Noodle's estimated vet care not including surgeries (he's 11 and I don't want to list every single thing) $1,000. Neutered including pre-op blood work and meds: $400. Eye surgery including pre-op blood work: $150. First knee surgery including pre-op blood work: $3,500. Second knee surgery including pre-op blood work, emergency visit, emergency meds: $4,000. Dentals, including teeth extractions, x-rays, pre-op blod work: $4,500. Vaccinations: $1,100. Food? Toys? Bedding? Meds that didn't involve vet visits? I can't even begin to estimate. Not to mention that he has bad arthritis that practically immobilizes him in the winter...I know that this winter just having electric heat pads available 24/7 and daily doses of glucosamine are not going to cut it. And he is a healthy dog. Both knee surgeries were due to him thinking he can fly and then landing wrong (not congenital). A dog with health problems would cost a lot more.
Cookie? She's far younger at 4 years, but she has had knee surgery on BOTH knees THREE times. She's also been spayed, had numerous dentals, teeth extractions, undergone treatment for a failing liver, faulty kidneys, and has had to have extensive post-op care after each knee surgery...involving daily vet visits stretching over weeks each time. Let's not forget the pre-op blood work before each and every surgery and dental. I'm too frightened to even imagine what her estimated medical costs would be. She's NOT a healthy dog by birth or genetically, but she's doing pretty good now. Actually, after her last round of knee surgeries, the vets warned me that there was nothing left to work with and she would not be walking in her old age. In fact, they weren't sure she would be able to walk again (without a lot of pain for a while, and then at all). I bought her one of those doggy wheelchairs, but thankfully, she came through all right and is still quite active on her own. When she has been going for a while though, I can see a difference in how she moves and I know that she is in pain, so I can only hope she'll be walking for a couple more years at least.
Oh yeah, and you cannot just go to a pet store and buy dog food and expect your dog to be healthy eating just that. Just like rats, you need to make the extra effort. (I didn't even know they made rat food...I thought if people wanted to feed them healthy, they had to make the food themselves and provide lots of fresh produce and the like.)
Again, I think that because dogs and cats can live longer, they can accrue a lot higher vet bill total. Rats, no matter how well they are cared for, simply don't live as long. And while dogs and cats may not have as much of a history as lab animals, their rates of cancer and other diseases due to inbreeding and overbreeding and just plain poor diet are just as frightening.
I think we can agree, though, that EXTENSIVE research should be done on any animal before getting one to be sure one really understands the costs involved and can make a proper commitment to the care and treatment of that animal. Really, I think some kind of contract should be signed and one should attend classes to get a license to have an animal. Of course, I think the same thing of people who are thinking of having a child.