, and cared for can be quite a financial undertaking, according to the iguana site Lizard Fun. Initial costs may total $600 or more for a large aquarium, UVB light source, heat panel, thermometer, fake foliage, and so on, with ongoing costs often surpassing $1,600 yearly. The bulk of that is food -- iguanas need a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables. Maintenance also includes substrate (cage lining like newspaper or artificial grass) and veterinary care. One other big cost: A properly cared for iguana will reach 6 feet in length, quickly outgrowing most commercially purchased aquariums or cages. PetHelpful recommends building a cage, as the few that are large enough for adult iguanas can cost thousands of dollars.

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CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL

Unlike the other dogs on this list, the friendly cavalier King Charles spaniel is a diminutive animal that won't eat its owner out of house and home. Most of the sticker shock with this spaniel is the upfront cost: Well-bred puppies cost roughly $1,800 to $3,500, according to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club. Of course, as with all breeds, the cavalier King Charles isn't exempt from certain health conditions. Watch for problems including mitral valve disease (a heart condition), cataracts, patellar luxation (bad kneecaps), hip dysplasia, hearing loss, and a nervous system disorder called syringomyelia. That last condition, which affects the spinal cord, can cost thousands to treat, Vetary notes.
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SIAMESE CATS

Siamese cats aren't quite as expensive as other pure breeds; it's possible to nab a pure-bred kitten for about $500, according to the pet breed research site PetBreeds. Vet bills, however, can add up over time, making this one pricey kitty in the long run. According to DogTime, Siamese cats are at particular risk for gingivitis, upper respiratory infections, and liver disease. Average annual medical insurance claims are just under $400. Liver disease is a particularly costly problem, with average treatment topping $1,500, Vetary reports.

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RABBITS

Unless the family hankers after a rare breed or show-quality rabbit, these fuzzy friends are relatively inexpensive, usually in the $15 to $60 range, according to Kiplinger. A cage runs about $150 while other one-time expenses such as toys, litter boxes, and soft bedding add another $100 or so, according to BinkyBunny.com, a site dedicated to all things rabbit. Where house rabbits get expensive is ongoing costs and care; Kiplinger reports an annual estimated outlay of $660. The bulk of that is about $400 for litter and bedding. Rabbits also need pricey fresh vegetables to munch in addition to pellets and hay, and they live longer than buyers may expect -- 10 to 12 years on average.